The Race

1022This weekend I’m running the Chicago Marathon with my sister. It’s been a long and mostly wonderful six months of preparation.  I’ve run in three countries, twelve states these past months.  Up rock and snow to the top of the highest waterfall in Europe,  along sandy beaches in Hawaii and dirt roads through groves of aspen in northern Saskatchewan.  Run with my sister, my nephew, my brother-in-law, my niece, my friend and running trainer, Larry, at the Y.  But most often, alone.  Long morning runs along Lake Washington, around Seward Park.  Winding my way through the arboretum to work.  So quiet, peaceful, but for the slow beating of feet and breathing, breathing, breathing.  It’s been my meditation. Following a little chart each day that told me what to do – run, rest, run, run, run, rest.  Following a little chart that has enabled me to go further than I ever have gone in my life.
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It began, this impossible idea to run a marathon, on March 27 when I ran the Mercer Island Half Marathon with a team raising money for the University District YMCA.  I’d never run so far, 13.2 miles and months before doubted I could.  But when I finished the race, I called my sister and said, “Nan, what do you think?  What about trying a marathon?”   On Sunday, we’ll join 45,000 others running further than we ever have before.
You know, it really has nothing to do with running.  But everything to do with what helps us move there – out, beyond the edge, of all we thought possible.
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The Race
It had nothing to do with the race

and it was all about the race
and a race that is taking me there –
past everything
old and cramped
stifled and tired
standing in the way
of my life
Followed the running chart each day –summer 2014 625

how far to run and fast
followed it religiously
like prayer, like passion –
never ran so far, so fast –
it kept me together.
Nervous that morning,
nervous, excited and silent
the community center
full of runners
lying
on the floor,
stretching,
breathing,
staring,
focusing, fidgeting –
a slight drizzle and cold –
the promise of sun
and afternoon’s warmth.
“5 minutes to race time” – 
Found my place in the crowd of
elbows, shoulders and knees,
tense with anticipation,
squeezed forward,
ever forward,
finding my place
and a little beyond –
where hope and desire lives.
“15 seconds” –summer 1014 206
stretched my arms
up and out
high overhead,
gathering everything
I had and could be –
I would do my best.
Breathed.
Breathed again.
The gun shot –
the pack moves forward,
a tangle –
elbows, shoulders and knees
begins to move
slowly,
ever so slowly,
out and forward,
across the starting line –
and we are off –
steady,
steady,
breathing,
beating
arms swinging,
further forward,
forward,
mile after milesummer 2014 353
1-2-3
1-2-3
sorting ourselves out to
find our place
angled
curving roads,
breathing,
beating
forward,
ever forward,
green woods,
the call of morning birds
4-5-6
4-5-6
past everything
everything
I had ever lost
past the grey haired
red jacketed old man
cycling the wrong way down
the other side of the road
past heartache,
and memory’s ache
past everything
that would slow me down
drop my pace,
collapse,
give up,491
turn back
kept on
past “I can’t do this” and
“why am I doing this”,
4-5-6
4-5-6
past everything
that had stood in the way
past fear and
doubt
past everything
to everything
I was running towards –
couples and young families
gathered at edges of driveways,
cheering as we passed –
forward
forward
breathing,
beating
forward,
ever forward
7-8-9
7-8-9
kept on
past cars
cutting
our path
the woman with her dog waiting impatiently to pass
nothing in our way
10-11-12
10-11-12430
up
up
up
a long
steady hill
breathing
beating
1-2-3
1-2-3
forward
ever forward
past slowing runner after
slowing runner
I kept on
past the old grey haired man
out front
had him in my sights
passed him,
passed everything
10-11-12
10-11-12
a quarter mile left
the old man passes me,
a stride ahead,
another,
poor man –
“Further!”,  I cried –224
sprinted ahead
past everything
I needed to leave
to everything I need to find
past hope and rage,
hard work and tears
the weight of memory
and fear of everything
past small and diminished
past simile and metaphor
where there is only sweat and feet
the pounding of feet
beating
breathing
forward
ever forward
the finish line ahead
forward
forward
the crowd cheering
cheering us on
to everything we’ve got
everything we could be
and kept on going
Peter Ilgenfritz
March 27, 2014
going deeper 011

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