Last weekend, I screamed until my throat was raw. Standing a half mile from the finish line of a marathon has that effect on a person. It’s a beautiful thing, witnessing thousands of people pushing themselves in that way—the culmination of an effort that can only be described as hard work.
Four weeks ago, I ran a marathon. I finished in my fastest time, but I did not accomplish my goal: to qualify for the Boston Marathon. In the aftermath, I’ve spent a lot of time feeling sorry for/angry at myself. And I’ve rehashed just about every moment of the race in my overly analytical brain.
But watching my fellow runners, coupled with the passage of time, provides a dose of perspective.
Does it matter if we take a few swings before we achieve our goal?
It’s a funny thing, telling people about your dreams. It’s risky and it makes you feel vulnerable. It’s terrifying, really. Even when you put in the work required to do the thing you want to do, there’s no promise of success.
What if I look like a fool?
What if I fall on my face?
It’s like any other dream: Maybe you’ll get burned. Perhaps you’ll fail. But you try anyway. It’s such a powerful idea, being brave enough to simply TRY. Putting your heart on the line for something that feels impossible. For the maybe. Hanging on for the what if.
As it turns out, people are proud of you regardless. Even when you feel that you indeed looked like a fool and fell flat on your face. You tried. And there’s beauty in the try, even when you miss the mark.
Here’s the truth of the matter: I run because it makes me feel like I have control over what my body can do. I don’t have control over much. I cannot will myself to have a child. But running? That I can do. That I can push and dream and stretch until it feels like my lungs are on fire.
I have the power to change things when I run.
That’s what dreaming and pushing yourself just a bit further does: it makes you think you can control just this one thing, when you realize you simply cannot control anything. Life is chaos. And our lack of control makes this world such a beautifully broken place—and it provides many an opportunity to dream every one of your crazy dreams. Even the dreams that fail mean something.
Is finishing a marathon in my fastest time but not qualifying for the Boston Marathon a major tragedy? No, it is not. It barely registers on the tragedy scale, were someone to invent such a thing. It’s a reflection of a greater experience: a lesson in understanding that sometimes, you will work very hard for something and you won’t get what you want.
And that’s life. Trying and failing, over and over again until you get it right. Picking up the pieces as you go, one painful step at a time. And finding it in your heart to wait for the magic, whenever it happens.