Tuesday, November 19, 2013

It's the journey, not the destination

Ten days ago, my friend Nicole persuaded me to try a half-marathon with her in December. Tempted, I began ever-so-tentatively training: first an eight-mile run, then five days later a ten-mile run, and once I had both of those distances under my belt I was hooked. From our respective home offices, at the agreed-upon time, we logged on to the website to register for the race.

And learned we were already too late; the race was full.

For the rest of the day, I thought about how sure I was that I was ready for a half-marathon, and how now I wouldn't be doing one as planned. All that psyching-up for nothing. It wasn't a matter of just finding a different race; winter races in New England are hard to come by, especially for casual athletes. I can't do a Thanksgiving race because it feels too soon to run a distance nearly twice as long as I usually run -- I was counting on the full six weeks of training, not two -- and also because as Thanksgiving dinner host, I can't be away from the house for half the day. After Thanksgiving, there are very few races to be found in this part of the country until late spring.

But it wasn’t long before I stopped feeling disappointed about missing out on registration and found that instead, I was thinking about how great I felt after the two training runs I'd done in the past week. It occurred to me that even without a race number or an official measured course to run, I could still imagine I was training for a half-marathon, and do the same running.

It’s the journey, not the destination, I reminded myself. This mantra came in handy just a day later when I told another friend I’d join her for a day trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, to look at summer rental properties. I had it in my mind that Bar Harbor was about four hours away; it turned out to be five, and even though we left the house at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, by the time we’d reached our destination, had a harborside picnic, and toured three potential rental options, it was nearly 4:30 and dusk was falling. And we still needed to drive back.

But as with training for the non-race, I realized the journey and not the destination was what mattered. Maine’s northern coast is beautiful but desolate in November, and we’d spent almost the entire day in the car. It hadn’t been a great trip from the perspective of what we’d done there. But the ride itself had been wonderful. It was the best visit we'd had in years. We caught up on everything that had happened to us all fall – and then some. Since my friend was driving, I napped a little, read a little, and had some time to prepare for my Monday night class. From the perspective of the drive itself, it was a great day.

The journey, not the destination. I’ll try to continue with the training runs and hope that when the opportunity for a half-marathon arises in the spring, I’ll still want to do it. But either way, I’ll keep savoring the running. Getting there, after all, can be well over half the fun.

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