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Last week I completed the Manhattan half-marathon. It isn’t my first but probably my most difficult half in a while. I came in about 20 minutes later than the previous one I ran about six month ago. I’d like to think that there were a lot of reasons why my time was what it was.

First, I have to admit, it was cold outside. The thermometer read 15 degrees Fahrenheit. I practically froze my fingers off when I decided to take my number tag off my jacket to place it on my pants. This way if I got too warm I could take the jacket off. Ha! That never happened. I’d been sick with an intestinal flu for the New Year and then with a whopping cold a week ago. The days in between that I had been feeling good had been inundated with snow. I am not a snow runner. I shake my head at all of the runners who glide by me as I trudge in my boots. So, I wasn’t as trained as I’d like to be. I can go on with the multiple excuses that I prefer to term as reasons, that I didn’t do as well as I would have liked. Suffice it to say that- “it is what it is”. I happen to love clichés and think they describe situations to a T. I’ve been warned about liking them too much in my writing but  today I am still tired after running the thirteen point one miles- so I feel free to use clichés.

Running that distance at my pace leaves me a lot of time for thinking. I thought about my writing and my goals. I thought of the personal time and commitment that I’ve needed to continue doing both. These activities have garnered very enjoyable times for me- like an autumn run in the woods or reading a piece I’ve written to a gathered crowd who shares the moment with me. Most times, in reality, the pursuit of the runner’s high or the nodded approval of an audience member is elusive. Most of the times it’s just me, by myself, moving forward without encouragement and more often seeing the bewildered look of someone who wonders why I do what I do. Running and writing take a lot of my personal time. It is a choice to take one’s time to do something that one loves, that sometimes may be quite difficult and most times a very solitary action. Having the ability to “go within” and “to go the distance” whether others believe in you, or not, is a feat.

During the half marathon I ran up Cat Hill in Central Park and remembered how difficult it was when I first began running. My chest would heave and I would look up at the large jet black feline statue wondering why I was doing this. Yesterday my breath was easier than during the earlier days of running and I enjoyed my progress. I also remembered when I found learning "point of view" to be a horrendous experience. My teenage daughter wrote up a crib sheet for me and talked me through many pieces I never submitted. I’m sure many editors would thank me for that. Today, POV runs natural and I like to think it’s because of the training, just as in my running skill.

In both running and writing I’ve taken workshops, shared thoughts and words with my peers and have had both wonderful and awful experiences. I’ve been competitive in both and have watched very skilled runners or writers blaze across the scene taking all of the attention I might have wanted. Those experiences have not stopped me. They’ve made me stronger and I continue to be eager to see where my paths will lead.

Just like in the running there are reasons that I’m not where I’d like to be. I’m sure of what some of them are but also know that there are reasons beyond my control. I am where I am. I saw a woman run past me and thought I should surely be passing her. I realized that I had no idea who she was, what her training schedule was like or anything about her. My streak of mid-pack competitiveness flashed for a moment and then it was gone. I’d sat to lunch with a friend the day before the race who is having his third or fourth book of poetry published in a couple of weeks. I am still waiting for my first novel to be selected. My turn will come if I persevere as he has. I truly believe that.

Challenge is an invitation to life. I will run, rest, write, eat, sleep, be a friend, and be a parent and a partner. I will enjoy the gifts that are given to me on both the easy days and the more taxing ones!

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