Reading in front of an audience and racing: The two activities don't sound very similar. But this month I came to realize I feel the same about both of them: I don't look forward to the event, but then I enjoy the heck out of it. Silly me!
Two weeks ago, I took part in a reading from an anthology I contributed to called P.S. What I Didn't Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends. The editor is a friend of mine who also lives here in Portland so I took part in the reading as a favor to her. It didn't even occur to me to get excited about it--it was crammed into a busy work week, the night before I flew to San Francisco for the Nike Women's half marathon. I frantically practiced reading aloud twice, but didn't give it anymore thought than that. I didn't even change my outfit, wearing what I'd thrown on post-shower, pre-carpool. I trust I put on some lip gloss, but I could be wrong. Several friends and rowing teammates were at the reading, which meant a lot to me. Yet it wasn't until about a third of the way through my short letter that I paused to listen to the audience chuckling at my words. A paragraph later, a thought flitted through my mind, "enjoy this--it's fun!"
Fast forward three days, one plane ride, and 12 hilly miles, and I was in the final stretch of the half marathon. I spotted my pal Lindsey ahead of me, and I turned on the juice to pass her. As I trotted down a sweet incline toward the Pacific, I was again struck by the realization that I was having fun and I should luxuriate in the moment. As I cruised toward the finish line, I tried my belated best to soak up the experience.
I was reminded of all of this during a phone interview last week with my new sports hero, Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington. It's for an article in this Thursday's New York Times about dealing with exertional pain during a race. Chrissie was giving all sorts of great tips and sharing anecdotes, including this: "After every race, I take time to bank the feeling in those final miles and crossing the line. That feeling is so hard to bottle, reflecting back on that is incredibly empowering and uplifting."
Right on, Chrissie. Right on.