Two Miles to Humility

(I wrote this right after it happened in 2008, I had plenty of time off my feet to work on it.  Enjoy!  WordPress didn’t like my formatting, so it’s a little off.)
Two Miles to Humility
 .
I’d like to think that I have reached the point in my life where there aren’t too many big life lessons left to learn.  However, it’s when you think you don’t have much left to learn that you end up being forcibly shown how little you actually know.
 .
My wife, Carrie, is an amazingly gifted woman.  I say this with some confidence because I’m fairly gifted and she is far more talented and gifted than I am.  When applying for a University, eight years after High School, I was required to retake the SATs.  I studied for two weeks and scored a 1390, two hundred points higher than I had almost a decade before.  I’ve learned through the years that given a little time and effort I can truly accomplish anything I put my mind to.  My wife, on the other hand, can match any accomplishment of mine almost instantly, and with little discernible effort.

At the beginning of our marriage we used to do “game nights”, where we would break out board games or cards or whatever paraphernalia we’d accumulated that week.  This was before we had a daughter and vital game pieces went missing daily.  Many of those games I had been previously familiar and adept with, while she’d never played them.  A typical night would include a first round, which I would win while she was still familiarizing herself with the play and rules.  Then, while polishing her nails or watching TV, she would sweep the rest of the rounds effortlessly.  Monopoly, Risk, Brainiac, etc.  After a few weeks I resorted to games of chance rather than games of skill and she still managed to defy all laws of statistics and win at least 90% of the time.
 .
I’d like to think that “game night” was discontinued due to long hours at work but it was more likely that I was sick of losing and she was bored with the lack of any challenge (and tired of my snotty responses to constantly losing).
 .
We were both very competitive but it was obvious only one of us could compete, through no lack of effort and cheating on my part.  There is no doubt in my mind that Carrie could master neurosurgery if given a couple of days of instruction before getting bored with it and moving on to something more challenging – like rocket science.  If given the reins of the current economy she would have it fixed up in a couple of days to where the national debt would be gone and other countries would owe us money instead.  Unbelievable?  Only if you haven’t met her.
 .
In more recent years Carrie has made a career out of one of her passions, the fitness industry.  She teaches classes and is a personal trainer for half the gyms in Jacksonville.  She cycles and lifts weights and is a highly certified Yoga instructor (as well as 13 or 14 other certifications).  About the only thing she hasn’t done is taken up running.
 .
I took up running.  Possibly there was some mischievousness on the part of my subconscious in making that decision, I’m sure the psychiatrists could make something of it.  So I was very surprised when Carrie signed up with me for the 10k (6.2mi) Fun Run this past weekend.  She’d never run more than two miles at a time in her entire life so this was pretty far out of the ordinary for her.  On the other hand, I’d been running seriously for almost three years with the goal of working up to marathons.  I typically run 15 to 20 miles a week, a 10k was a pretty normal run for me.
 .
I smiled.  If she wanted to jump in head-first who was I to discourage her?  After all, it wasn’t like she could beat me.
 .
All the way up to the race she kept saying how crazy she was for signing up, that she was going to finish last, etc.  All the while I listened, heart full of anticipation.  My wife, the fitness master, was about to embark on the only journey that I could, without a doubt, best her at.  I was already composing the encouragement and condolences I would give her when she finally crossed the finish line, “You did good, you didn’t end up coming in last!” “That was a good run, honey.  When you want pointers for the next time you know where I live!”  “You beat the power walkers by almost five minutes!”
 .
I was comfortably wrapped by these glowing feelings of “it’s about time!” through the start of the race and the first mile and a half.  I ran with her, easily matching her pace, chatting to her panting.  At the mile and a half marker she slowed a little and told me to just continue on at my own pace.  I gleefully took off and she was out of sight within moments.
 .
The next mile or so I spent passing slower runners and reveling in triumph.  It was petty, I knew, but there are few things in this life I’m really good at and I could count on one finger of one hand the number of things I’m better at than Carrie.
 .
At two and a half miles I sprained my ankle.  I was doing a normal run, nothing out of the ordinary, and my left calf started to ache.  I thought it was a muscle cramp.  I tried rubbing it, resting it, massaging it, but the next thing I knew I couldn’t put any weight on it.  I tried a slow jog, it sent bolts of agonizing pain up my leg.  Finally I just hobbled on, a halting walk all I could manage.
 .
Carrie caught up to me at the halfway mark, my heart took a nose dive.  She had apparently found a groove and with all her other conditioning was actually doing quite well.  She asked if I wanted her to walk the rest of the way with me but I had sunk to a wallowing 13 different levels of self-pity and I didn’t want the company.  Only I could so thoroughly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!  From such great heights I fell!
 .
I wanted to crawl off the road and die in an anonymous bush somewhere.
 .
The race was a big loop through the woods.  I couldn’t just stop and get help, I had to limp the last two miles back to society.  It was equal parts painful and depressing.  My non-runner wife had passed me, then the aging slow-joggers passed me, then the lady pushing her mother in a wheelchair, and finally the obese power-walkers until I was the only person in sight… in either direction.
 .
I cried to myself.  How many thousands of completely injury free miles had I run in the past few years only to be laid up now?
 .
At the last half-mile mark a volunteer, who’d been directing traffic away from the race, asked me if I was the last one.  I wasn’t positive, but I had a sneaking suspicion.  How total the irony when Carrie had expressed that fear only two hours previously?
 .
The volunteer was a very kindhearted woman and decided to walk with me to the finish line (since we were both pretty sure I was the tail end of the disheartening race).  I ended up spilling my guts to her, telling the story of my wife and the whole debacle.  I told her about the irony of coming in last in this one of oh-so-many races.
 .
She laughed and told me there was some sort of big “last finisher” celebration at the finish line.  Bells, whistles, and maybe even a certificate of some sort.  I had to fight the urge to pull off my race number and pretend I was just a bystander.  How complete the embarrassment?  Images of laughing faces filled my head.  I picture Carrie, arms crossed, smirk on her face, waiting patiently at the finish line.
 .
By this point we were within sight of the finish and Carrie saw us making our way.  She ran back to us and walked the rest of the way.
 .
I was saved from some portion of shame by passing the finish line and finding out there were indeed two people ‘behind’ me (I later found out that one dropped before the half way point and turned around, the other had some trouble breathing and had been taken to the hospital).  It had taken me an hour and forty minutes to finish, only twenty-five minutes of which was actually running (I’d finished a race three miles longer two weeks before with a faster time). 
 .
Carrie had finished in 114:00, 13th in her age group the first time she had ever run that far.
 .
When Carrie walked us to the line I expected some form of sarcastic comment, some form of gloating from her.  She had beaten me at my own game.  Instead, she chatted with the volunteer and me.  She was encouraging and nice, saying things that I might have said were the positions reversed but without the mirthful sparkle in her eyes.
 .
I felt baseless, shallow.  I don’t think I could have been so kind to her as she was to me.  All of those things that seemed so important to accomplish and so crushingly disappointing to not, seemed so suddenly superficial.  Maybe she’d beaten me so many times that it was no longer an achievement.  Maybe in addition to being a more talented, more remarkable person than me, she’s also just a better person.
 .
After all, is it her fault that she is who she is?  Is it my fault I’m slightly less talented, less lucky, and less remarkable than her?  I have a lot of questions I need to consider.
 .
Whatever the answers to those questions are, I’m going to have 2-3 weeks in crutches to slow down and ponder them.  It wasn’t a sprained ankle like I thought, it was actually a pressure fracture from too much running.  The doctors said that walking two miles on a cracked bone hadn’t helped it at all.  Two to three weeks that I need to spend off my feet as much as possible.
 .
Maybe it’s time to get out some of those old board games.
Advertisements

One thought on “Two Miles to Humility

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s