It's sort of funny, when I was training for the Philadelphia marathon, I kind of forgot what I was doing. Over the course of the time I spent training, I did 13-, 15-, 18-, and 20-mile runs, and it took me a while to put that into perspective and really understand that running those distances meant running a pretty considerable amount. I mean, it wasn't until I thought about what 20 miles looks like on a map, and the fact that I would never say to someone who lived 20 miles away, "Oh, yeah, let me just get my shoes on and I'll run right over". I mean, that would be sort of absurd. But while I was doing those long runs, and even when I ran the marathon, I sort of didn't think about how long it was. I just sort of ran it knowing that I would be stopping after a certain point. It was kind of like as long as I was running, I wasn't finished, so when I stopped running, I would be done. Distance and time factored into it on a certain level, but ended up not being quite as big a deal to me as I thought they would be. People who heard about the amount of running I was doing were always amazed, confused, or impressed, which I also had a hard time understanding. I guess that was just all part of the not really comprehending what I was accomplishing aspect of the training.
People's reactions were really interesting to me (and continue to be interesting to me), on one hand because I never expected to do anything in life that would provoke reactions of that kind, and on the other hand because I never really felt like what I was doing was all that special. As far as I am concerned, anyone can run, you just have to want to do it. But people seemed (and still sometimes seem) a little embarrassed, like in running a marathon I did something that sort of put them to shame, which was never my intention, and which never even crossed my mind.
A few people told me that I had really inspired them, and more than anything, that meant a lot to me. The truth of the matter is, though, that those people who said that have also ended up being inspirations to me! These are the people who somewhat sheepishly tell me how far they have run and seem almost apologetically proud of themselves. It is cool that they have started running in part because they felt inspired to do so by my decision to run a marathon, but I think that what is most important is that they have made a commitment in their own lives to do something amazing for themselves--it is hard to start running, and it is even harder to continue running. A lot of people don't even bother. So when my sister tells me she can now run for a certain amount of minutes at a time without stopping, or a friend of mine says he is trying to get to a point where he can run anywhere he would normally go on foot, it really almost brings tears to my eyes. I wonder if those people who are so careful to let me know that they feel like their accomplishments pale in comparison to mine realize how much of an impact their accomplishments have had on me.
I know I am not expressing myself very clearly here, and I am having difficulty saying what it is that I really want to say. I guess that what it boils down to is that most of the time, when people tell me how proud they are of me, all I really want to do is respond by saying, "I'm so proud of you!"