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An Exercise For Life — By Reilly Smith

May 25th, 2009 No Comments

I truly believe Reilly can do anything he sets his mind to.  Yes, he’s physically fit, but he is also spiritually in touch with his body and strength.  In this introspective piece, he explores his fear of not reaching his personal goals in the upcoming marathon.  At first glance, it might seem like a weakness, but when you think about what he says and read between the lines, you realize that by addressing his fears, he is a more capable athlete.  His means of attacking this isolated challenge will unconsciously be replicated when life takes unexpected turns.  The marathon is then a mental exercise to help him endure and persevere in life.

Reilly writes:

I’ve been flying on nerves all weekend. Saturday, I was driving down Olympic, on my way to pick up bib “#706 – Burn” for the Los Angeles marathon and I could feel a turning in my stomach. Over my head, somewhere East of Vermont, a banner was tied on two ends and blowing in the wind. It read, “Mile 23.” On my I-Pod, The Killers’ “Dustland Fairytale” was just getting going and Brandon Flowers was saying something exactly like, “I saw the devil wrappin’ up his hands, he’s getting’ ready for the showdown,” and I thought that to be about right…my chase of 26.2 miles under 3:11:00.

I have a lap watch and GPS to track my minutes per mile. Too fast or too slow and I’m finished. I have 4 packs of Vanilla Bean “GU” that I plan on eating at rough points of 4, 11, 17 and 22 miles. On the road and in the middle of badness, they are fine dining and life saving. I’ve constructed a plan where I’m going to run the first 16 miles at an exact 7 minute pace. For every mile that’s run at a flat 7, I’ll have 17 seconds to slap onto the back end, protecting me from the inevitable crash. With 16 miles in the can, I’ll switch to guts on the last 10.2, hoping to have a strong enough bank to get me in under 3:11:00 — the qualifying time in my age bracket for the Boston Marathon. 

I’ve been talking to people lately, mostly those who call me “Teach,” and they all have this great and obvious confidence in my ability to do exactly what I set out to do. Allow me to salvage the suspense by admitting there is nothing obvious about what’s coming for me tomorrow. I’ve prepared. I’ve run and pushed and focused and committed and still, still have no real idea of my capability…after 27 years of life. No one does. No one should. Truth, I’m afraid…because I know that in a span of three hours tomorrow morning, I’ll have an opportunity to re-define the way I see the world.

There’s going to be a moment…I know, I’ve seen it in my sleep, where my mile times start to slow and my legs turn to iron and my body just stops. I’ll feel helpless and no matter how much distance remains, it’s going to be impossible. I can see it, and when it comes, I like to think I know how I’ll behave…but I don’t. No one does. No one should. I like to think that no matter the pain in my body, I own the capability of becoming all heart, all guts…capable of powering through, focusing on the simplest of motions, one step at a time. I like to believe all of these admirable things live in me, but I don’t know. I have never chased something like this — 7 words I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life. And along the way, if every now and again, I can fill this need to create and then hold steady a crumbling world…I think I might be alright. 

Not just tomorrow, forever.