Beyond the Boundaries
My name is Erin Daniel. I am 43 years old. I am a runner. When I crossed the finish line of the 2017 Philadelphia Marathon, I became a runner with a qualifying time for the 2019 Boston Marathon.
When I first looked at this picture, all the emotions from that day flooded back. I slept terribly the night before. The wind was strong and I could hear it whistling around the windows of the hotel room. It was cold. And it was raining. I was tired from months of pushing, striving, hurting, and struggling.
While getting ready for the race that morning, I thought of the hours away from my kids. I thought of the hours I snuck away from my job, and how I crowbarred work into nights and weekends, trying to keep up. I thought of how my marriage had been beaten down, how I knew my husband felt like the very last priority….and how I knew I had done nothing to change that as race day crept closer and closer.
I thought of how I still couldn’t answer the question that I was always being asked – “what drives you to do this?”, “why do you push yourself too much?” (that one was from my mother). I’ve always wanted to have an answer, and there are so many good answers out there….but none of them apply to me. I am not running to work through a family crisis, health scare, or for charity. So why was I doing this? Why was I awake at 4:30am stuffing Gu chomps into my Spibelt and jamming a banana in my mouth while trying not to dry heave? I didn’t know.
…and then I just went through the motions of getting myself out the door, to the start line. I felt a little better once I was around my people….we were all in the same situation, so there was that sense of community that I love so much. And before we knew it, we were in the corrals and crying at the National Anthem, and then we were surging forward under the start line banner.
At Mile 16, I distinctly remember feeling (knowing?) that I was strong and that I was on pace to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I put my head down, and I went for it. I fought the 20+mph winds for it. I stuffed Gu chomps in my mouth every 15 minutes, fueling my body to RUN, to NOT STOP. I called on every ounce of my physical and emotional strength and I kept going…
…across that finish line. With a time that qualified me for the 2019 Boston Marathon. I remember stopping my Garmin, and flipping the screen to show total time, and seeing 3:41:10. I remember calmly walking away from the finish line, with music still playing in my headphones, quietly crying into my hands. I did know why I run – and I really knew it all along.
Running is the only area of my life where I am totally open and vulnerable. I am never more myself than when I am running.
It’s shocking for me to type those words, since I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, and a friend….and I should always be myself around those I love. But I am not. I am often closed, in control, and careful. I am “safe” at home, in my career, and as a wife and mother. I’ve turned some early potential in scientific research into a safe career in project management, I drive an SUV, and I regularly eat vegetables.
But as a runner – I am wide open, my heart practically gaping open. I am risky – I try new races, new terrains, faster paces. I run in the woods and up the side of the mountain. I gasp for air, struggle, and feel my heart burst open when I nail a track workout. I don’t want to exist in my already-established capabilities…so I don’t allow myself to.
As a runner, I am raw. I cry, I curse, I dry heave…..I let my body feel and respond. I don’t control it, I don’t censor it. I push it beyond my preconceived boundaries and I am absolutely open to whatever it gives me. I am it, and it is me.
Crossing the finish line after that final 10 miles of pure focus and push was almost an intimate moment – a private momentamongst the normal chaos of a finish line. I was so grateful for being wide open and willing to push, to try. There was no safety and comfort in what I had just done. And my heart was on fire.
I want more of that fire, and I will find it.