Mount Marathon makes me crazy. Mount Marathon makes me whole. Without this race that happens every Fourth of July, I believe that I wouldn’t know how to run. Even with all the anxiety and frustration that happens the week before, I couldn’t imagine life without this race held in my hometown. Growing up with queens of the mountain, my childhood dreams were to be like the heroes I watched climbing up and down Mount Marathon’s cliffs. Now that years have passed, I am the one fighting for the crown. Maybe someday I’ll win but that’s not what makes me come back every year. With each race, lessons are learned and maybe I’ve finally found my confidence.
Feeling great for multiple days isn’t something that makes me uneasy, it’s having these multiple feel good days on the week before Mount Marathon. Having low anxiety levels, no fights with family members, and feeling pretty confident has really thrown a wrench in my usual race preparation. The customary ‘talk to you after the Mount Marathon Race’ chat has yet to happen and I haven’t had to worry about whose feelings I’ve hurt.
It would be normal for myself to turn into a frustrated head case that needed to isolate herself before the race. Naturally, every little thing ticks me off the week before Mount Marathon. I have grown up with the mountain as my background and have lived in a house that understands the week before Mount Marathon can be an even bigger challenge than the actual race.
With a mother who is a past champion, I grew up watching and mimicking her every move, right down to the frustration that is the week before Mount Marathon. I believe every member of my family has had some type of anxiety attack during this dreadful week. It is something that we accept and just pray we don’t lose too many friends for the things we have said right before the race. It’s hard to explain why we get this way and why we don’t try to do something about it. Instead, it’s become normal routine…almost as if I wouldn’t feel prepared for the race if I hadn’t had a hard week prior.
But for some reason, with 7 days to go, life seems pretty easy-going.
Being months behind in training, I assumed this week would be one for the books. But I guess I have to remember the best advice a boss has ever given me.
“Don’t ever assume, Denali.”
“You’ll make an ass out of you and you’ll make an ass out of me.”
So, with 7 days to go…the rain is soaking the mountain as we speak…I am not assuming that I can’t put up a fight. I feel like I don’t need to put so much pressure on myself and whatever happens will happen. I am not making excuses for having an injury either, I would never allow myself to do that. Instead, I have found peace with the cards I have been dealt. Am I physically at my best? Who knows. But what I do know is that I will be toeing the line with some of the most kick ass women out there and I am feeling pretty mentally prepared. I won’t be taking any of this for granted and can’t wait to see how the race unfolds.
I have to just remember what my reason for running is:
32 years ago my mother won the first all women’s race.
My reason for running was because I wanted to be just like my mother and all the other queens of the mountain. They were pioneers and record breakers; they were my heroes. While little boys had superman, I had the women of Mount Marathon. While little girls were playing with dolls, I was practicing going thru the gulley’s wet rocks just like Mom, Nina, Karol, Pam, Carmen, Nancy, and many others that passed me while I was a child clinging to the cliffs; I dreamt of chasing that cop car to the finish line. Even if I don’t ever win, I know that my mother will be proud. It’s not about winning as much as it’s about holding the tradition that is Mount Marathon. I would love to inspire someone to win, but I could also inspire someone to fight for whatever spot they end up getting. This race isn’t about money, there’s no cash prizes. This race won’t get you a sponsorship or put your name on the map of running outside of Alaska. But this race, for me, is where all racing began. It’s an event that sucks you in, resulting in many generations of families competing. It’s an occurrence that inspires many to find their limits and their place among the mountains. Mount Marathon is the cliche, “it’s more than just a race”.
I hope there is a little girl out there watching, just like I did, and dreaming of not only being like the queens running past her but being inspired to be better than them. I hope she stands tall and believes that she is capable of anything.
Happy Fourth of July Preparation. May you run with your heart and may your legs carry you up and down the mountain. From the first to the last finisher, be proud of yourself and remember to show the little ones that with a little faith, we can achieve the unthinkable.