When will this aching end?
When you get done what you need to get done.
When will I get it all done?
When you stop wasting time with little nothings.
Is there an end in sight?
It doesn't matter. Just keep going.
I have a pathetic little story. Very little story. During the Manchester Thanksgiving Road Race today, I started strong, at the very front of the pack of unseeded runners. The thrill of sudden movement, the comfort of the cold air against my steadily warming face, and the competitive edge of weaving in front of those working at a slower pace. I love the sprint!
But at the one mile mark, the course narrows and the crowd collectively slows. Why are my calves burning, I wonder, only to take my eyes off my feet to see the steady incline. That persists the entire second mile. I halt, not bothering with the steady slogging jog of the people around me, knowing my power walk will take me just as fast, and give me a chance to catch my breath. So I walk. For a mile.
By the third mile and through the fourth the course has leveled and now the downhill has come, and I'm sprinting again, letting gravity pull me down the hill. But my motivation flags when I can't catch my breath and the thick pack of people is moving too slowly for me to set my own pace. I alternate jogging and walking, feeling frustrated that I can't operate at my highest potential, irked that my own mistakes and the people around me have set limits on how I run this race.
I plod on, trying not to think now that I am in a race, trying to think about the essays I have to write or about what we might be having for lunch besides turkey. "Less than a mile, less than a mile," calls a lumberjack man with cup of beer. We round the corner and I can see the flag that I know isn't far from the finish line. The crowd thins and I begin sprinting again, my fastest pace of the race. I know the end is coming.
But I'm getting dizzy from my shallow breathing and a sharp pain in my side makes me slow to a walk. I can't inhale without the stitch in my side protesting. Cynically I stare at the television cameras. Yeah, I'm walking in a crowd full of joggers, what's it to ya? I can see the blurry numbers of the timer counting up over the finish line. "You could run. It's not that far, why finish walking when you could run?" But I don't need to. I don't care about my time, so why run just for show when my side is hurting?
The race is over, and twin thoughts spring to mind. "You walked nearly half of it, that was pathetic." And, "That was fun, can't wait for next year!" I'm glad it's over, and glad I did it.
My life right now is normal, I have nothing to complain about. But internally, it feels like a road race, when I hit the hills and the long stretches after a sprint I can't motivate myself to up the pace, to endure the proverbial cramps in my side and just keep breathing. Instead I can only wait for the race to be over, dully watching the finish line get closer and closer, caring and not caring if all I need to do is done by then.
I sprinted the Gatsby essay, and I'm really quite proud. I jogged the BU application essay and the result needs to be scrapped and started over. I'm assessing how much ground needs to be covered in the final stretch and I'm willing myself to sprint again, and it just doesn't seem worth it. But the thrill of business is such a tease: I'm intoxicated by the feeling of being full, doing what I like to do, while the payoff is so elusive and stress threatens to wreck my confidence.
But it doesn't matter. I just need to keep going.