Battle Buddy Series: A Prayer for the Complacent
A Prayer for the Complacent
by Darian McIntosh
Welcome to part 2 in the continuing saga of my journey, starting with my personal experiences in the world of marathon running. I will be exploring in part what it takes to physically prepare for such a draining endeavor, which can be expected from a blog about marathons. More in earnest, this series will explore the emotions that go into mentally preparing for the changes that will inevitably be a part of the life of an athlete. I use that term probably in a broader sense than most. To me, an athlete is anyone who has set a physical goal that is difficult for that person, being fully aware that the road won’t be paved with gold, but they will come out richer for it anyway.
To recap from part 1, I discussed my very first time running a marathon with my best friend, Kay and what it meant to me to have her as my battle buddy when times got tough. Part 2 will discuss my second outing with a whole new partner and outlook in my arsenal. So here we go….
It was never my goal to become known as “Marathon Girl.” After I ran the Honolulu Marathon in December of 1995, in my mind, the goal was achieved. I could sit back and go back to my usual laissez-faire routine. Fortunately, as a Marine, I still had my three-times-a-week formation runs to look forward to with the occasional training exercises peppered in here and there for good effect.
Kay and her husband ended up moving back stateside shortly after our marathon run. My boyfriend that I was dating also had decided to move back stateside, and we ended things amicably. Suddenly, without my close-knit group of friends that I could depend on, my fall from grace became all too easy to achieve. Gone were the days of extracurricular runs with my friend and boundless energy. Instead, they were replaced with extracurricular runs to McDonald’s and Subway to assuage my loneliness. My youth and those forced formation runs were probably the only things that saved me from having all of my uniforms taken out dramatically.
In late September of 1996, I began dating a Marine named Randy. I can’t remember the exact moment we met but we had known each other for 2 years through many channels. Being stationed on the same base, we worked in the same Group but in separate buildings. We also knew each other through common friends. As young single Marines, we were assigned rooms on the same floor in the living quarters known as the barracks, and we ran into each other frequently.
He had gone through a dramatic transformation in the previous months while attaining sobriety. I knew he had been in a sobriety program as word traveled fast in the barracks. He had regularly been on weight control (this is what the Marine Corps calls it when you are over the maximum weight allowed for your gender and height) while battling addiction. One of his goals to his overall transformation had been to get in the best shape of his life.
It had worked because I barely recognized him when I ran into him at the movie theater for the first time after not seeing him for a few months. He had lost about 30 pounds but had gained more lean muscle mass. Another thing he had gained was my attention.
So here we were, two Marines coming together but of separate frames of mind. One, on a brand-new journey with a commitment to fitness and overall well-being and the other, complacently settled on the idea that she would exercise as little as possible given her circumstances.
Not surprisingly, Randy wanted to run the 1996 Honolulu Marathon and had been training for such before we got together. He hadn’t had a chance to do so before because he was always in an unhealthy mental state. Now, his newfound healthy attitude had him out to prove to the world that he had done a 180. I, on the other hand, had done a marathon and did not feel that same urgency to prove to myself or anyone else what I could do.
For a while, it seemed as if I won this particular battle. Our relationship started off with the same sense of awe and wonder that most new couples experience. We wanted to spend every moment of our spare time together. We were happy to laze about and canoodle. This false sense of security I developed drove my ego to an all-time high when, after 2 months, there were no more mentions of a silly marathon.
Finally sensing his own complacency becoming permanent, Randy jumped into action. In November of 1996, with the marathon a mere weeks away, Randy informed me that he signed us up. I can’t quite remember if we ended up with our first real argument, but I do know that I was quite unhappy. Ultimately, my need to prove that I was ever the supportive girlfriend trumped my annoyance, and I agreed to it.
Now, dear reader, I know what you are thinking. She must have gotten her act together and trained hard with her boyfriend in those last few weeks to make up for lost time. But, you would be mistaken.
I had become too accustomed to my free time habit of not doing much of anything. My complacency did not merely stop because my newest love won this particular round. The very fact that I even viewed it as a competition shows what a skewed outlook I had on the whole thing.
No, my complacency was special. It spilled over and had me believing that because I had experience and he didn’t, I was above him somehow. He had a crush on me before we dated, and I didn’t. This unspoken superiority complex of mine even led me to believe that I was still in great shape. Let’s just say, time and providence have a way of humbling those with this particular problem. I am no exception.
December 1996. Race Day. Again. If, back then, you had asked me what I thought might happen having not trained for this particular moment, I probably would have told you that the Marine Corps had prepared me. If you had even gone so far as to ask me, who would have been the stronger runner between the two of us, I may have feigned humility but ultimately would have admitted that I would be the one to hold Randy up for the last few miles.
Can you guess what happened?
Correct if you guessed that I was NOT the stronger runner. You are even more correct if you guessed that Randy held me accountable for more than just a few miles. We ran for a total of 10 miles out of 26 before my McDonald’s riddled body, despite its youthful appearance, gave out nearly entirely, and I had had enough.
But Randy had chosen me to be his battle buddy and vice versa, and he saw it through to the end. He never let me stop running (despite my plentiful pleas to the contrary), and he took on the role that I was in the previous year with Kay, with more fervor and gusto. My job with Kay was easy in comparison. For Kay, she was in great shape and never wanted to give up. It was just her painful knees that would not let her progress at the faster pace her body was prepared for.
My body, on the other hand, was not prepared for any of this and DID want to give up. Randy’s job was much harder than the one I had chosen with Kay. He not only had to pick me up mentally, but I am almost sure he had to pick me up physically a time or two. For 16 miles! I was that far gone.
We crossed that finish line and to my utter surprise, our time as a team was about 15 minutes faster than my time with Kay and me as a team. I knew back then, and I for sure know now that it was in no way a testament to my physical prowess but owed solely to the fact that he made a better battle buddy than I did. It took that experience to help me swallow my very large serving of humble pie. I take that lesson with me wherever I go now.
This leads us to step two in our series (with a reminder for step one):
#1: Find your Battle Buddy.
#2: Find your Humility.