Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"There will be a time in my life when I don't have to prove myself anymore!'

I've read Kathrine Switzer's Marathon Woman at least a dozen times since I first got it as a gift in 2009 from my parents. When I first met Kathrine, later that year at the Marine Corps Marathon expo, I asked her to sign the book and told her I had already read it a couple of times. She told me that the book takes on different meanings when read at different points in life, and it's true. I've read it for running inspiration, but am seeing now the inspiration she provides for my writing. 

A lot of the vignettes of her life are so richly described, with such vivid detail, that one can't help but remember the different training runs and races Kathrine completed (and then later organized) all over the country, as well as internationally. It's not just her signature story of the 1967 Boston Marathon that resonate, but of her victory in the 1971 NYC Marathon, and earning her amazing 2:51 PR in Boston in 1975. They instill excitement in their own unique ways, as well as both the snowy and sweaty training runs she did to achieve those goals.

Probably because we've had some snow ourselves the past week in DC (here, only an annual event, compared to my hometown in upstate NY), but this story came to mind this week. It's on page 242, describing a training run in preparation for the 1974 Boston Marathon...

"One snowy Sunday in February I jogged up to Central Park to do my long run...I was the only person in the park...I looked up at the expensive apartments along Fifth Avenue, imagining the people having coffee or Bloody Marys, reading their thick Sunday editions of the New York Times,or looking out the window and watching this solitary figure running through the snow. I wondered if they admired me or if they thought I was a nutcase....I usually laughed it off and thought how envious they must be of my youth and vigor, and that all their money wouldn't buy the health and accomplishment I had....The fact was I wanted just for once to curl up on a Sunday with coffee and the Times. That's when I knew I was tired. So I stopped for a moment and shouted up to the buildings, 'There will be a time in my life when I don't have to prove myself anymore!'"

If there was ever a line that resonated with me in the book, it was that one. The dissertation, I'm learning more and more, is about proving myself: to my advisor, my committee, my department, my family and friends who have watched and supported me patiently as I've plodded through this process. It's the late nights and early mornings starting at the blinking cursor on my laptop, trying to knock out a few more pages that have been getting to me. Or just answering patiently, with a forced smile, some canned response to the always-frustrating, "So, when do you think you'll be done?" I too would love to just curl up with coffee and my iPad, reading a book without the guilt drifting in of "You could be writing now...tick tick tick."

 I know that when the dissertation is finally approved, signed off by all of the faculty, those feelings will disappear. I know it won't be permanent - the finish line just keeps moving back.

My time will come, and I know when I'm there, I'll be raising my arms in victory. But right now, I can only shout to the heavens, 'There will be a time in my life when I don't have to prove myself anymore!'