I love a good metaphor. My love is so strong, in fact, that I’ve been icing my shins with bags of frozen fruit in the name of metaphor these past few weeks.
I’m a reluctant runner, so nobody is more surprised than I am that I have somehow made it to the spring of my Mitchell year with plans fully in place to run the Cork City Marathon on June 2nd. I’ve considered terminating this mission more times than I’m proud to admit, most often around mile 7 or 8 of a long run, when back-to-back podcasts start to sound stale and I suddenly become aware of every single tendon in my legs threatening to give out as my feet repeatedly strike the ground. Wasn’t running supposed to be a little bit more glamorous?
Rather than just serve as a log of injury, writing my final blog is actually more a timely reminder of how much has changed since last August, when I decided I wanted to run this race—my first marathon—here in Cork. Call it overthinking, but I was motivated by my premature search for closure on this experience before it had even truly begun. This, rather than any real aptitude for running, which is perhaps a more sensible reason to run 26.2 miles. So much happens in a year, especially one abroad, and crossing a physical finish line mirrors my search for a bookmark to place in my life where this year leaves off.
My legs feel the impact of four months of wear and tear, but I’m standing by my metaphor (with Biofreeze for my shins at arm’s length). Locations, experiences, and people that seemed unfamiliar all those months ago now hold their place in my life alongside interests and memories I’ve known for much longer. I suppose the same could be said for running, which I came to as an amateur in the truest sense of the word.
As my pre-race nerves continue to escalate, I’ve begun to study the 26.2 mile map like I’ll be tested on it. Mile 1 will take me through St. Patrick’s Quay, site of the trusty riverside bus stop where I caught my first view of Cork last year. Fittingly, both journeys start in the same place. My port of entry and departure from this city frame my marathon too, and in realizing this, I’m reminded that there is no way to visualize entirely how an experience will unfold just from the starting line.
If I make it to mile 24, I’ll get to hobble past Uni Hall, where Hadley, James, and I made a tradition out of communal dinner and ceremoniously recounted the highs and lows of our days throughout the year.
Approaching mile 25, I’ll pass the Mardyke Arena, home of my athletic pursuits preceding distance running: kickboxing and Irish dance. My path has been nothing if not circuitous.
I’ve neglected to mention miles 2 through 23, but those may well matter the most. Looking back on my Mitchell year, as much was certainly true for their calendar analogues. The middle months of my time in Ireland have shaped me even more than those that bookend them, because as seasons shifted from fall to winter to spring, the big things happened: I failed or succeeded at self-prescribed ventures, set and reevaluated goals, and solidified my perceptions of myself and of Ireland.
Some days, I wake up in Cork and think that it always seems to be morning here. My days seem to start over more often than I see the sun set. Somehow, in this way, nearly a whole year has passed by.
The first time I ran a more-than-half-marathon, I walked home with a foolishly large smile on my face. All of a sudden, big numbers had started to feel small. Or smaller, at least.
Now, a few more laps.