After months of training, the big day approaches and even seasoned runners can become nervous. There are many variables at play – the weather, the corral, the crowd, and even the physical and mental health of the runner. Some days we feel good and other days we feel like it is week one of training. After my first marathon (where the goal was just to finish), I had target time goals set in all my races, but many of these were not realized…and that was ok!
One technique that I found helpful was to find a pace group and stick with them (or ahead of them). You may see them running in a pack and holding a sign that with a target finish time. These groups, I believe, are heroic and typically a lot of fun. They encourage each other and most often keep the exact mile pace for the target finish time. To qualify for Boston, for example, I needed to run a sub 3:10 and found the pace group around mile 7. There were probably 200 runners in the group so I forged ahead, reasoning that as long as I stayed ahead of them, I’d be on pace… these were the days before lots of fancy watches. Anyway, at mile 22, I looked up and saw the 3:10 pace group at my side, albeit with eight runners left! They were less enthusiastic than before but still on pace. I finished in 3:08:54.
Religion, for me, is similar to the pace groups. Churches figuratively hold up signs saying, “This is how you relate to God and this is how you relate to others.” Christians look to the Bible, Jews to the Torah, and Muslims to the Koran. One does need to follow perfectly in order to be a member of the faith, but should agree to the over-arching goal, namely, eternal life with God. The precepts of that religion guide the faithful to keep pace towards that goal. The spiritual leaders and other members should encourage us when we get weary or off-course. Finding a “good group” then, certainly helps us stay the course.