The first real clue that something was very wrong was having to answer in the negative when someone asked me directly if I could move. That's no good, I thought, kind of far away. A while later, on my way back in, I stumbled when someone asked me the day. July? No... June. I'm not at work... so it's Saturday. The... 10th? No. Father's Day. The 20th! I finally say, proudly. “Sunday the 21st. Close enough.” the EMT laughed. I was less satisfied. But feeling good enough to not be worried. But it wasn't until I was close to leaving the tent, when one of the NYRR staff asked if I was here with anyone, or if there was anyone I was going to call, and I started mentally bringing up names and dismissing them one by one, due to my own personal insecurities and anxieties, that I knew I was all the way back to being myself.
On the way home, fresh off my spectacular defeat, I couldn't stop thinking about one thing in particular people asked when I started running. “Well what are you running FROM?” har har har. Everyone had a small laugh at that, but I always knew exactly what I was running from. And I held out for a good while. But it had finally caught me.
"Joe, how do YOU keep focus during a long run?"
The question came naturally out of a conversation two runners across from me were having. We were sitting on the Coney Island boardwalk eating pizza after finishing the Brooklyn Half Marathon. The question didn't catch me off guard as much as the fact that I had no idea how to answer it. I felt myself starting to do that thing where I will diagram the question to myself, in my head, without actually speaking, even though the question is essentially an invitation to speak. I'm hyper aware of this tendency for a few reasons, so I finally said the thing that seemed most appropriate, the sentence I'd been thinking over and over as I ran down the long, flat stretch of Ocean Parkway: "There is no tomorrow".
He kind of scoffed, and I thought that was fair. It is technically untrue, and not really a sustainable philosophy. Also, It didn't really answer the question. It was the thing I happened to have been hanging on to during the last stretch of the race. I'd given him no context for it. And it wasn't necessarily the right truth. How DID I keep focus? What does keeping focus look like? "There is no tomorrow" is just this thing I was repeating over and over.
It felt nice to say it out loud, though.