Dear Pace Charming,
When I first saw you in corral B, I knew vaguely that you were important, in the universal sense. I knew that I could tell how well I was doing, based on whether you were ahead of me or behind me. I thought your sign was funny, so I took a picture. But I had no idea how vital you would be for my time.
I pulled ahead of you at the start of the race, and, despite a rough start, by the time I hit Disney’s California Adventure I was feeling good. The miles through the parks passed quickly and happily.
Yet once I exited Disneyland and hit the streets of Anaheim, I was dragging. I found myself under-stimulated by the scenery. I walked through every water stop and started up again only with great mental effort and the knowledge that Moon was ahead of me and I could not lose sight of her because if she was still going then I was too.
So. Moon was my rabbit. You were my kick from behind.
First, around mile eleven, I saw you next to me. I realized two things:
If the 2:15 pacer was next to me, I was in danger of dropping behind that pace.
I was actually on pace for 2:15. OR FASTER, if I could just speed up.
I surged forward and left you behind.
But it was still not my race, and after a while I began to flag again. Then I heard you behind me, somewhere ahead of mile thirteen. You were calling out motivational things to your clustered group of followers: “We’re almost there! You can do it!” Better things than that I’m sure; I don’t quite remember. Yet as we passed by the thirteen mile marker and the finish line came into view I knew that if I could just keep it up for .1 more miles I would finish ahead.
My official time was 2:14:39.
Pace Charming, you pushed me into a finish ahead of 2:15. But also, just generally, you pushed me into a finish much faster than I would ever have accomplished otherwise. If you hadn’t been there to let me know exactly where I stood in the race – if you hadn’t been there to give me a clear point against which to measure myself – if I hadn’t know that the moment you passed me was the moment I gave up and accepted that today I would be slower – I almost certainly would have eased up. I might’ve even walked for a bit.
But you were there.
You were a wall.
I ran to beat you.
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