So I just ran a marathon. Aside from the fact it represented a goal for me (being the 20th and I wanted to run 20), running a marathon isn't a huge deal if you're healthy and you're prepared to spend more time training than sleeping, drinking, or a host of other activities you probably enjoy.
It was a lot of work to get to 20 and not just because of the physical effort. If you're someone who is internally critical of yourself, it's difficult to spend time on a course surrounded by a bevy of individuals who are younger, faster, stronger, more fit, thinner than you or with better war stories. By the way, if by chance the runner is older, heavier, weaker, or less physically able than you, you often feel even worse about your performance. (I'm particularly looking at you, amazing runners who are geriatric, blind, missing limbs, pregnant, or recovering from major surgery.)
This weekend was hugely important to me for a lot of reasons, but among them because this was the first marathon where I tried hard (to a point) and then just let it be. I've spent four years running as a tool to control and process through the challenges of my personal life: my father's illness and death, my volunteer roles, my career, my mother's loneliness, my marriage, and being a mother myself. There's a lot of mental energy that goes into that, not to mention the physical energy required to run 26.2 miles before a sweeper gets you (in addition to processing constant other "runner-to-me" comparison).