Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Guest Post - Janice Woodward Comments On Paul Ryan's Sub 3 Hour Marathon

Thank you kindly for visiting my guest blog post.

I am many time marathoner Janice Zhu Woodward, MSW.  Janice is my professional name, and is usually turned to Jan for my friends. Z stands for Zhu, a name given to me by the orphanage that raised me for six months in China, and Woodward is the family where my new identity took roots after the adoption. The Masters of Social Work is still being paid for with a two hundred dollar electronic withdrawal each month.  

Yes, I am the main character in the novel The Jade Rabbit, but I have lept out of the pages of the novel, and I have volunteered to write this post. I may be a fictional character, but I was  inspired to write after hearing some claims by Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

I like Paul Ryan, I really do, and I would love for him to visit the runaway shelter in Detroit where I work and speak with the children here.  But when I heard him causally mention running a sub 3 hour marathon, the very thing that I had been my Raison d'ĂȘtre, my purpose to prove myself worthy, the goal I had wrung out every last bit of energy from my soul just to accomplish, it stung a bit. Yes, I was a bit relieved to learn he was mistaken, I confess. 

Here's a brief excerpt from , The Jade Rabbit, chronicling my attempts to run such a sub 3 hour marathon that the Senator took credit for so casually.   

"I have done many runs with only numbers in my head, doing equations for hours to figure out paces, averages, and remembering personal best times at various race distances. All of this just to find the magic formula to run a marathon under three hours. Sometimes it felt like running a marathon in under three hours was my reason for being on earth, as if when the day came that I finally broke the three hour barrier I would finally catch someone or something that had run away from me. Then I could finally stop and rest. It was validation. A test of worthiness. Until I did that I was a non-entity, not really a runner, just a fragment of my potential to be discarded and dismissed.

 There was the time in the Chicago marathon when I ran through the jammed aid stations and over metal-girded bridges with crowds cheering everywhere. I came up three minutes short, but I knew I could have broken the three-hour barrier if I was not delayed during the first few miles when 30,000 runners crowded the field. Plus it was seventy degrees and sunny at the finish, which, when you’re in the last miles of a marathon, feels like ninety-seven and broiling. This time at the finish, I saw three people drop to the ground and faint as if they’d been shot in the head.

The year I did Boston was unique. The only 10 am start I’ve ever done and also my first official DNF – Did Not Finish – after my calf ripped going up the hills at mile twenty. I limped for two miles with the injury, my goal time long ago vanished but my spirit unwilling to yield. A large CITGO sign mocked me like an unloving god in the sky, waiting for me to break, but I refused and raged on in tears until finally I couldn’t even walk any longer and just sat by the side of the road. Medics pulled me off and drove me away.

To this day the calf injury continues to flare up.

Two years ago, in my hometown Detroit Free Press marathon, I felt I was in perfect shape – but at mile fourteen it began to rain. It dampened my shoes and socks so that I was lugging around an extra pound with each stride. I rambled in at 3:13: not what I hoped for, but still a top ten finish. Many runners left the course this day early looking for a dry ride home, and the finish line this time was near empty.

I used to run shorter distances. It was on a high school track just like this one that I finally broke the five minute barrier during the mile run in a track meet. Mom was in the crowd then, as she always was, and I cried in her arms under the bleachers afterwards. I really was sad, like I was scared what had happened and had done something unforgivable. It was a cold day, and after the run my mucus had mixed in with tears and gotten all over Mom’s sweatshirt. I ran a 4:54, ten seconds better than my previous best, but never came close again. 

Strange how meeting our goals can be so somber." 

Congratulations just for finishing Senator Ryan.  You are a winner just for having the courage to line up at the starting line. The race is long, and in the end, it is only with ourselves.

Read the full story of my Marathon here:  The Jade Rabbit, on Amazon 


Cait the Arty Runnerchick said...

thanks for the guest post and it's always interesting to hear another person's take/POV over this whole thing. :)

Mark Matthews said...

Thanks. I think the whole "she's doesn't really exist but is a character from my novel" thing was lost, so I did a rewrite.

PavementRunner said...

Very interesting post... aiming for that sub 3 is a monster challenge.

Cait the ARty Runnerchick said...

update from the comment idiot from above!! thanks for alerting me that the entire creativeness behind this post went over my head....and in rereading it, i really had no excuse for my lameness! :P i'm sorry!

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