Outcomes vs Expectations

All year, I have been training for a half marathon. My first, in fact. Not only that, my first long-distance running event since high school track, when the longest I ran was the 2-3 circles required to hurl a discus.

Month after month, I logged the long miles for training. October loomed and the event drew ever closer. Day after day, I documented the ups and downs of my training, hoping to publish the gripping narrative on this.very.blog.

Hell, I was even going to post the outcome — triumph or failure! But lo’, in the midst of training, I discovered that Hollywood was already on to me. Not only had they turned my experiences into a blockbuster movie, but also they had gone so far as to chronicle my experiences in a best-selling, award-winning, internationally acclaimed book that debuted before the movie!

I know you think I’m joking, but I’m not. Here’s the premise:

A short, over-aged, knock-kneed runner built like a tank and often mistaken for a cow pony instead of a Thoroughbred becomes an unlikely champion and inspires a nation down on its luck.

How could that be about anyone but me???

“Air Equine” by carterse. Image CC.

To cover their crafty, ruthless copyright-infringing tracks, Hollywood’s media moguls cast a racehorse named Seabiscuit in the lead role of my story, then they hired the mightily talented Laura Hillenbrand to dredge through fathoms of research woven into a compelling narrative detailing the true yet quirky and almost unbelievable events that propelled the Biscuit to stardom during the Great Depression.

No other athlete at this time accumulated as much coverage across column inches in newspapers and magazines than the little Seabiscuit. And probably, no other athlete was as underestimated as this pokey plug!

But outcomes rarely match our expectations. Mediocrity haunts the alleged greats, just as majesty lurks in the supposedly small. Coming to half marathons with virtually no prior experience and plagued throughout training by pernicious foot pain, I certainly underestimated my own outcomes. On nights I sat immobilized with my feet and legs elevated and wrapped in liniment-soaked bandages, I expected I would throw in the towel. Hang it up. Call off all the bets. But after a few days’ rest, I’d hammer on my shoes and hobble back out to conquer yet another chunk of the 13+ mile course.

hillenbrand_seabiscuitI strongly recommend reading Seabiscuit if you seek the inspiration to keep going against all odds. For pointers on how to persevere and achieve great outcomes despite being restrained under low expectations. Read it if you enjoy historical nonfiction. Read it if you’d like to know how my half marathon went, how I struggled with mud, heat, competitors, the prying eyes of paparazzi, and how I did on the biggest race day of all with everything on the line! It’s all there.

Do be aware that the first couple of chapters are heavy with names, places, and details that, although accurate, do not come back into the narrative. Also, I feel obligated to warn you that the race scenes pitting the Biscuit against his arch rivals are so climactic, you are likely to tug for the next page with your teeth–fingers being too slow! And if you are pressed for time, may I suggest reading only Chapter 5, which will teach you more about the dangerous world of jockeying than you ever knew you wanted to know and now that you know you can’t believe no one ever bothered to tell you how friggin’ exciting it was and now you are giving everyone the silent treatment for their role in your misguided ignorance.

Hillenbrand, Laura. Seabiscuit: An American Legend. New York: Random House, 2001. Print.


By jenmichellemason

Jenny is a story hunter. She has explored foreign countries, canyon mazes, and burial crypts to gather the facts that make good stories. Once, she sniffed a 200-year-old skull...for research purposes. Jenny received an M.Phil from Trinity College Dublin and holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. She has authored nearly 20 STEM books for young readers. Her inquisitive and funny nonfiction articles have appeared in Mountain Flyer, Cobblestone, and Muse magazines. Jenny also works as a freelance copy writer for nonprofits and small businesses.

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