Our race photos arrived in my inbox today. Photos taken by a multitude of professional photographers, stationed along the marathon route, either crouching at the side of the road or lofted high above the course, documenting our 26.2 miles from the bucket of a crane.

In every one of his photos, my husband looks strong and lean, handsome and athletic. He appears, to all the world, a marathoner.

In every one of mine, I look like a troll who crawled out from beneath a bridge. Or at least, as someone who should reconsider ever appearing in public wearing a tank top again.

The strong, dedicated athlete who lives in my brain never put in an appearance. The veteran marathoner who ran speed drills and hill repeats, who studiously counted protein grams and worked on core strength…? She never showed up, either. In my heart, I am a gazelle, fleet-footed and strong; in my race photos I am a chunky, middle-aged woman with frightening posture, lumbering toward an uncertain finish.

I want you to know, I ran a spectacular race. No, it wasn’t the fastest or, clearly, the most photogenic, but I ran cheerfully for five hours. I enjoyed every bit of the Lake Superior shoreline. I never once turned on my ipod and I was never once tempted to quit.

In the past, I have had to expend a tremendous amount of energy beating down a mental chorus of doubt and despair, fending off the thoughts that I will never, ever finish, that the whole endeavor is foolish and that I would really, really like to quit.

This time there was only one, clear directive, “Run faster.”

And I did. I sped up, slowly and consistently, throughout the race. My last mile was my fastest mile–who does that? Never me before and certainly not that lady in the photos, if one were to judge by the visual record.

It’s a good reminder, isn’t it? We never can tell, to look at a person, what’s going on beneath the surface. We are not privy to their inner lives. We think we are seeing a bus driver, a lawyer, a waitress; never realizing that underneath they are a novelist crafting a new world, or a passionate lover of latin dance…..

Or maybe, a long-time runner who, having seen her fair share of crappy race photos in the past, had the good sense to pose for a picture BEFORE the race.

In that one, I look adorable.

The Rise & Fall of a Momocracy

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