Regrets, and How I Avoid Them (Mississippi Blues Marathon 2017 Report)

I have some regrets, but not many. I, of course, often regret many little things as I expect most people do. “I should have said that with a sweeter tone,” or, “I shouldn’t have waited this late to start working on such and such.” That’s not what I mean. I am also not talking about the regret of sin, which I would consider to be of a different nature entirely. That regret is better understood as remorse, and dealt with by decided penitence. I am talking about a more personal feeling of regret – the kind where you always wonder what might have been, or you feel you have betrayed yourself.

I decided some time ago that as long as I gave a decision reasonable consideration, and acted to the best of my ability on the knowledge I had at the time, that there was no reason to regret it. Bad decisions are unavoidable. Bad decisions are just life. But a thoughtless decision may haunt me for many days or years. From missed opportunities that have changed my career trajectory to neglected relationships that could have been meaningful, lasting, and fulfilling, it is through neglect that I typically encounter self-disappointment. Failure to make a decision is the catalyst of lasting regret.

I sometimes feel regret when I fail to trust myself and am not true to my convictions. Once again, I don’t mean moral convictions, but personal ones. “Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The book of Proverbs encourages us to make decisions thoughtfully, heeding advice. “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed.” I actually think I let myself be TOO influenced by the thoughts and opinions of others, and sometimes I regret what choices I make as a result.

My goals this year don’t really matter. If I determine to run a marathon every month and fail, there is no tangible consequence. But it will affect the condition of my spirit if there was something I could do about it and didn’t. I will feel failure… and regret.

One week before my January 7 marathon, the first race of the year in Jackson, Mississippi, I went for a final long run with my brother. We live several hours away, and we don’t have the opportunity to do this sort of thing together very much. (My older sister joined us for the first mile or so, which was an added bonus!) This was fun. I love and admire my brother. As we ran and discussed the race, I felt honored to be part of his first marathon. I was excited for him to take join me in pursuing my passion for running. What a great start to the year this was going to be!

Just before the race, his middle daughter started running a fever. He had to make the difficult decision to skip the race to care for his family and make sure his nursing wife and newborn daughter didn’t catch it. I considered skipping the race as well. I could try to sign up for another with him later in the month. My wife was also questioning whether she would go. Without my sister-in-law and her kids there, the trip would be a weekend of at least 13 hours of driving, and most of the day spent waiting on me to finish a race in freezing cold temperatures. That’s asking a lot from a Florida girl! It was all disappointing, but I still had my personal goals to fulfill. I decided to run the race alone.

Then came the weather forecasts. Ice. Warnings to stay indoors off the roads. Questions about whether the race would be cancelled. 

I hung around the house the morning before. It was mostly because I hadn’t packed yet, and I was checking the weather reports and looking for a reason to quit. The Mississippi Blues Marathon posted this to their Facebook page at 12:49pm the day before the race:

“Everything is moving ahead as scheduled at this point. If conditions worsen or anything else changes regarding the race schedule we will post an update.”

The ice had already hit Jackson, and it would only get colder, so it seemed likely to me based on that post that the race was going to happen with or without me. I figured if I could make it to the race, then I would be able to run it. My wife was now sure she wouldn’t go, and said I probably should stay off the roads too… and she was right. But I’ve driven through bad weather before, and I would be driving on interstates just about the whole way there which I think are generally maintained pretty well even in bad conditions. I couldn’t find an excuse to stay home that I would be happy living with.

I went. The drive took something like 3 hours longer than it would have otherwise. The first half was uneventful, but once I hit Birmingham things got pretty treacherous. I witnessed two people in front of me slide off the road. I detoured around some standstill interstate traffic. In Jackson my driving slowed to a crawl. It was like driving on a ice skating rink. An hour before I arrived, my wife checked the marathon Facebook page and saw it had been cancelled. I arrived a little before midnight. I was stuck in Jackson for 2 nights until the roads were clear enough to drive.

I don’t regret going. I would have preferred the race directors at least let us know they were considering cancelling the race, which would have made me feel justified in staying home and getting some of my hotel reservation cost back, as well as having the whole weekend to NOT drive and sit in a hotel room. I would have regretted it if, with the information I had, I had decided to stay home and they held the race without me. But as it is, I don’t regret going.

What now? I set a goal to run one race per month this year, marathon length or longer. The Mississippi Blues Marathon directors have arranged for us to get free entry to another marathon in the Rock ‘n’ Roll series (an unexpected and generous gesture), but none in January. They’ve also given us the ability to officially complete the run virtually, and if my brother could do that with me this month I would. He can’t. I may still head to Jackson again at some point to “earn” the metal they went ahead and gave us by running the marathon route that would have been. Or I could just say, “Well, I tried,” and skip the marathon this month.

Regret. I hate it. And while there may be no reason for it in this circumstance from anyone else’s perspective, I will have it if I don’t run a January race while it’s still in my power to do it. I signed up to run the Calaway Gardens marathon in Georgia this Saturday, 4 hours from home. I’ll be alone. I won’t be paying for a hotel, just sleeping in my car at a rest stop on the way probably. I’ll be driving back home right after I finish. It’s not what I wanted for the month. It’s probably way more effort than it’s worth. I’ve slacked in my running for a month, so now I’m physically underprepared. It’s silly. It’s unnecessary.

…but I won’t regret it.

Image credit: Lynn Nelson, posted before the race was cancelled at 5:12pm as a reply to the marathon page’s Facebook update I quoted with comment “2 blocks from the start line about an hour ago”

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