Shanghai Half Marathon | Colleen MacDonald

nanjing lu

I ran the Shanghai half marathon.

This piece was supposed to be about the holidays, likely Christmas and New Years. I don’t know what I could say about those holidays that is new or even interesting in the slightest. I was too self-centered to appreciate last years holidays (wallowing as I was in a nasty cloud of self pity and brokenness). I spent a over an hour on Christmas day in the bathroom crying. Why do women (me) cry in bathrooms? Why do I marinate (sitting on bathroom counters with snotty towels) in negativity so pathetically that I forget that I can choose to be happy (which, in my opinion, is one of the most powerful choices I can make)?

That was last year, not so long ago, yet long ago just enough that I can, although very subtly, laugh at my own over dramatic-ness. But that was last year. This year, I want to talk running.

When I ran my first marathon, I dedicated it to my older brother who was, as I hit approximately mile 16, shipping off to a middle eastern country for a indefinable amount of time. In a way that can be considered as cliché as you like, it helped. The peace I felt by mile 17 was significant – so also was the less peaceful screaming of my quads.

Subsequent runs have been dedicated to various people; usually I never tell anyone, as it seems unnecessary and affecting. The half marathon in Shanghai was the first run I dedicated to myself. (Oops – I’ve just told!) I dedicated it to having come a long way since last year, that I had let go, that I had learned (by God, I had learned), that I had messed up (by God, I had messed up), that I was still standing (running), that I knew redemption, that I had made good life choices (and very bad ones), and so on mile ten, I was laughing, never having thought I’d have made it here (or there). I came in at 54th, a decent place, by no means fast nor really slow. I’ll take 54th place with a grin and a thankful prayer.

Holidays this year will be rough (alone, though not in a pity-me dramatic way, but in the way that holidays and celebrations for me are best served straight up – no chaser – with true loved ones), but there is hope around the corner. Hope in the knowledge that things move forward painfully and joyfully; hope in the new ability to dedicate a run to myself (and in doing so shrug off another layer of self doubt); hope that, very likely with a bowl of noodles/spicy tofu/overpriced white wine in Hangzhou celebrating the holidays, I have come (run) a long way and still have yet, a long way to run.

Oh, and I crossed the half marathon finish line to this line from a song: ‘Cause we find our selves in the same old mess, singin’ drunken lullabies’.

Make of that what you will.

The hidden, derelict and marginalized attract her; with a desire for adrenaline rushes and a love of heights, Colleen MacDonald has photographed everything from abandoned highrises in Detroit to Particle Colliders in Russia. With an eye for portraits, a belief that everyone has a story, and a love of drains, she has been wandering through foreign countries since 2007. Accused of being a spy, a prostitute and a missionary; having repelled down elevator shafts, been caught up in political protests and nearly arrested, she has developed a fearless approch to photography seeking out the moments both violent and peaceful that give life meaning.



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