On September 26th, 2010 I ran 26.2 consecutive miles. I didn’t run to raise awareness for a greater social cause, nor did I run to establish myself as a superior physical specimen. I ran 26.2 miles because I wanted to see just how difficult a marathon truly is, to pit myself against my own mind in an endurance battle the likes of which I had never experienced. With no trainer, no strict regimen, no by-the-book diet, without even a single running partner to turn to for motivation the entire 2.5 months of training prior to the race, I am proud to report that I successfully finished my first marathon.
Leading up to the race, the longest I had run was approximately 17 miles. It was exhausting. And the thought of tacking on another 9 seemed like a Herculean feat. When I reached mile marker 18, I thought to myself,
You have never in your life run this far. You still have EIGHT more miles. Shit.
This is where my cement mental fortress started to crumble slightly. Waves of pain doesn’t really lend itself as a useful metaphor – it was far too steady and unabated. Animosity towards other runners inexplicably began to grow inside me for completely unwarranted reasons. For example, if someone was right behind me for more than a mile, someone surely going through the same misery as myself who under normal circumstances probably would have been a pleasant person, somehow became a saboteur whose sole purpose in life was to make mine harder. Strange thoughts were brewing for awhile.
Then I reached mile 22. My calves start cramping. My personal goal of making it the entire way without stopping had not been achieved, and I had no choice but to stop and stretch for 45 seconds. The following 2 miles revealed the ugly beauty of the sport – I was crawling at a pathetic pace while my ego deflated, yet somehow for the remaining 2.2 miles I managed to funnel all of my energy and focus into my legs for a strong finish. In the course of about 18 minutes I literally went from sheer agony to triumphant victory. And it felt AMAZING. Looking back, I think that this, the process of absolute self-degredation to total self-reassurance is what keeps people coming back for more punishment. There are very few instances in which the average person makes the decision to willfully undergo this simultaneously wonderful and defining transformation.Sometimes you need to remind yourself that you can conquer things in life.
*Ok, so I didn’t exactly make headlines, but I did make an appearance in last week’s edition of The Bellingham Herald – #136 in the white. Click the photo above to see more event pictures. Congrats to everyone else who finished.