Marathon Clichés

I’m running my first marathon tomorrow, and everything I’ve learned through the (pretty grueling) training would be perfectly suited to a poster with a bald eagle on it. Things like:

‘Perseverance: Every time you can’t go any farther, just take one more step.’

On any training run over 10 miles there comes a point when your body just starts to stop. This might just happen to me, but I tend to think we’re all made of similar stuff. Your body, on orders from some deep, untouchable part of your brain, just starts slowing down of its own accord, trying its best to stop running, to maybe walk for a while.

I notice it especially when I’ve been distracted by something like a bad memory or a pretty Ugandan girl staring at me from the back of a motorcycle taxi and my mind is elsewhere for a few moments. My body takes the opportunity to start stopping.

When I feel my pace slacken I have to snap back to the present and override that deep, internal command center. I have to shove the big goal of finishing this marathon to the top of my system’s priority list.

‘Goals: The higher you cast them, the further they’ll pull you into the sky.’

In college I once ran six miles. It was down by the beach in Los Angeles, sea level and nearly flat. It wrecked me. I decided that evening I would never run a marathon, or even a half. I just wasn’t constitutionally capable of it.

The training plan I’ve followed has seven runs longer than a half-marathon. The big goal of 26.2 miles makes 13.1 miles doable, even eventually routine, no longer daunting and well on the near side of impossible.

‘Plan: Every towering achievement shines down from a mountain of boring tasks.’

Running a marathon with the body and mind I had six months ago would have been impossible. I knew I wanted to do it, but I didn’t know how to get there.

Hal Higdon, whoever he is, broke down marathon training into a simple daily spreadsheet and put it online: run 3 miles today, 5 tomorrow, 3 again the next day, 8 on the weekend, etc. This became my plan. I followed it every tedious week.

Today I can say I have run half-marathons, I can say I have run 18 mile out-and-back routes to the shore of Lake Victoria, I can say I ran a 20+ mile loop on the savannah backroads of Gulu in northern Uganda. Today I can say I’m ready for a marathon.

‘Potential: You aren’t only who you think you are. That body, that brain, that short precious life, they can be so many things. Inside of you are futures. Hundreds, thousands of futures for the choosing. Futures in which you climb mountains or write books or see Europe or adopt children or run marathons. They can be made real. Like all new creations they will be birthed with pain, with fear, with sacrifice. This is the natural cost, this is what it feels like to make a living, breathing choice against the inertia of the cold universe. It is your tithe to entropy. Pay it gladly. You are not only who you think you are.’


[Update: Went ahead and made that last poster.]


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