The final words in the trailer, from Dick Beardley "When you cross the finish line, it will change your life forever."
Grand words, and surely true, and I'm inspired by the symbolism as well of a marathon. I do feel some need to "expose the hype", some strange intellectual need to demean and dismiss experience itself as the source of anything at all.
I ran my first marathon distance last Saturday, 26.2 miles, just short of 9 loops on my 3-mile running trail in Minneapolis. I chose it because I could be independent and keep my water available each 3-miles, and one energy-gel "boost" to give me the energy to keep going. I "hit my wall" at 24 miles, and probably could have stopped there and felt okay, but no, I figured close enough, and finished the last 2.2 miles and crossed my imaginary finish line in 3 hours 33 minutes, 1 second.
So it's been a fairly long journey for me. The real marathon is the months leading up to the event! Myself I've been running now for nearly 30 months, 499 miles in 2006, 1000 miles in 2007, and over 900 miles now in 2008. STILL, I admit my training was far insufficent to run a smooth marathon, BUT it was enough to finish the distance on my feet, and in decent time.
Hurray! I think the greater triumph than finishing was not hurting myself too badly, although it was a tough final walk back alone to safety after drinking my third water bottle dry, and I had nothing more left in me except to lying down on the floor for 30 minutes. Then I had the energy for some food and a warm and then cold shower to help my poor muscles.
Most people who "climb the mountain" (decide to run a marathon) see it as some sort of magical destination where "just finishing" makes them a winner. Well, I of many talents and much grace from god in health and ability, can't accept such a low-balled goal.
For YEARS AND YEARS, I demeaned the marathon as an unworthy goal. I always told myself "Any day you pick, I'll walk ya a marathon distance", no training, no problem!
The year after graduating from college, one nice month of May, I RAN 7 miles one weekend evening in an hour. Then I WALKED 35 miles in 10-hours one day the next weekend. Then I BIKED 154 miles in 10-hours the weekend following that. Imagine that - I could WALK and BIKE 154 miles for 10-hours SOLID, but could only run an hour. What's up with that nonsense?!
Well, think about it! When I walked 10 hours, I carried my backpack with food and water. When I biked 10 hours I could carry even more food and water with me.
And the month after that I traveled to Colorado and hiked up Pike's Peak, 7300' vertical elevation change from the base of the trail to the peak, 13 miles each way, a full marathon distance up and down. Again, I carried all my food and water, and luckily I ate enough on the way up, since altitude sickness made all thoughts of food on the way down unattractive, but I did it, all no more training than being an active 20 year old, biking for transportation, and a love for walking.
Yes, there's a marathon race up Pike's peak, and I'm impressed ANYONE could run at that elevation so far, so high, but walking was good enough for me.
Now I've proved I can run 3+1/2 hours, at least having water available along the way, and one energy-gel. I'm also 16 years older than my post-college run/walk/bike challenges. I timed one mile run around that time, like 6:08. Now that's my 5k race pace, and best mile 5:38 (only one race). I'm as fast or faster as I was, after training a lot harder!
Now I'm supposed to believe somehow running a marathon event (the real McCoy, not my little evening sideshow.), that it'll change my life forever?
Well, I may choose to try a marathon, OR I may not. I don't know. Life has so many more interesting challenges, and 5k races are much more fun! Perhaps this DOUBT comes from being an intellectual, seeing more value in creating than performing. I like to TEST my limits, but I don't greatly like performance, don't like the feeling of pushing myself on some external goal or someone else's time and place.
Incidentally, my slight grumpiness now, I in no way wish to demean those who are interested in setting a goal of finishing a marathon. I think it's amazing that anyone can set such a goal. Still, I suppose I do demean it whatever I wish for niceness. A marathon is a cool symbol, but let's be good about this, okay? Let's have some fun too! Let's not say finishing a marathon is more important than hurting yourself, you know?!
A part of me is SO REBELLIOUS. I imagined in school of finishing all the class work, and then refusing to get the diploma, refusing to believe the "symbol" is worth more than the experience. I think like that with a marathon as well.
What if I ran my damned best marathon effort, and then 5 feet before the finish line, I sat down and waited a full hour or two before walking across the finish line, JUST to prove a point - that the SYMBOL was nonsense, arbitrary nonsense, and held no intrinsic value at all. OF COURSE, as rebellious as my imagination, I don't LIKE to make a specticle of myself, so it wouldn't do.
AND it IS MEAN, mean to publicly reject a symbol that many thousands of others deem valuable. It's a very strange meanness, I can't quite explain. Why would I wish to do anything like that?
No, the thing is, there's games that are MORE FUN than mere rebellion. If I'm going to run a marathon in a SUBSTANDARD way, I'd want to have more fun with it, like WALKING the last 6-miles. That sounds MORE FUN. I know I can run 20-miles, and at a great pace too, much better than I can run 26 miles. I just ran my 25k race (15.54 miles) at a 6:55 pace, suggesting a 7:11 marathon pace, but that's too much work. Why not run 20-miles at my 7:04 pace and walk the last 6.2 miles? That sounds more fun!
So I could run a 2:21 20-miler, and then walk the last 6.2 miles in 80 minutes, for a marathon time of 3:42. Wouldn't that be great? How many people can finish a marathon in 3:42, a cool 8:28 pace.
See how my mind works? I take an "impossible goal" (to run my BEST marathon), and side-step it into something different, something I don't have to work as hard. And in the process, do I wreck the "Spirit of the marathon"?
Well, I just don't know. There's something special in "pushing yourself to your limit", the experience of knowing a goal is possible, but hard, and doing it anyway.
I understand the issue MORE in a shorter race, where EVERYTHING is knowing your limit and pushing just below the limit. There's NEVER any real fear I can't finish a 5k or 10k race, just the embarressment if I over-pace the start and have to slow down to finish. That to me is an interesting balance, the tension. BUT a marathon is different - there's really serious risk of physical harm, of letting WILL exceed good judgement. It's EASY to improve aerobic ability - do and your body responds. BUT with longer distances, greater fatigue, other systems break down - muscles, joints, and everything else has to keep up with the pounding. That's where YEARS of training make a difference, but its still always possible to "go too far".
For me, its an interesting question, more than intentionally "throwing a marathon" by walking the last 6-miles, but MORE knowing I COULD choose to walk the last 6-miles, if my body says I need to slow down.
From all the various injuries I've had, I can say that everyone probably had plenty of warning signals that I chose to ignore. I kept going when injury was likely, and I paid a price. Ideally you train smart for a marathon, and reduce risk.
It is curious to me - to see people who repeatly choose to run marathons. I suppose I could imagine it like any other race, learn from each experience, and see how I can improve, run smarter, run within my limits better, and see how I do. BUT I KNOW the "perfect run" will always be out there, and its takes ALOT of work.
I have to ask "Isn't there anything better to do?"
I suppose I'm more like the beginners than not. I like a challenge, like to test myself, but "improve" is a mysterious idea. If I run a slower marathon, did I fail? It HURTS my ego to imagine setting myself up for such failure. I avoid risk by keep my goals in a constant juggle, so once of them is bound to succeed, and the rest can keep on plugging, you know?
What is the Spirit of the Marathon?
It is a "symbol". It is an external measure people use to challenge themselves. And it is what we choose it to be.
When you cross the finish line ... you can rest for a while.
That's a nice idea to me, more believable!