If you don’t feel like you’re going to throw up after finishing a marathon, then you didn’t run fast enough. In my mind, marathons are not supposed to be social events where participants are the main performers in a parade for their honor. Instead, they are gut-wrenching, muscle-straining exhibitions of one’s mental fortitude and desire to endure against their body’s need to quit.
Okay, maybe that’s a little overboard. But, for me, a marathon is not about having fun or enjoying the journey, although there is definitely some joy in the first few miles. Rather, the allure of a marathon is that it is a painful experience. An experience where sacrifices are made just getting to the starting line in race-ready form. One where participants train for months in preparation. The harder the achievement of the goal, the more satisfying the attainment. If it were easy, if it were fun, then the joy of accomplishment, or the sorrow of failure, wouldn’t be as great. And that really, is the point.
Anyone can amble their body 26.2 miles and slap a sticker on their car’s bumper, but it’s not the mileage that matters. It’s pushing yourself beyond the point of despair to cross that finish line in as little time as you are physically capable of that matters. It’s hitting the wall at mile 23, fighting the cramping legs and the heaving gut, gathering yourself for that final 3.2 mile assault. It’s about believing in yourself at mile 25 that no matter what, you will accomplish the goal you set out. Maybe you won’t make the cut-off time that you set for yourself, that’s okay. What matters most is performing to your upmost on that one day. Giving the best that you can and leaving nothing in the tank as you cross the finish line. It’s about looking like shit when they take that picture of you crossing the finish line and loving that ugly picture because it shows that you gave it your all.
Sometimes I think that we want things too easy and in so, we lessen the experience. There is adventure and awareness in adversity. There is personal discovery in difficulties. So, I encourage you to register for a marathon and to set a few goals for yourself.
My personal goals for the 2014 Space Coast Marathon were to:
1. Complete a marathon
2. Complete it in under 4hrs – Threshold
3. Complete it in under 3:45 – Objective
4. Complete it in 3:30 – Stretch goal
I didn’t make my 4th goal. By mile 23 I was at the point of exhaustion, fighting nausea and leg cramps. I was heartbroken as I watched my pace leader run off in the distance. I had carried an 8 minute mile pace for 23 miles and in the last 3.2 miles I couldn’t muster the strength to make my cutoff time. I struggled to keep from vomiting, knowing that if I just kept moving and got some fluids in me that I would cross the finish line. Maybe not in the time I wanted, but in the best time I could make that day. Four months of training had come down to this moment and I wasn’t going to make my goal, I was devastated. It took some time to accept the truth, but then I realized that my goals were self-imposed. Nobody cared what time I finished, only me. But, what I cared most about was training hard and preparing myself for this race and then performing the best I could that day.
So, if you’ve ever considered doing a marathon, do it. But, don’t be a pansy about it. Set some goals, make them hard ones, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t make them all. It’s okay. Be proud of what you do accomplish. Most people can’t run for 26.2 miles. Most people don’t have the self-discipline to train for 4 months to get ready for a marathon. But, in the end, you’re not competing against most people, you’re only competing against yourself. So, believe in yourself and if you’ve fought the good fight, be proud your success.