I want to share the experience of the completed marathon with you. Given my tendency to be too verbose, however, I thought it best to break this down into three lists which together encapsulate my experience on Sunday.
Before the race
- Wake up before dawn, thinking why the heck did I want to do this again?
- Feel doubt that my training has been enough. Engage in negative self-talk, reminding myself that I was never an athlete in high school or college.
- Try to remind myself of the more than 650km that have been accumulated in these months of training. Try to tell myself that I’ve done it before.
- Continue to feel niggling doubt.
- Make it to the site and see fit runners “warming up,” which they do by running faster than I do at top speed, with a casual expression showing that they’re hardly exerting themselves. Tell myself again that I do not belong.
- Resolve, even before the race begins, that I’m never doing this again.
During the race
- Before 2km: become sorted with my people — the ones who go about the same speed as I do, and who have the same kind of somewhat-but-not-very-fit physique. Start to relax.
- 2km: Begin to be assailed by hard rain and wind. Start to worry.
- 10km: 10km runners mixed among us finish their race with exclamations of “ugh, that was horrible!” (referring to the bad weather). Try not to think about the 32.2 km I still have to run in said weather.
- 15km: hands freeze. Shoes squelch. Head down, I concentrate on the shimmering, almost mirror-like reflections the runners ahead of me cast on the wet pavement.
- 25km: Turnaround point. Rain has stopped; sun comes out; endorphins kick in fully. These alter my perception of time and allow me to drift mentally.
- 30-40km: Notice that legs are getting quite sore. Drift. Look at the lake. Drift. Watch the funny choreography of runners trying to drink while running, then trying to lob empty bottles into roadside repositories. Drift. Share a smile with the person I’ve been running beside for a while as we cross a timing mat together. Drift. Notice that legs are getting ever sorer. Drift.
- 40-42km: No longer drifting, but having to concentrate on not stopping.
- 42 km: See Stelian, give him a high-five. Keep going. Watch two kids belonging to a woman running just in front of me jump over the barrier and take their mother’s hands to run the last 200 meters with her. Feel the total euphoria of the finish line.
After the race
- Feel bewildered as someone takes off my timing chip, someone else puts a medal around my neck, other people offer fruit, drinks, food.
- Think how awesome the experience was, and immediately revise I’m never doing this again to I’m doing this again for sure!
- Wonder how come I can’t walk at all.
- Begin to experience the trinity of sore, stiff muscles, nagging unspecific hunger, and general fatigue.
- Revise I’m doing this again for sure! to Maybe…we’ll see.
- Wonder why all those hours are condensed into just a few memories.
- Ask myself if I really did it after all.
- Review the evidence.
Bonus: There is a video of me (in white hat) running to the finish behind the woman with her kids here.