2 weeks after the marathon

The marathon turned out to be a real hard work. I think I was fine after the flu, but my muscles took a major hit because of the viros. My legs have started feeling really sore at 10km mark, and after the 25th km drinking station I have had a major crisis, from which I have never fully recovered. Just after 10km mark I started to feel serious pain in my quads – something I have never ever felt before, even during more intense training sessions. Then, after 25th km and a major collapse of the muscles, I had to slow down. I could run all the way, and the problem was not my body. It was simply the muscles in the legs. They just gave up. I could feel like running faster but every time I tried I was reaching the point of getting cramps in my legs. So, the final 15km or so was pretty much just hard work, and waiting for the finish line. Towards the end of the race, on the two small hills, I had to walk, because my muscles were too weak to run up hill. I have finished the race as 78th runner, with time 3:43.

The first two days of recovery were pretty bad – my muscles were real stiff, and I was unable to carry my own weight on even slightly bend leg. The knees were sore too of course. The hot baths and sauna helped lots, and by Wednesday I could almost walk normally. 2 more days and my knees were almost good, and muscles allowed me to carry myself up and down the stairs. After the first week, on Wednesday, I took part in a soccer game, and felt pretty good. Then Thursday I have had a first short run. The knees felt a bit sore afterwards.

Today I have run the first longer run (The Shorter Maia run, 10km) and felt great, although I could feel my knees a bit. Muscles seem to be fine now too.

Ula asked me why did I run, even though I knew it is going to be hard work, and I am not going to be able to beat my best time. Well, I did beat my last year time by 15min! And I did not run it for time, but rather for the experience. I am now 1 marathon older, and I know my body better. I have learned where the cramp point is, and how to continue running without getting cramps. I also learned how to “rest” one leg a little bit. And of course, the last 15km were a real test of my arm-based running – how to help carrying your legs with arms. None of that I would possibly learn without actually running. ¬†Of course it was hard, but the fun of running and the sense of achievement is irrespective of the time you make. It is always an extremely elevating feeling. I was great, especially the weather, the sight of the finish line, and the family waiting there for me. It was the first time that I have not actually cried at the end, too. I guess because of the leg muscles giving up so early, I was not able to push my body to the limits this time.

Third marathon

There is just 12 hours left to the Otago Harbour marathon. It will be my third. I have run the first ever running event, half-marathon, exactly 2 years ago. Then, a year ago, I’ve run my first marathon. Earlier this year, I’ve run my second one, the Motatapu marathon.

Last year, unfortunately, I was just recovering from a stomach flu, and the experience was far from perfect. The history is repeating itself a bit this year. For the last few days I’ve been fighting fever and flu with some mild chest infection. Tuesday, +38.5C, real bad, had to go home earlier from work. Headache and shivers. Wednesday, visit to a doctor, +38C. Headache eases, but shivers and fever continue. Started Tamiflu. Thursday, much better, fever drops to +37.2C. Friday, mostly fine, went to work, but then, evening and Saturday morning, a mild fever again, +37.2C. Stopped Tamiflu due to mild side effects. It effects me like strong coffee: I have difficulty concentrating, my mind goes into a fast paced wondering cycle. I had difficulty sleeping.

Saturday, for the most of the day I’ve been fine. But, I’ve spent almost entire week in bed, no practice, and I generally feel pretty run down and weak. I promised myself never repeat the experience from a year ago, but, here I go again, preparing for a run. It is not about expectations. It is about the experience. Often, we face an unpleasant experience and we have no way of avoiding it. We have to go through it. Perhaps a major life changing event, or whatever. I think for me, the run, is a way of keeping a mental discipline. I am not going to avoid it simply because it is going to be unpleasant. That I cannot do.

So, the marathon, here we go, again. This year there is more runners. Registered 233 for full, and over 1370 for half. A spectacular crowd of people. Running. With a prefect serenity of the Otago harbour. Last year I’ve run it with Tony and Peter. And Petra and Lipi have supported me on the Portobello drinking station. Family waiting at the finish line. Awesome experience.

I’ve practiced quite a lot this time round. The Motatapu event proved that I can go much faster to what I’ve done last year. In the last 2 years or so, I’ve run 174 times, for close to 160hours, covering a distance of over 1700km. My last logged run was last week, Saturday, September the 7th.

“The real is behind and beyond words, incommunicable, directly experienced, explosive in its effect on the mind.”

Buddhists monks count their age from the moment they have been ordained. So, following the same, I am a 1-year old marathon runner. I’m pretty much an infant, so I do not know much. Neither do I understand much. I feel it is bigger to what I can comprehend. It goes beyond me. While running, I stop being myself. I stop being a busy high-tech geek, computer science scientist, an academic, a father, a son. There is no deadlines, no worries, and no expectations. There is something transcendental in the experience. There is something serene. The effort, especially mentally, is something that attracts me to the endurance sports. There is no escape, no way out, but to face your own deepest weaknesses.

Of course, there is also this unexplainable, extreme  joy in seeing the finish line. A joy that not many other experiences can come close to. And the overwhelming feeling of satisfaction and achievement, that stay with you for weeks, sometimes months afterwords.

The limits of human mind

Tonight New Zealand Alpine club in Dunedin was hosting an australian explorer Jon Muir. The 55min film about his solo unsupported traverse of Australia (2500km) was followed by over an hour long talk about his early childhood dreams, climbing, and south and north pole expeditions. Another interview with him.

A fascinating person, with great sense of humor, and incredibly strong mind. He is fascinated by nomadic lifestyle, hunter gatherer unity with nature, and nature itself. He loves to just give it a go. Among other interesting things he said, that behind most of his adventures was the curiosity of what a human being is capable of. Physically and mentally. What is the limit of our humanity?

Interestingly enough it is the same type of question that drives me to adventures, climbing, running, diving and all sort of other mental and physical activities. Only by doing can we truly understand and answer the question to ourselves.