One month to go. On August 27th I will wake up early, eat, and attempt something I have never attempted before. It will be the longest and hardest 10 hours of my life. I cannot possibly imagine how hard it is going to be, until the time comes. Until I face it, and live through it.
I am anxious and scared. This will become a true fear just before the race. The adrenaline will rush in and the fear will then trasform into calm and a bit euphoric state of mind, that will push me forward. And the battle will begin. The battle with myself. Mind over matter.
The hardest effort to date was my first marathon, in 2009. I have pushed my limits, physically and mentally, beyond of what I thought was possible. Like peeling an onion, I have discovered the capacity to conquer fear and pain, and the ability to “survive”. I haven’t known those limits before. Getting to the finish line was an enormous mental effort. I have been rewarded with painful knees and difficulty walking for the following 2 weeks. And a awesome state of achievement (which lasted good few months). The effort touched the very core of my being. And my nature.
What do I fear? I do not fear that I will not complete. I do not fear that I will not perform well or not get a good time. Those things become insignificant when I am faced with the wall. With every single cell in my body screaming to stop. I fear the mental struggle that will go on, the battle. I fear the pain. I fear that the mind will win with the matter, but the matter will be the one reminding me, intensely, of how human I am. I fear the feeling of loneliness, and that awkward feeling of falling into something deep. The loss of control. The helplessness.
I’ve learned few things in the last 2 years. About my body, my thinking, and the act of running. I’ve changed my running technique and I’ve also changed my running shoes. When I was a kid, I run quite a lot in a flat sole snickers. You know – the cheapest there are. Then, I had a phase of proper running shoes running (because I could afford it), but it resulted in injuries and sore knees. Now, I’m back to flat sole shoes, no support, no cushioning. It just works better for me. I remember never having sore knees as a kid. And I seem not to have any problems now neither.
My attitude has changed, too. It is much more about the process, about enjoying the journey, than about getting to the destination. Yes, of course, the race is an important milestone, and it is a reality check – what is and what isn’t possible. But the race itself is “short” and rather insignificant compared to hours and hours of training, of being outdoors, of actually running. Enjoying the outdoors. The whole thing is about running. Not about events.
Intense training requires a lot of mental discipline. The training provides little victories with pain and laziness. I’ve noticed being able to control myself better and I think I have expanded the capacity to self-control, and improved discipline. The daily shot of endorphines is obviously addictive too, even though I’m sure I’ve built some resistance to it. I often feel quite euphoric. Today was an awesome warmish day. Good run. Sore calves. Looking forward for tomorrow’s run…