Marathon: what it is?
It is not really about fitness. Or your legs. It is all about your head. And your heart.
The run starts with lots of euphoria and enthusiasm. It is extremely elevating to be able to participant in one of the old running events. Events that inspired so many people in the past, and continue to inspire more. The event that goes back to the ancient Greece and the story of the Marathon. And it feels awesome to be surrounded by thousands of like-minded people, that undertake the challenge with you. Awesome. Truly elevating. You start. The rhythmic noise of people’s feet hitting the road puts your mind quickly into ease and meditation-like state. The first 10k passes rather quickly. You keep the pace that you set yourself for. You feel great. You have been overtaken by faster runners. You have overtaken the slower. And you felt great doing it. You settle to the group of runners that are LIKE YOU. Some might be slightly slower. Some slightly faster. But the same t-shirts, the same shoes, the same faces start building a family around you. You might talk with some. You might be running in silence. But you are part of that family. And you feel it. The rhythmic sound of shoes hitting the road accompany you.
With relatively happy thoughts you hit the half mark. You start thinking, that you might be able to DO IT. The half wasn’t that bad, right? It continues to feel good. You keep the pace. Things seem to be going according to your plan. And then, suddenly, it happens. Perhaps 25th kilometre or so. You slow down! Just a bit. But enough to notice. And you have to make a huge mental effort, to push your body to run. To return to the pace that you should have. And it happens again. You slow down. Just a bit. And again you have to force yourself to run faster. You repeat that for a while. You get used to it. You know it is a cycle. You pick-up, you give-up, you pick-up again. Easier. Harder. Easier. Harder. You get into the cycle. Your legs start to ache. Your entire body starts to ache. And you start feeling tired of the effort. In your head. You JUST want to slow down. But people around you help. You tag along a group. Or perhaps just one runner. They keep you moving.
You hit 30km or so. You start seeing some people that slowed down. Some start to walk. Some are giving up. You may shout to them. Or pat them on the back. Or encourage them to FIGHT. This is not the end. There is WORK to be done. And you suddenly feel good again. You feel that you might have what it takes! You keep pushing. You feel the run is great. You got a second wind perhaps.
You try to fool yourself thinking that MOST of the work is behind you. That things will be fine! But you KNOW this is a lie. You know, the race has not started yet. The race will really start after you hit the wall. The wall may hit you seriously hard. Or gradually. But it always happens. It sneaks up on you. Suddenly. The realisation, first in your body, then in your mind, that the pace is TOO MUCH for you to keep. You cannot run THAT FAST anymore. No way! Your body screams for you to slow down. Your mind keeps inventing reasons of why you should slow down. Slowing down is the only thing on your mind from now on.
But you are not slowing down. Your body aches. Screams. You feel it is unbearable. You have to “leave your body behind” and think about something else. You better HAVE something else to think about. Because the effort is more than you can take. More than you can deal with. The usual unity of your mind and your body is shuttered. The effort is way TOO MUCH to take in.
Yet you continue to run. And you continue to push. This is real HELL. Every passing minute feels like eternity. You start resisting checking the watch, because you know that you will be very disappointed. You cannot comprehend that the hours of suffering that you just went through, are actually minutes. Or worse: seconds. You KNOW you cannot continue this. But you do. You keep running. The only thing in your head is to give up. Your thoughts race, and you start seriously contemplating giving up. But you continue, and instead of slowing down, you give up hope. You start thinking that this suffering, this unbearable effort will never end. That this HELL will just continue for eternity. You start thinking of death. You may actually start begging for death. Anything, that would put you out of this misery. You would give anything for this to end. Your body and your mind scream at you to STOP.
You continue running.
And then you see it. You do not believe it, but it is real. You see the finish line. And ONLY THEN you start believing that you can actually finish it. That it will be OK. That you have conquered the impossible. How? You have no idea. But you know: YOU, somehow, managed to go through this inhumane effort. This hell. And you came out on the other end. There is still a doubt, a hint that you just attempted the impossible, and that IT WILL NOT WORK. But it does – you cross the finishing line. It is real. You are totally exhausted. Completely depleted. Both, physically. And mentally.
A surge of emotions hit you. You may cry. The emotions are super strong. It is HUGE. You have done something that was impossible. You have gone beyond your own limitations. You WERE THERE. You have witnessed it. And you came out.
It is one of the most elevating feelings that you can experience. It shakes you to the very core. It goes real deep in you. And stays with you. Forever.
One day left. The day after tomorrow I will stand with 8 thousands other runners. And run. If you never done it yourself, you have no idea. You do not know, or understand of how it feels. No idea of what it is. You may think you do, cognitively. But it is not possible for you to fully appreciate the effort and challenge. And what you missing out. Wanna try it?
- Fear. Faith.
- Poznan marathon: October 11