As I toed the line on Sunday for my marathon, I couldn’t help but shake with nerves. In fact, I woke up at 2:30am on Sunday and couldn’t go back to sleep. Brief thoughts of my upcoming race had my heart fluttering. When I got up at 4:30am, I could barely stomach my pre-race bagel. If you know me, I can eat anytime, anywhere. Only later did I put all of this together and realize I was suffering from a heavy case of pre-race nerves.
I totally believe this is normal. In fact, I have to believe that even Meb and Shalane experience this. The marathon is a beast. Even the most seasoned runners have to think, “Holy crap, 26.2 miles!” It never gets easier and it always seems daunting as you get ready to start. Even after a 16 week training cycle, those miles still seem like too much when the reality of the race sets in.
It is meant to make you feel this way. It is the perfect distance where your body goes beyond the brink of what it is meant to handle. The race takes your body past the point of how much glycogen it can store. The distance pushes your body past that amount of lactic acid it would like to handle. And I do believe the first guy to run this distance later died…..Don’t you just love when non-runners point that out to you?!
However, I think all of this is what makes the marathon so alluring to runners. We are certainly a different breed. We like punishing our bodies and pushing ourselves to the limit. Everything about 26.2 miles screams going to the brink, and then some!
The marathon is a beast that cannot be tamed. Regardless of how many times you train and race the distance, it will always own you. Perhaps you have a perfect training cycle and are on track for a PR. Weather variations, a bad night’s sleep, an upset stomach, or a random stomach cramp; anything can throw you off on the day of your race. It creates this realm of the unknown as you toe that start line. You never know what to expect until you are in the midst of the race. We crazy runners seem to eat that stuff up!
That mysterious unknown is both alluring and frightening to us runners. We know we can’t tame the beast, and yet we continue to try and do so. When we do get that PR, we soon find ourselves wondering what our next best could possibly be.
One of the greatest things about running is the endless options. From speedy one mile races, 10ks, halfs, relays, and even ultras; there really is something for everyone. Heck, you can even go crazy and throw a swim and a bike ride in if you need an even bigger challenge. Each of these distances offers enjoyment and challenges in different ways.
The marathon will always evoke that fire and fear all at once inside of me. And in the end, nothing will make me cry tears of pain and pride all at once quite like how 26.2 miles does. At the same time, I still love those 10k’s and half’s and everything else in between.
What are your thoughts on this distance? Love it? Hate it? Still trying to wrap your mind around it?