I’ve been running marathons since 2003. When you factor in training runs and the marathons themselves, that’s a lot of miles. It’s a good thing my knees aren’t being interviewed for this piece, I’m sure they’d have something to say. (Mainly, “What the hell have you done to me all these years?”) At any rate, I’ve learned some simple truths about marathons and life along the way.
1. It all comes down to the shoes. Like any major (or minor) event in life, shoes make or break the day. Just as showing up at a wedding in a pair of evil, blister breeding heels can ruin a perfectly good day… so can a bad pair of running shoes. In addition to just tearing the hell out of your heels, the wrong running shoes (or those that are too old, small, etc.) can really mess up your body and stride, resulting in game stopping injuries. What does this mean to someone who’s thinking of running a marathon? GET TO A RUNNING STORE the minute you sign up for your event. Don’t waste a minute, and don’t spend one, two, or ten miles running in the wrong shoes. Shoes do matter. Period.
2. Everything goes smoother when you prepare. Remember in grade school when your mom told you to lay out your clothes the night before? I know my fourth grade mornings went a lot smoother when I had my painter’s pants, canvas Nikes, green gymnastics t-shirt, and rainbow Mork-n-Mindy suspenders all set before I hit the sack. (I challenge you to beat that look.) Similarly, marathon mornings (and any early training run for that matter) are much less crazy when running clothes are waiting for you in the morning. When everything (shirt, race number, shorts, socks) is ready, you can concentrate on the important things – freaking out about the miles ahead of you, eating breakfast, using the bathroom, hydrating, using the bathroom, and getting yourself to the run. Who needs to add searching for matching socks to that routine?
3. Expect the unexpected. Can you say golf ball sized hail delivered just in time to hit you in the middle of a 18 miler? A torrential rainstorm that starts ten miles from home? A half marathon, an 84 degree day, and not enough water? An Achille’s that explodes at mile 20 forcing a grueling 6 mile walk to the finish? An involuntary porta-potty tour the last six miles of a marathon? Yes, from Mother Nature’s influence to our own bodies breaking down, running is not always pretty. It takes grit, determination, and a bit of common sense (that doesn’t always work, for the record) to help you decide when to keep on going and when to throw in the towel. Because anything can happen out there, the biggest lesson is to take each obstacle as it comes, evaluate it, and decide on the best course of action. Sometimes finishing a run is just plain stupid. Please learn when this is the case, so that the next day (regardless if you finished or not), you are safe and sound.
4. Marathons are a lot like childbirth. Although I don’t have children, I certainly understand that childbirth is not a day at the park. Well folks, neither are marathons. There are points of the marathon (I like to call them the “shoot me now and no one gets hurt” moments) when you will feel worse than you ever thought humanly possible. You’ll wonder how the hell you’re going to go one more step, much less whatever mileage you have to go. Take mile 16, for example. The mathematical part of you will argue that you are more than halfway done; that you’re almost in the single digits. The runner part will want to grab the mathematical part by the neck, suspend you in the air, and threaten your life. However, I need to report that like childbirth, everything works out in the end. And, while you’re not left with a beautiful new life, you are left with a sense of pride that outshines all of the pain and dark moments.
5. You’re going to realize that this is the start of something big. Running 26.2 miles is pretty epic; it’s something the average person doesn’t do. This sort of accomplishment brings about a sense of self-pride for sure, but it also brings about the idea of… marathon today, Mt. Everest tomorrow? What else can I do? Getting yourself through all of the ups and downs of training (in one piece), and then actually getting to the marathon and finishing it, is pretty damn awesome. Period.
This marathon thing is only the beginning, my friends. Get out there and show them what you’ve got.
by abbey algiers