Why the marathon?
If you ever wondered why a sane individual would choose to run 26.2 miles, allow me give you a few insights from a participant’s point of view.
First thing you should know, we run 26.6 miles by choice. We didn’t lose any bets and no one has ordered our participation. For months we train, logging hundreds of miles, rising long before dawn to cram a run into a schedule that will not permit running at a sane hour, wearing out shoes and losing toenails. As race day approaches we feel delusional excitement about the race. We are competitors but we are also associates in a communal endeavor. Yes, a few of us are striving to reach the top and win our age division but the vast majority of us are competing only against ourselves. This is not a horse race where only the top three competitors win, place or show. It is often said that in a marathon every runner who crosses the finish line wins. Since we are competing with and not against our fellow runners, there is a camaraderie absent in most of our sports; an esprit de corps that helps every runner and is obvious to anyone watching.
The aforementioned pre-race delusional excitement will fade somewhere around mile 20. The last couple of miles of a marathon can produce some of the greatest agony you’ll ever feel. Your glycogen depleted body aches, you no longer feel delusional excitement–you are just delusional, and your legs scream at you to stop that very instant. Friends and family members on the sidelines near the finish line have noted my strained gait and the pain etched deep in my face and have asked the obvious question: “Since marathons are so demanding, painful and difficult why do you run them?” I run them because they are demanding, painful and difficult. My father always counseled me to do the hard things first. The American patriot Thomas Paine noted that “the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
In a world of ever increasing ease with many needs just a click or phone call away, true physical exertion is avoidable for most of us. Contrast that with the lives our grandparents knew. Mine were a part of the “greatest generation” which defeated fascism and made America a leader of the free world. Sacrifice and demanding labor were a part of their daily lives. Before them many of our ancestors came west, building trails and laying railroad tracks. In 2012 we have too few demanding tests, too few events that exist only to push us to our limits, to make us better, more disciplined, more daring than we are. We have too few marathons in our lives.
We run because if we can make it through 26.2 miles, everything else will seem easy.
~Mr. Sub 3 Hour Marathon and his slow wife