Thursday, October 14, 2010
The Anti Runner
I have a profound respect for the distance of 26.2 miles in the time leading up to running it. I'm not nervous in the least. I'm extremely meticulous in my preparatory rituals.
I eat very sparingly the day before and the morning of the marathon, always the same things. This is what I eat: an outlaw omelette the morning before, a whole wheat turkey sandwich for lunch, a couple weird gel things at the expo (hey, it's free, mustn't be rude), a small plate of pasta for supper, and a packet of instant oatmeal for breakfast the morning of the marathon.
I spend lots of time ensuring that I won't give the portapotties a second look through the race unless I've hydrated slightly beyond retaining capacity. My greatest fear is, as you can see, becoming a crapping spectacle that goes viral on Youtube or something. Be honest: wouldn't you absolutely die of shame if that happened to you? I would have to leave the course, mop up at the closest Burger King that didn't have locked washrooms, and catch the next flight to somewhere I wouldn't be recognized ever, somewhere like Botswana or Latvia.
Once the race starts, I'm totally fine. I concentrate on pacing myself, enjoy the scenery, chat if anyone around me is so inclined, and enjoy the fresh air as the day progresses. I go with instinct as well; if I feel like I can give it a bit extra, I do.
After the first hour (it usually takes me between four and four and a half hours to run a marathon) I start to discipline my mind. The conversation with my mind usually goes something like the following, but not out loud. That would be crazy.
Ok, mind, it's time to focus and realize who's boss here because things are soon going to get a bit tougher. You are the AntiRunner and you will step aside. Stay right there where I can see you. None of your tricks will work. I've prepared for this, so I know when I'm truly in trouble. All systems are being objectively monitored; your machinations that are designed to make me walk or lie down will be observed and discarded. Near the end of a particularly tough race, I may get a bit angry at your tricks, but I'll still recognize and reject them. Because the pain that you keep trying to make dominant in my thoughts is purely ephemeral; it will end instantly when I cross that finish line. And I'll just be sore at that point. Sore and ecstatic. And you will crawl back into the background where you belong, only to slink back the next time I tempt you.
Funny thing is, this struggle with nameless, excuse-making, timid elements happens in all sorts of other endeavours as well. If I prepare painstakingly and have a plan for executing my intentions, no matter what I'm planning and executing, I simply need to carry it out with reasonable caution and attention. But I must never give over to the niggling unfounded fear of going through with something that I know is right and reasonable and in my best interests. I find that the exercise of fighting the urge to quit, the urge to whine and make excuses during a marathon, is useful, and carries over into everything else in life.