Marathon mission accomplished
Well, that’s done.
I ran a marathon. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since a friend planted the idea two years ago.
It wasn’t easy, which was no surprise, but it was significantly harder than I’d anticipated.
The marathon was in Seattle, where I flew on Friday to stay with that friend, Paul Bucalo, and his wife, Kindra. I’d visited Seattle many times, and it occurred to me as the plane flew low over the city through mostly-clear skies how beautiful it could be, its lights reflecting off wet streets. The weather was good on Saturday, too, when we went to register for our races – Paul was running the half marathon.
At 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, as I dragged myself out of bed, Paul popped his head in and said, “Hey Barry, look out the window.” I knew that soft white glow behind the shades meant one of two things: there would either be a clear sky lit by the moon, or there was new-fallen snow.
A half-hour later, we were driving through a horizontal snowfall. It turned to an icy rain by the time we arrived downtown. As we milled among other runners in the darkness, I was shivering, my socks and running shoes soaked. My race was still an hour away. Misery did not seem too strong a word.
The previous night I had said, half-joking, that I wanted the worst conditions possible … snow, ice, wind. From past experience at tempting fate, I thought that wish might tip the scales toward clear skies and mild temperatures. But God wasn’t buying it. I should have asked for fair skies, maybe even a winning lottery ticket.
The 5,000 runners in Paul’s race left 45 minutes before mine. I went back to the car and dried off what I could in front of the heater vents. Five minutes before the race, I darted out to the starting area and hopped around in the rain to stay warm until the horn blew.
And then I ran. Pretty fast for 11 miles, reasonably fast for five miles, slower for three miles, pretty slow for seven miles and then really fast for 0.2 miles.
And I had run my marathon.
After I crossed the line, a race worker unfastened the electronic timing chip from my ankle … a good thing, because my body was too stiff to bend. Then I walked farther and stopped on the grass, taking stock.
I’d run slower than I thought I would, but I’d run the entire distance. I smiled and said out loud, “I just ran a marathon.”
And so that’s done.
As is Paul’s half-marathon, which he had trained little for. He hit his wall at 10 miles, and it was about three miles thick. But he finished, too.
In the car afterward, I asked him if we could have gone faster, if we could have summoned untapped reserves of courage to run stronger through the pain at the tail end of our races.
His reply was instant: “No way.” And that’s what I was thinking, too. I could have trained harder or had a better strategy (namely not starting out as fast as I did), but for the condition I was in, I was satisfied. By the last seven miles, my hips and legs were so tight it was painful to lift my feet a few inches off the ground. The machine that was my body was seizing up.
It was an important question to me because it was at the heart of why I had done this: to face down a task that had seemed insurmountable and wrestle it through pure strength of will to the ground. I’d done that, I guess, but it was far from decisive. At the lowest point during the run, I couldn’t summon a meaningful motivational phrase, only an admittance that my butt was being kicked.
Still, I wasn’t as sure of the answer as was Paul. By the time I’d asked the question, I’d been sitting for some time, and the memory of that pain was fading while the exultation that started at the finish line was growing. The talk of “never doing that again” was replaced by actual planning for running another marathon.
Later that afternoon, after I’d checked in at the airport, I realized my gate, A13, was at the extreme farthest corner of the terminal. I resisted the urge to use the rolling walkway and hobbled the entire way. The pain was back, and I walked with the grace of Frankenstein’s monster, grimacing with each step. There was no doubt about it, my body was spent. It had seen its limit.
And realizing that made me feel much better.
• Barry Ginter is the editor of the Nevada Appeal. Contact him at email@example.com