"I've realized I can't unverb my life, I have to be doing something. The question is what?"

The Characters of Marathon

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26.2 is a number.  By itself it is not especially intimidating or of mention, other than it would be an abnormal number to choose at random but when 26.2 is followed by the statute unit of the mile it becomes something more–namely, a marathon.  Marathons hold a certain aura about them.  There is a certain honor to being able to say, “I have run a marathon.”  Perhaps it harkens back to the soldier Pheidippides and his heralding of the victory from the Battle of Marathon back to Athens by foot.  Or perhaps it is the common story it creates among people giving them something in common, some common battle that has been fought and won.  In any case, countless marathons are run each year and countless more people toe the starting line of each of these throughout the generations.

There is something to being at the starting of a marathon.  Some may call it free energy, others nervousness, or tension but whatever it is you could cut it with a knife at Vernonia that morning.  Even my non-running friend said, “man at the starting line, It was so energizing. I though, ‘Hey, I could do this.'”  (To which he adds, “but at the finish line I changed my mind”).  My training partner calls this character “The Euphoria” and I will follow suite.  The Euphoria can drive you to do ridiculous things like going out with the lead pack or running 30 seconds under your intended pace.  It feels so easy with the endorphins rushing through your bloodstream.  From the gun at Vernonia I proceed to cover the first 5280 feet in a hair under 6 minutes and 8 seconds–I time which in middle school I ran faster than only once for PE.  Ask me about it now and I know I was an idiot.  At the time for some reason, I thought I wasn’t. I wanted to believe I could run better than a 2:40 marathon on my first try.  So Euphoria is the first character here are the rest of his friends…

Euphoria came hand in hand with the next character who goes by the name “The Knowing.”  The Knowing is there as an inkling from the beginning steps of the first mile.  It is there telling the protagonist, “You know this is too fast.  Your heart rate is too high. There is no way you can maintain this.” But for the first miles Euphoria shouted, “You can do this! Keep going, keep going, keep going!”  “The knowing” is the wise old uncle who seems to have done everything, always providing sound advice–which you don’t want to listen to.   However, not listening is the action which queues the next character to ease onto stage.

“The Pain” is a brutal character, coming on stage in the early double digit miles only to pummel the confidence and strength from the protagonist.  He burns, he aches, and he stabs at every weak point.  Even worse, the more the protagonist continues to fight the stronger the Pain becomes.  Following behind Pain is “Emotions”.

Now, Pain was a slow worker but Emotions is slower and subtler still.  As Pain beats up on the outside of our courageous protagonist, Emotions quietly starts to decompose him from the inside.  Emotions starts with a few simple words–“you have so far to go” or “this hurts so bad” or “I need to stop”.  Soon, Emotions is replacing stalwart stoicism with whimpering disheartenment, confidence of success with fear of failure, and the heart of a warrior with the desires of cowardice.  As the marathon continues, Emotions (with Pain’s brutal help) manages draw tears and whimpers from the protagonist at a few intervals.

This continues up until the final mile when old uncle Knowing chimes in, “Hey, you’re going to make it. You chose to do it the hard way but you are going to make it.”  Upon hearing this the protagonist is overwhelmed and Emotions continues with a different ploy drawing all the work of Pain, the strain from mental exertion, and the thoughts of being successful–the tears and crying well up.

Then the Finish. At the finish, Emotions lets out one last rush as he admits he’s been beat–if only Pain did the same.  The Finish brings gifts for the protagonist in the form of a medal, a silver blanket, and a drink to toast to victory.  The battle has been well fought and won…

After you finish a marathon, you have the biggest sugar crash of your life, every muscle in your body wants to cramp, and you feel super cold all over….A warm shower really helps.  A word of advise, “Take it easy, you have 26 miles to go.”

Miles to go before we sleep,



2 responses

  1. Good reflections Jason…I agree with your conclusions and find that I’m constantly learning more about myself the more and farther I run…at mile 22 there is simply no more faking it and you have to deal with reality right then and there. Good stuff.

    May 21, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    • David,
      It is really true. The farther you run the more you learn. On track, or the cross country trail, you can be a performer but out there for 26 or more miles you have to have character–character that goes back to months (and years) of preparation. You can’t get by on a fascade for that long–or at least I can’t–you are forced to go inside, dealing with the person deep down in there, finding a way to persevere when your normal confidences are on their knees.

      July 11, 2011 at 3:32 pm

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