I ran the last 6.2 miles of the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday with a friend. His dumbass was running the complete 26.2 miles. I was his finishing a marathon buddy. I was to motivate him… I basically mocked him. One spectator had a sign that read “Worst Parade Ever.” How true… it really was the worst parade ever. Marathons are the worst of everything. Ever had a toe cramp? Imagine that in every muscle from the waist down. Marathon running is about as stupid as jumping out of a perfectly good airplane while it is in flight.
“Stupidest fucking thing I have ever done” is how I (succinctly) described it at mile 20 to friends and family in March 2010 when I ran one. Truly… it is the stupidest fucking thing EVER. Those of you into self-abuse (and I don’t mean masturbation) will really groove on marathon running. Running a marathon is not a race, it is not about getting a t-shirt; it is about a life event. It’s about a simple number (26.2) becoming the most dominant thing in your brain. It is about training in the midst of a blizzard, because you HAVE to get that 20 mile run in… no matter how much snow and ice are blocking the streets. *true story, I was training during the DC blizzard of 2010. It is about you identifying yourself as one who has run a marathon from all the slugs out there who haven’t. I tattooed the number “26.2” permentantly on my calf because it was so monumental in my life. Running a marathon is “big shit,” I shit you not.
I, of course, am speaking as a non-gazelle. The gazelles run marathons for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You know the gazelles. They are the ones with legs that start at their neck and they are the reason spandex was invented. They are the ones who never sweat. They remove their shirts as they run (and look good without a shirt on). *when I take my shirt off no one notices because all the hair makes me look like I’m wearing a sweater.The rest of us are not gazelles… we are pluggers. We, the vast majority of runners, just plug along… mile after mile after mile. Time is not our friend, but we finish the run.
Running a marathon is humbling. You control your life. You have the habit of living down pat. You decide when to get up, what you eat for breakfast (Poptarts), you are the master of your domain. Yeah, whatever…. at about mile 18 through 20, you realize you don’t control shit. You tell your feet and legs to move; they don’t respond. The best you can do is shuffle like a horny zombie given the keys to a locked-down day care center full of plump kiddies.
Marathon running thoughts comes in stages. Stage 1 is when you are at the starting line until mile 8… this is when you are smiling and telling yourself how easy this is going to be. Your long training runs for the last 2 months have been WAY longer than 8 miles. 8 miles isn’t even a real run to you. 8 miles is for weakass bitches.
Stage 2 is when you pass the halfway mark (mile 13.1). Now you are looking at your watch. You ask yourself if you are maintaining a pace that is sustainable; are you running too slow… are you running too fast. Shit, what was my half-marathon time goal again? Are my nipples getting sore? There begins to be a burning sensation that starts in your feet (sweaty and stinking feet) that moves up to your ankles, calves, thighs, hips.
Stage 3 (approximately mile 18-20) is when you start wondering why the Hell you are even running. This is the stage where you have to gut check yourself. Now you either become a robot and move on at a shuffle, you start walking, or you tap out and quit. You have burned all your reserve energy. Now is when every water and Gatorade break is a small blessing from the little plastic baby Jesus. Some call this the “wall.” I call it the “giant sack of shit falling from the sky and hitting me.” You have to lock down your mind and refuse to submit. Quitting was never an option I afforded myself. I will die before quitting… but death becomes a distinct possibility at this point.
The final stage is the last 6.2 miles. This is where monsters exist. If this is your first marathon, this is where you have never been before. This is an area of your brain, body, and life that is totally unexplored. You no longer notice mile markers. Your running buddy… yes you need a running buddy here, is now motivating you. Ridiculous thoughts run through your head. This is where a 70-year-old witch, in a completely black running outfit and scary hair, passed me. She had red Gatorade stains around her mouth. I immediately assumed she had just eaten a baby. These last miles is where you want to punch all the spectators in the face for clapping for you.
When you enter the finishing shoot nothing hurts. Now you are light… you are the gazelle regardless of your 10:40 minute mile pace for the last 26 miles. You have won a t-shirt and a medal. You are no longer anything other than a marathoner. Every other accomplishment in your life feels insignificant. No matter your education level, how beautiful your spouse is, how important your job is… it doesn’t matter. You, your training, and your body is the only thing that will get you across the finish line. You are craving beer and cupcakes. Pizza is suddenly the greatest food ever… better than the pizza you ate for breakfast in college. The finish line awaits and you spring across it as if the last 4 hours and 30 minutes of your life was nothing but a walk in the park. You are bullshitting yourself. Running 26.2 miles is the stupidest thing you have ever done.
I’m running the Marine Corps Marathon next year. I wanna be part of that shitty parade. Why? Because life is meant to be lived. Life is an event and running a marathon reminds you of that.