“Well, Mike, it’s a marathon.”
– Pragmatic spectator cheering on participating friend
At 7:00am, Josh and I headed out the door to jog to the starting line of our second marathon. We had woken up earlier than we needed to, but were well-stretched and, for the most part, not grumpy. It was 48°F with no wind and no rain. Most of our training runs had been in the 70s, so although the conditions were about perfect, my legs felt a little more tight at the outset than I would have liked.
It really is all mental
“Mental fitness plays a big role during competition. If you don’t rule your mind, your mind will rule you.” — Philosopher Kipchoge
As soon as I crossed the starting mat, my mental game nimbly escaped from me. I was surprised at how overwhelmed I felt at the number of participants and spectators and had a hard time settling into a comfortable rhythm. At the halfway point, my mental game was so off that I started crying—not from muscle cramps or aches, but simply from feeling overwhelmed. Patient Josh had the mental capacity to carry both of us through my blues, as he kept the pace, made jokes, pointed out signs and cute dogs and asked me to tell him the most surprising twists from the first two Harry Potter books (turns out Voldemort is involved in both of them!).
Around mile 15 I was finally able to shake off the grumps and start enjoying the fall foliage and the very enthusiastic spectators lining almost every part of the course (I actually think running a marathon takes less energy than watching one in the style that those supporters did). Somewhere during mile 16 I overheard an exchange that got me through the next 10 miles. A spectator had spotted his friend on the course, who said that things were going pretty well but he was starting to feel it. The spectator responded in the most matter-of-fact way: “Well, Mike, it’s a marathon.”
Oh, right. It’s okay to not feel comfortable. So I began feeling much more at ease with my discomfort and started interacting a little more with the spectators to take my mind off of running. The Chicago marathon was going on at the same time, and we were curious about the results. As we passed one group of spectators I asked no one in particular who had won Chicago and, without missing a beat, they shouted, “Mo!” Although it was a brief interaction, for some race-magic reason, it was very uplifting.
At mile 20, my legs were feeling well enough that I felt confident I wasn’t going to have any muscle cramps (something that I experienced during my first marathon), which buoyed my spirits enough to avoid any pits of despair in the last 10k. When Josh and I saw the finish line, I glanced at my watch and realized we were going to make it across in just under our goal time. I slumped over the final mat, hugging Josh and yelling: “We made it! I didn’t think we were going to!”
Josh and I are training for our first 50k, which we’ll undertake on December 1 outside of Scottsdale, AZ. Update: After limping across the finish line due to a knee injury at the Broomfield Marathon in November 2018, we did not participate in the 50k, and have seldom run since. When the time is right, I’m excited to get back on the running horse and gallop off!