Every year I throw my name into the Boston Marathon lottery at work. I never expect to win. One day I returned from lunch and there was a message to call Public Affairs. I had recently participated in an employee video, so I assumed it was about that. I returned the call, and was stunned to find out I'd been chosen to run in the marathon for Newton-Wellesley Hospital. "Uh, ok...um...yes, I still want to do it" I stammered. I was pretty numb.
"So, you think you want to run a marathon" I googled. It's amazing how many hits there are. I had 13 weeks to train. Gulp. That's not alot of time for a novice runner. I came across Hal Higdon's site. I had a vague idea that he was some kind of running guru, and he looks pretty fit in his headshot, so I checked it out. Hal's Intermediate II Marathon Plan would get me to a 20 mile continuous run a little over a week before the marathon. That's pretty ambitious, but I told myself that with the base running I've maintained over the years, hiking, spinning, pilates, skiing - that I had the overall fitness level to attempt this program. I thought, ok, just one run at a time, just follow Hal's plan and keep checkin' 'em off. You don't need to run fast. You just need to finish it. And finish it running. Ok, call me crazy.
So, it's the middle of week seven. I've run 181 of the ~375 miles that will get me to and through the marathon. I've run a 14 mile long run, and have a 16 miler planned for this Sunday. I've run Heartbreak Hill. :-) Transitioning from primarily treadmill and trail running to asphalt has been a shock, but I’m finally adjusting and ran a 9 mile midweek run yesterday and recovered quickly.
The marathon is a huge commitment that becomes more real each day. Every day there is a plan that is based around the run. Food - what it is, how much and when it's eaten has an impact on the run. Sleep and stress, they impact the run. Every run leads to the marathon. Pretty soon it becomes clear that each choice and each action is ultimately going to effect the marathon. It's not an obsessive realization, it's a calm and deliberate one. It's just being mindful about the impact of each action. It's understanding through each running experience, what's worked and what hasn't. What to do next for a better outcome.
Last night I dreamed for the first time about the marathon. I dreamed about not being able to finish it. I think this was influenced by a blog I read (another first time marathoner). It was quite sobering. Up until now I have worked hard to push all limiting thoughts out of my psyche. I know through enduro-hiking days that one foot goes in front of the other, one breath goes in and out again, and that one can stay calm and quietly focused on a goal until its reached. I've done several one day mountain range traverses spanning up to nine mountains and 19,000 feet of elevation change, generally covering 26 to 30 miles in 10-12 hours. It's not easy, and that's why I do it. The marathon will follow the same path. It's a wildly personal journey that one experiences with 25,000 strangers. When I think about it, the marathon has become an ultimate goal. It's not just helping me fill a gap of time when I'd otherwise not be hiking. It's not just keeping me motivated or pushing me to the next level. This marathon represents a huge personal challenge, and a huge personal opportunity for me to get to know more about myself. This marathon just might be my Everest, in that sense.