That Time I Realized I Can’t Run A Marathon
Yesterday, I crossed something off of my bucket list.
Run a marathon
I didn’t actually run one; I realized that I don’t want to run one anymore.
For most of my adult life, running 26.2 miles was one of those things I wanted to do. I figured I could do it because running’s been my main form of exercise for 10 years, so I thought I’d be up to the challenge.
“Look,” Jared said. “Just start with a half and see how you feel.”
“I already know,” I told him. “Some day, I’m going to run a marathon. But I guess this race will be good practice anyway.”
I considered a half-marathon to be child’s play (despite never having run one), but I was willing to do it. You know, for fun.
We signed up for the Buenos Aires 21k and ran fairly regularly for the three months preceding it. A week before the race, an old iliotibial band injury flared up – I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s painful and extremely annoying. I hung up my shoes and hoped for the best. On the morning of the race, I could feel adrenaline mixed with nerves - I hoped to finish in under 2 hours without being knocked out by injury.
What I didn’t anticipate is that running this race -exhilarating as it was- would snuff out any ambition I had to finish a full marathon.
Here’s what it was like:
1km: This is amazing. Euphoric, even. 14,600 people, a sea of blue, cheering and charging through the streets of Buenos Aires in pursuit of a common goal. I understand how people get hooked on these things. I’m definitely doing this again.
5km: There’s the first water station. Look at all those people streaming over to it. Wimps. I don’t need water yet. I’ll just wait until the 10k mark. Yes. Look at how much self-discipline I have!
6km: Shit. I should have gotten some water.
8km: Oh my god, a burst of speed! Where did that come from? I’m passing everybody and I’m running a half-marathon past the Casa Rosada, towards the obelisk on Avenida 9 de Julio. I AM INVINCIBLE. I don’t need you, Gatorade! I don’t need you, fruit stand!
10km: Thank god. Water. 53 minutes, I’m on track to finish this thing in under two hours. Wait. That means…I’m not even halfway done. I have 11 kilometers to go and I have to sustain that pace? This…does not bode well.
13km: This is kind of cool. We’re all in this together, running on a highway overpass with the whole city spread out before us. We own this road. It’s hard, but if it was easy everyone would do it, right?
14km: This blows. My knees hurt. My hips hurt. I think I’ve started to go backwards. I am never, ever, doing this again. Is this road ever going to end? There goes the 5’15″ pace runner, I really need to keep up with him. Must…keep…sight…oh, fuck it. Go, pace runner. Just go.
17km: Hang on, am I about to be passed by a speed walker? Oh, no, just someone running really slow. Wait. Am I going that slow? Damn it. I should have hung in with the pacer. At least there’s only 4 kilometers left. That’s – what? 2 1/2 miles? 25 minutes or so? 25 minutes? I’m never going to make it. I can’t believe I ever wanted to run a full marathon.
19km: I am going to die. I am dying right now. An invisible man is driving nails into my knees and it feels like I’m stuck on a treadmill that’s smashed into a brick wall. I don’t care about the pace runner. I don’t care about my time. Please, just make it stop.
20km: Only one kilometer to go! I should push myself. Mind over matter…No, screw that.
20.5km: Wow, what a crowd. And whoa! A marching band. Look at all of those cops, forming a barrier to keep the crowd out. Banners! Cheering! Music! Cameras! I can’t believe I’m part of this spectacle. I can’t believe OH MY GOD THE FINISH LINE. Go! Go! I’m sprinting! I’m passing you and it feels good even if you’re old! And you, too, weakling, I’m passing you! I’m even going to pass that dude up ahead who looks like he runs triathlons before breakfast – oh, nope, not gonna pass him after all.
21km: 1:54:00. I did it. It’s over. Give me water. Give me a granola bar. Get me out of this crowd. I’d like a quiet space where I can die.
29 hours later, I am still limping like a horse that needs to be put down. Every time my knees bend (which is often, given the function of the knee) I feel a crippling pain that causes me to cry out and clutch the nearest inanimate object. If someone had told me at the finish line to keep going, to do it all again, I would have laughed in their face.
Run a marathon? I don’t think so.
Mentally, I feel good – I set a goal, and I achieved it. There was an energy rippling through the the city of Buenos Aires that I rarely feel in my everyday life, and I loved being involved. It might not have been the marathon I wanted, but somehow, that doesn’t seem to matter as much as I’d thought.