Guest Post

Given that spring marathon season is approaching, Claire asked me to give a quick run down on my first experience of running a marathon. So here is some sound and thoughtful advice to those of you who are about to unleash your forward fury upon the world and breach the physical and physiological barrier of the great unknown that is 26.2 miles – The Marathon!

Come ye, all hear the wise words and rejoice I say! Rejoice!! Hey now… stop that! That’s my foot!

Well then, perhaps I should just take questions – yes, you there. Go ahead… What? I can’t hear you – please speak up!

Okay, not literally YOUR questions, but certainly the questions from my friends and loved ones that infected and informed my own journey to the finish line of the NYC Marathon in 2010.

Q: How far is that?

It depends. My GPS watch said I actually ran 28 miles – I’m told that the zigging and zagging can start to add up over time so I’m not going to dispute this (besides the fact that my watch once had me going 200mph in a UFO over Kansas, but I digress). The point is: don’t be a hero – run in a straight line.

Q: How did you do that?

It’s easy. You put one foot in front of the other. And you stop when you’re done. I really expected a lot more from you, Grandma.

Q: What’s your secret?

Good looks. Good genes. Vaseline and Ibuprofen. Don’t under-estimate the power of anti-inflammatory chemicals to reduce swelling on the run. Now, if only for the swelling of my head…

Q: How did you not destroy your legs? Or did you?

Invest in form. The single best piece of advice is to have a team of people teach you how to run correctly. Proper alignment, form, foot-strike, cadence, arm motion and breathing approach will trump any piece of technology that exists on the planet (and trust me, I’ve bought them all).

Q: Best thing you saw during the race?

Not saw – heard. One woman spectator shouted, “You guys have great stamina…AND I AM SINGLE!” I’m not sure how she found out about me; Facebook really is amazing these days.

Q: Did you listen to music?

I debated this question for a long time. Music really helped me in my training, and it’s a nice companion when the voices in your head are telling you to stop. The problem is that after 2 hours, the voices telling you to stop will always be louder then the music in your ears, so you need to spend time getting acquainted with these voices in your training. Reason with them, and if all else fails, tell them to go !@#!@# themselves.

Q: What fuel did you use?

Everything. I would have ordered a pizza had I had any loose change on me.

Q: Did you hit the wall? What was it like?

People talk about hitting the wall like it’s something unfamiliar – something unique and troubling that will shake you to your core and that you couldn’t have possibly experienced before the last 10km of a race this distance. I found the reality to be quite different. As soon as I felt “the wall,” my first instinct was, “Hey, I’ve felt this feeling before…” It’s a feeling of exhaustion and depletion that comes to us all from time to time; normally for me, after sitting and answering questions for 20 minutes.

Q: Did you win?

Yes.

Q: Really?

Okay, not really. But I DID beat world record marathon holder Haile Gebrselassie, who was so battered from my relentless psychological taunting that he just gave up half way through the race. I really expected more from a world champion, to be honest.

Q: Would you do it again?

Honestly, I can’t wait. I was so excited at the finish line that I basically jumped over a fence, sprinted past the goodie bags, and then ran 10 blocks up to meet my family for a celebratory, “Hey look! I can still walk!” high-five session.

Q: Did you use a mantra?

Yes, “This is what you came here for” – Deadmau5 track. My mantra worked until about mile 25, at which point I felt myself mentally lather: “Please just enjoy this exquisite pain – swim in the exquisiteness of this. Bathe in this experience – over and over again – the exquisite pain…”

It’s true – I came for the pain, and then the pain came for me. And THAT’s what I came there for.

-E

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