This post has nothing to do with the Mitchell kids’ part in the upcoming Primary program; I thought that was a funny thing to say and I couldn’t come up with an actual title, so there it is.)
Pheidippides, the Athenian soldier who ran from Marathon, was declaring victory. It wasn’t like he had to tell them to send reinforcements, or tell them of a loss so they’d have time to flee the Persians. He could have taken his time. This would have accomplished two things: 1. he wouldn’t have died (at least not right away), and 2. there wouldn’t be a “marathon” in our culture, and I wouldn’t have just run one.
I haven’t been telling most people about this, because that’s just the way I roll. (I’ve written extensively in this space about such things, like how my parents thought our second child was unwanted because I didn’t want to tell anyone about it, but really I just didn’t want to tell anyone about it because I don’t like talking to other people more than necessary.) The people I’ve told have all responded thus: “Really? Did you run the whole way?” When I say, “I ran the first 14, nearly all of the next six, and half of the last six,” they immediately adjust what I’d done from “run a marathon” to “run 14 miles.” And I immediately say, "Why don't you kiss my ass?"
I began training with the half marathon I ran in April, and I was pretty consistent through the end of July, and then I just didn’t have time anymore. This semester is killing me and I haven’t run regularly since the beginning of August.
It turns out training is worthwhile. As with my half marathon six months ago, I was fine until I ran up against the outside limit of my training, and then I fell apart. In April my training runs had reached 10 miles, and in the half marathon I was fine for the first 10 miles, ran the next mile thinking, “I really wish this race were over already,” and then collapsed for the final two miles. The same thing happened to me this weekend. My training in July had reached about 14 miles for my long runs, and sure enough, I was fine for the first 13 to 14 miles. The next six miles I ran most of, thinking, “That would be great if the race were over.” I remember being excited at 16 and 17 miles because I had fewer than 10 to go. But by the time I was at 20 miles, I was ready for the race to be over.
I have heard (mostly read, actually) about “the wall,” and I don’t think this was it. I always imagined the wall as a point of exhaustion or cardiovascular failure, like what Pheidippides experienced. I wasn’t out of breath, or even tired, really. I just had legs that couldn’t really move anymore. The insides of my thighs, right above my kness, started to hurt. I ran with my hands pushing against them so that moving my legs created a massage. Then my lower back hurt. I ran with my thumbs pushing on my kidneys, massaging as I ran. Then my left shoulder had a pinched nerve. I spent all of Mile 20 reminding God that He’d promised me that I could “run and not be weary.” It didn’t work. The mile markers became progressively further apart until the distance between Mile 21 and Mile 22 resembled the limit as X approaches five of 1/(x-5). (Belated nerd alert.) When I started feeling worse at Mile 14, I thought, “Why won’t You help me with this?” The other part of my brain said, “Hold on; you’re only half-way through. The time for recriminations will come later.” Sure enough, at Mile 23 I thought, “I can’t do this if You won’t help me,” and the other part of my brain said, “Yes, now’s the time for recriminations.” At Mile 24 I realized that, had Pheidippides not unnecessarily run, the entire idea of a marathon wouldn’t exist and I could be home, enjoying my Saturday morning tucked up in bed.
But I finished. (Persephone’s put pictures up on the family blog, so you can all relive my shame with me as quickly as your Internet connection allows.) As a volunteer removed the timing chip from my shoe for me, I told her my idea of blaming Pheidippides. She just sort of shrugged it off. I’m sure she heard a lot of inane babble throughout the day.
Here’s what I got out of it: free Gatorade and Gummi bears while I ran, two free shirts (an ugly one for registering and a nicer-looking one for finishing), the promise of a medal in the mail (because they’d run out by the time I finished), a free massage, a $25 gift certificate to a good barbeque restaurant in Kansas City, a lifetime of being the fat acquaintance who’s completed a marathon to the bafflement of all and sundry, and a daughter who whispered to me when I tucked her into bed that night, “I think you did really well in your race today.”