Thursday, October 13, 2005

You Are A Marathoner!

Have you ever run a marathon? Neither have I. Maybe the better phrased question is “Who in their right mind would run a marathon?” It has always seemed masochistic to me - months of grueling training (always at very early hours in the AM) followed by an equally grueling final event (often starting at an even earlier hour). Still, many of the people I know insist on taking part in these crazy things. It just doesn’t make sense.

This past weekend I took it upon myself to figure it all out. No, I haven’t lost my marbles and actually entered one. Instead, I followed my sister to Kelowna, BC, where she was running her first marathon. I had spent months trying to talk her out of it, but she was always finished her training by the time I was getting out of bed, so the effectiveness of my pleas was somewhat diminished.

For the uninitiated, which is what I was until this past Sunday, a marathon is a 26 mile (40.2 km) run. That’s it. You start the race by running across a line with a few thousand other “hopefuls”, each and every one “hoping” to finish some four hours later by running back across the same line. Only it’s not really so simple. Those four hours or so involve a number of stages that you have to witness to really understand. You have to partake in a marathon to truly feel what the marathoner endures. So, in order to truly feel and understand, I followed my sister around the entire circuit - on my mountain bike. And, based on my first hand knowledge, I present to you the six stages of a marathon:
Stage 1 – Hope Springs Eternal
A broad smile is splashed across every face. Bodies are limber. Confidence abounds. It’s truly a remarkable scene. And it should be, for the race hasn’t started yet.
Stage 2 – Less Spring, But There’s Still Hope (km 1 to 10)
For the first ten kilometers, the air of confidence remains. Everyone has trained for this race and thinks they know what to expect. Those who have run marathons in the past are even better prepared. I was a little less organized, so I stopped off at the first Starbucks I saw and ordered a quad latte. Hey, the race started at 8 AM. I hadn’t had time to get primed before the starting gun was fired. For me, the first ten kilometers was for figuring out how to ride my bike without spilling scalding hot coffee all over myself.
Stage 3 – Reality Sets In (km 10 to 20)
This is when the marathon runner begins to realize what they’ve got themselves into. For the newbies, it’s when they begin to feel those nagging little injuries and wonder what they’ll feel like in another 20 kilometers. For all but the most experienced marathoners, it’s when they begin to feel those nagging little injuries and wonder what they’ll feel like in another 20 kilometers. The real pros already know what it’s going to feel like. That’s why they’re the ones with better drugs than Advil.
Stage 4 – Is It True That 25 km Is Only 15.5 Miles? (km 20 to 30)
Hell yes it’s true. And to make matters worse, in the Kelowna marathon they put a hill right in the middle of this stage. That’s cruel. I was exhausted, and some of the marathoners seemed to be struggling a bit, too.
Stage 5 – Mental Fatigue (km 30 to 40)
It is well documented that the beginning of this stage is the most crucial time for a marathoner. The body has already quit miles before, but the mind has been keeping it going. In the early 30’s, the mind starts to fade, as well. Marathoners struggle with delusions of self doubt, like “Why in the world am I doing this?” and “I’m never ever making a bet with Bob when I’m drunk again!” It’s only those who are able to regain focus, and realize that they are on the home stretch, that are able to go on to stage 6. Which is a good thing, because most of them are so exhausted that it makes for some great embarrassing photos, guaranteed to get a laugh from the audience at the next roast!
Stage 6 – You Are A Marathoner! (km 40.2)
OK, all kidding aside, this is why people run marathons. Those four words sum it up. It is quite an exclusive club. It signifies a level of commitment and fitness that only a few ever achieve. And, as each runner crosses the finish line, they hear their names announced over the loud speaker, and they know that each and every one of them, all ages and sizes, is a marathoner.

I’ll most certainly drink to that, as I did at the end of this race, having packed along a nice bottle of champagne to help my sister celebrate. This one’s for you, Beth. You are a marathoner! Now quit drinking all the bubbly…


Anonymous said...

Ahhh, David. These are great!! Do you even work anymore? This would be a great job for you!! LOL. -Trish