Friday, June 03, 2005

It's all in your attitude (and other great platitudes)

This post has been rambling around in my head for a while now, which doesn’t bode well for its eventual comprehensibility. But I thought I’d give it a shot.

One of the most frequent comments I’ve gotten since I started training, both on this site and in real life (real life, what’s that?) is this:

Wow. (Fill in the blank) miles! I could never do that.

Like most utterances, there is always subtext. In this case, the subtext falls into two distinct categories.

Some people say, “I could never do that,” and mean “Nor would I ever want to. That sounds awful, painful, boring, masochistic, and other adjectives that I don’t feel like listing right now. But I’m happy you’re happy!”

To which I say, “Thanks! (I am very happy. And long distance running can be all those things, and I understand why you wouldn’t want to spend your time doing it, but this is what I want to do right now.)”

But other people say, “I could never do that,” and mean “That sounds really cool. I would never be able to achieve that distance. You must be amazing.”

To which I say, “Thanks! (In fact, I am amazing. Too bad you’re not as cool as me.)”

Hee. Oh the fun I have with parentheses.

But seriously, there’s nothing amazing about running a marathon. It’s just a question of putting one foot in front of the other a lot of times.

You know the Ellen Degeneres character in Finding Nemo? I’m a lot like that. Also, I’m a huge dilettante. I like to try everything, and can only stay focused until the next shiny thing crosses my sightline. If there is a method to my madness, however, it is that I look for things with the smallest possible entry cost and the best possible payoff.

Notice how I said, “entry cost” and not “investment”. That’s because I am extremely short-sighted. I am telling you right now, that if I had to write an essay to join Team in Training, I would not be running a marathon two weeks from Saturday. (Eek! Two weeks!) But all I had to do was fill in my address and check off a size for a free t-shirt, and I was guaranteed I would be able to run a marathon in Alaska.

Of course, there were still months of training to come, but by then I was already committed.

(“Well, now we’re already committed” is a frequent refrain in my family. It can be applied to all sorts of different situations, like if it is taking forever to get a table at a restaurant, or if we make a wrong turn that leads us on a much longer detour. In a related story, “Let’s just cut our losses,” is not often heard chez Naomi.)

So my point is this: my running a marathon is not evidence of how very cool I am but rather that anyone who wants to can (and if you’re tempted, you should totally go for it).

"But what about..." I hear ya. I come up with all sorts of reasons that I can’t do it too. Just check through my archives from the last four months—specifically, any entry on a Friday. (Speaking of which, yesterday's, in retrospect, too fast 5-miler, has reintroduced Brian-the-Back-Pain into my life and left me limping all day. Which kindasucks.) But every Saturday morning, I start running and my body takes over. The mileage increases are, by design, so incremental that they begin to feel inevitable. Once you’re moving, that is.

"But what about..." No, I get it. What you're saying is that you don’t want to. Which, you know, fine. If everybody ran marathons, then there would be fewer people to fawn over me for having done it. And that, well, that would just be tragic.

But now I’m starting to understand why, back in February, it was always non-runners who warned me about injuries and dangers inherent to marathon running. The people with experience just shrugged that off and encouraged me. They knew that there’s nothing magical or impossible about running a marathon; that it was just a matter of running and not stopping until a few miles (okay, a hell of a lot of miles) later.

None of this means that I’m not inordinately proud of myself for this whole process, or that I’ll stop bragging about it any time soon. Because it’s an insanely cool thing to do, and so are all the people who choose to do it.

But the awesome comes from the decision and the dedication to follow it through, not from the physical exertion.

Because I firmly believe that anyone can do anything, (even if not everyone can do everything well).

(Does anyone else think I should have waited to post this until after I actually ran the marathon? This whole post feels like a Godsmack waiting to happen.)


Blogger Sarah said...

Naomi...I-loved-this-post! I even have tears in my eyes (either your words were poetic or my blood sugar is low; it is almost dinnertime)...and no, I don't think you doomed yourself to walk the entire 26.2miles just because you wrote this *before* you even crossed the finish line :-) You've already put in the hardest work! So, how's the taper coming??

6:09 PM  
Blogger Meg said...

I loved this, ya know.

Seriously, reading about your adventures in training (two weeks! eeeeep!) has given me a lot of food for thought. More than my sister's "I ran a marathon! Now you should, too!" refrain. Like everything else in life, I panic and balk when yanked toward new and unfamiliar territory, but if I'm presented with a map of the territory, and a friendly discussion of everything therein, and stories about what's to be found there, and where the pitfalls are and where the prettiest views are... well, then, I usually go right ahead. So after all this, it's possible. Someday. Which is a lot more probability than I was giving it a few months back, eh?


8:53 PM  
Anonymous BD said...

This could be my favorite post. Thank you for writing it. It captures how I feel about running and how I feel about life. I had to laugh at the bit about the Nemo character. I remember sometime after mile 22 or so I kept saying to myself, "just keep swimming, just keep swimming."

When people marvel at the fact that I ran a marathon I sometimes ask them what they think is harder than running a marathon. They often stammer, occasionally coming up with an answer like "triathlon". I answer that it is harder to train for a marathon than it is to run one and the hardest part of training for a marathon is simply putting on your shoes. The training was the tough bit while the marathon was the reward. You have completed the hard part.

When I trained the list of things I battled seemed endless. I faced snow, sleet, rain, wasp stings, and injuries. The worst bit was when I had whooping cough and appendicitis at the same time. I fought through all of it and came out the other side a changed person.

I have set myself against "ultimate challenges" more than once in my life but the marathon was one of my most rewarding accomplishments.

Next stop: Continued taper madness, carbo loading (but please don't eat a ton the night before), followed by prerace jitters.

Do you have a good packing list?

Final stop: The sweet taste of triumph.

How long will you wear your finisher's medal after the race?

Good luck in Alaska. I simply cannot wait to read about your success.

6:29 AM  
Blogger Irene said...

I think this post was right on. I run my first very first marathon tomorrow and I have yet to post anything on my blog pertaining all the things going on in my head at the moment. My mind is so scattered right now! You're so right that anyone can do anything, and I'm proof of that. The one thing I can equate this whole marathon experience to is child birth without drugs. We plan, anticipate, deal with anxiety, get educated, but we won't know how it will be until we THAT day... I look forward to hearing about your big day! Cheers! -Irene

12:33 PM  
Blogger Silvia said...

The exact same thoughts go through my head all the time. And no worries... like you said. It's all doable!

9:24 PM  
Blogger Noames said...

Thanks for the affirmation. It felt good to get it off my chest.

12:19 PM  

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