Last Saturday (10th) I completed my first marathon. I would have liked to say I “ran” my first marathon, but that was not in the cards.
The first half of the marathon went like clockwork. In fact, better. Right in the first 200 meters the emotional impact that I was actually going to run this thing, this goal/dream/haunting of mine was actually being realized, was enough to make me cry. I pulled down my shades, sucked up the emotion – needed some reserve emotion for later, I thought. I did not realize at the time how right I was.
The first 13.1 miles went well. It is a distance I am very comfortable with, and can do without much stress. “Not much stress” is, of course, a relative term. But still, it is a do-able distance. Then things started going badly. On mile 16 I had a slight case of cramping on my calves. No biggie. A little stretching on the side of the road cured that. Nothing I had not felt before, and easily remedied with some more Gatorade.
But on mile 18 things badly. I heard, or thought I heard, a pop on my left leg. I looked it up and apparently the muscle there is called femoral bicep. Anyway, it popped, as I said, and it brought me to a complete halt. Pain shooting up the back of my legs, exploding in my head. Argh. I stopped for a while, holding on to a street light for a few minutes, waiting for the fluttering of the muscle to subside before I attempted to move again.
From then on, for the last 8 miles of the race, all I could do was speed walk, and jog gently for about 60 seconds before I felt the tremors in the muscle again. Even then, I still overtook some people. Clearly there were a lot of us battling all sorts of things – energy, fears, injuries. There is something very touching about taking part in this procession of pain called the marathon.
With about 200 meters to go I had a recurrence of the calf cramps. This time both of them at the same time. Hard to even stand up. At this point there were quite a few people cheering the runners on, and I could hear people shouting “You are almost there!” willing me their wills, their energy.But muscles, like a mother’s love, are blind to reason. I argued with my legs, begged, cajoled, looking for some way to get a spark to carry me to the end.
And the spark came. Not from the inside, but from the outside. I did move again, not sure if propelled by the well-wishers or out of sheer shame of failing so close to the end. Within a few steps of restarting my two sons came running out of the crowd. They “escorted” me to the finish line, followed by my wife. Within a few steps of the line I lost my emotional control again and wept openly and profusely. No tears, ’cause there wasn’t any water left. But the sobbing was loud!
The afternoon after the race I was too tired to notice much pain, but on Sunday the left leg really came into its own – shouting at me “Why?! Why?!” Very loudly. Hell hath no fury like a muscle scorned, I tell you.
Some highlights of the race: around the 12 mile mark I was overtaken by both a pregnant woman and a man doing that speedwalking thing you see in the Olympics. And I was going at a decent pace at that point. Quite funny, actually.
So, in short: the marathon is something completely crazy. My beloved wife was laughing hard this weekend saying “And you actually paid for the privilege!” Yes, yes I did. I worked as hard as I was able to over 260 days of training (since Feb!), clocked over 600 miles. And I crossed that line running, sort of. In 2011 only 0.5% of the US population had ever attempted a marathon (about half a million people, and now one more! Me!). It has been a desire of mine to attempt this distance, with one of the longest pedigrees in athletics. But not only myself, this love of running came from my mom, and in a sense it was her dream as well. I had a whole “team” of people, in many continents, following my race Tweets (no, I did not tweet, the race chip automatically sent them updates!)
So I completed it. This, like all other experiences, is something no one can take from me. Not even myself.