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So, here’s what happened to me:
1. I learned that Marathon runners aren’t self-destructive lunatics, crying out for help. That’s what I had always thought. I mean, who else makes an active choice — yea, preparing for it for months — to limp through the streets in their underwear, blowing snot and vomit? Though I was certainly not with the elites (I was with the walkers), I discovered that marathoners are a very collaborative group, a rolling commune. They aren’t competing with each other. They are competing with the clock, with the road, with the limitations of their own bodies. All the while, they cheer on the runners beside them. It was a very loving community and, if I had four knees, I would gladly ruin two of them by marathon running.
2. I don’t like walking when the next guy is running. The next guy, in this case, was my mentor and beloved client, Stuart Lazarus, founder of Run To Remember. We started with the walkers and, as soon as the crowd thinned out into the course, Stuart started jogging. So I jogged with him. Stuart is not a self-destructive lunatic; he jogs eight minutes and then walks for two minutes. That I could do, despite my training, so I stayed with Stuart.
3. When it mattered, I was capable of my personal best. I had promised to drop out of the race within 4.5 miles and I did. But I was surprised that I could jog for eight minutes and walk for two for an hour. I had planned to walk, but I estimate that I was moving at a 12-minute-mile clip. (The math is difficult, because I ran the opposite direction for a while. See #4.)
4. I ran the opposite direction for a while. Why? Because all you see in a marathon are the backsides of the people in front of you. I was not satisfied to see only those sides. So I ran for about a half-mile in the wrong direction. That’s not good for my time (and it didn’t win me any friends among the other runners), but I did much prefer that view. The runners were beautiful in their humanity, humility and humidity.
5. I learned that irony is not humorous when running. Like when some nice folks in the leafy suburb of Bexley cheered for runners during the first six miles of a 26.2 mile marathon by saying, “You’re almost there.” Really, that’s just depressing.
6. Mostly, I learned that I think differently when I’m on the move. And when I’m on the move in a large group of people, it is a very rare perspective. There’s something deep-seated in us: when we are running our minds are different. Perhaps it’s part of the hard-wired fight-or-flight instinct — and, in this case, our bodies and minds don’t know whether we are running in fear, or should be afraid that we are running. But there is an automatic feeling of “I’m on the run.” It’s pretty far from “I’ve just stolen this television set.” But it’s different from when I’m just sitting at my desk.
Let me know if you want to run a marathon. I will talk you into it. Or out of it. Whichever you want.