Sunday, October 01, 2006

Portland Marathon 2006

There are some things that seem to get smudged in the mental recreation of my marathon experience. For example, I distinctly remember immediately at the end of last years race saying NEVER AGAIN. NEVER AGAIN. I WILL NEVER RUN A MARATHON AGAIN. But later I could not for the life of me remember why, so went blithely ahead with plans for the next race.

Before things get too hazy I'd like to make a note of some of those pains and sorrows here so as to make a more educated decision before I plunk down the money, or put out my heart and soul for next year's run.

Believe it or not, marathon running is not a four hour orgasm. Maybe the first few miles you coast on the emotional high of having reached to start line. Adrenaline alone will carry you about half way through, running harder then you ever trained to run. Then you sober up to the daunting realization that you used up your mojo and the road still stretches into forever... to that point where your legs go numb, and your brain goes numb with the futility of begging for rest and your stomach revolts at the thought of even water.

This year I really struggled between miles 15 - 20. If it wasn't for the gun to my head I might have peeled off and curled up under a tree sucking on a garden hose. Instead I made deranged analogies to the nature of pain and why it was in my best interest to continue to suffer one footfall after another. Somehow it meant I would be better off in life.

Under the circumstances, the best I could do was conflate pain with meaning.  Isn't that what we do?

By 20 miles my heart was broke, along with my will to resist. There is no comfort in the mileage signs. The assurance that this race is almost over are shallow and meaningless. This will endure eternal, so mean three miles to forever. I try to overlay the remainder of the course on routes familiar and safe to me ...its only as if we were running the corridor... And I try to use perspective ...look at how far we've come... but it means nothing to me. I feel no gratitude, no relief, no deliverance. I just keep running.

For the last mile I mount an offensive. Shoulders back, chest up, chin square, I pick up the pace, dropping the competition like flies and cross the finish line in 4 hours and 10 minutes. Runners have been crossing the line for an hour and fifty minutes before me and will continue to stream in for at least four more hours after. Some of them look strong and satisfied, many look devastated, but most simply look like they are ready to stop running.

In the finishers chute I sit on the curb and hold an orange slice for several minutes before I have the confidence to put it to my mouth. Out in the crowds my friends and family are waiting with pickles and flowers and dry clothes. After a few minutes I make my way out to them. Already the myth is spinning.

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