by John Schrup
I had a conversation the other day with one of the runners in our group. This runner is relatively new to the group, still going through the initial learning curve. We met so we could discuss the preliminary race plans for NYC. Repeatedly, I heard the variations on a theme: “I’m worried”, “I’m afraid.”, “I’m scared.” I pretty much lost count of the number of times I heard that during the hour or so we chatted.
As much as I tried to assuage any fears that were present. I don’t think I helped much. This person, from the time we met, throws those and similar statements around as if well practiced, and I suspect as much. It would be appropriate here to toss out the, “There is nothing to fear…” thing now, but in a way I don’t know if I truly believe that. There is a **** ton to fear. Someone’s got a gun to my hear, Ima fear it. Mastodons? Fear. I don’t know, what else would one fear? Hantavirus? Sure. Fear. I like to look at it like this: Yeah, there is fear, but fighting it ain’t gonna do you any good. By fighting it—or anything else we don’t really have control over—we spend precious energy on something that, when engaged, becomes even more powerful, scarier, something bigger than it was.
The reasoning I was given for all this fear is that, you know, all the training for this one day, and anything can happen and I really want this and all sorts of other, arguably valid stuff. And my response was, yeah, um, no. It’s a marathon. At some point it’s gonna suck. You know those things to be true, yeah? So how will you get around that?
It’s a marathon; it’s one day. You’ve been training for, like, 180something days and now you’re gonna throw all your eggs in one basket. Automatically, I’m gonna say the odds are less than real good. Two: Yep, the marathon sucks. That’s why it is such a beautiful thing. But the goal of training is to try to reduce, or shorten, the amount of suck you’ll experience. And then when the suck does drop, how do you deal with it?
The best way, the easiest, the least painful way to deal with late-stage marathon suck is not to fight it. That appears on the surface to go against everything you’ve heard. All the descriptions of the end of the marathon use the battle language that we’re all so familiar with. It’s part of the (marathon) culture: Fighting, winning, kicking ass, whatever. But it seems like such a waste of effort, especially considering the context and that conserving energy is kinda the MO for the whole thing. Don’t fight it. Accept that it sucks and continue to do what you’ve practiced, which is to relax as much as possible and continue on. Maybe a thousand times you’ll have to check your instruments, find inspiration in the deepest, darkest recesses of your mind, or play any one of a million mind games with those voices in your head to keep yourself moving forward. Accept that it hurts and carry on. You’ve gotta be cool with the suck, or you won’t get very far.
After all, you’ve paid dearly for it. And by paid I mean monetarily, chronologically, emotionally, physically. No one’s got a gun to your head. Just ****ing run.