Tomorrow, I will be at the start line of the first marathon of my life. 42.195 kilometers! The distance seems daunting- I have never before attempted anything longer than half the distance.
I am insane. I haven’t completely recovered from my recent cold, and various health related issues have ensured that any training schedule I may have tried to follow never stood much chance of being put into practice. I should be sitting at home watching the run on TV. If I had to be there, I should be lining the route cheering the runners and handing out energy drinks. I should not have a bib pinned to my t-shirt, and a timing-chip attached to my running shoes.
I should not be at the start line, and yet that is where I would be, chanting two things – ‘finish the race’, ‘do it in less than 6 hours’. At my current level of fitness, I am unlikely to do it in less than 6 hours. Actually, that is a misstatement – at my current level of fitness, it is unlikely I will finish at all. And yet, I know I will never be able to live with myself, if I slink away from the challenge.
When I was having a crisis of confidence before my first race, a friend told me that no matter how long I look, no matter how I did it, I should finish the race. He told me the same thing before my second race, and before my third. The pattern was emerging, and when I confronted him, he told me that the secret to long distance running was to treat every race as your first, and to aim to finish. Nothing else really mattered- not your time, not your time relative to others, not your time relative to your best. The only thing that mattered was to get there, and to finish.
Which is all I would be attempting to do tomorrow– to finish. Because running a long race is a little like living- you have to do what you have to do, because that is the only thing to do.
When I survive tomorrow, if I survive tomorrow, I will let you know how I did.