Written by: Scott – aka Ordinary Marathoner
You’ve done everything from making checklists to double- and triple-checking your bags even after you packed them. You have everything written down – your bib number and where to get it, where to park your car, where to line up the morning of the race. You know what you’re going to wear — rain or shine. You’re well-hydrated and carbo-loaded. Your race plan is memorized. You are all lotioned up and have BAND-AIDs on areas you may not normally shave, but you did for this occasion. You have the right number of gel packs. You ate the proper breakfast. You know the location of the porta-potties and the approximate wait time so that you can hit it one last time before the race begins.
All of these preparation tidbits will likely occupy your brain non-stop for at least a few days beforehand. While all of that stuff is wonderful, there isn’t anything I can tell you about it that you cannot find by Googling “marathon prep,” which you have likely already done a few times anyway.
What I can tell you is that once the gun goes off, it won’t matter that you picked your bib up on time or that you found a great place to park before the race. If you haven’t hydrated properly, guess what? You’re screwed. And there’s nothing you can do about it if you reach into your pocket and count five gel packs instead of six.
ALL THOSE DAYS WITH THESE THOUGHTS OCCUPYING YOUR MIND — AND IN A BRIEF INSTANT, GUESS WHAT? YOU’RE RUNNING.
At that point, your control over the situation decreases dramatically, and you are at the mercy of the race. Maybe you experience a new pain or get stuck behind a pack of slow runners. Maybe your GPS goes haywire and tells you that you’re on Mile 15 when you’re really on Mile 10. Maybe your music playlist is on shuffle and is playing things in the wrong order, or “Popcorn Love” by New Edition somehow gets stuck on repeat. In essence, in that brief moment you go from having total control over the situation to having very little.
In a way, the moment can be freeing — all the stuff you were worried about forgetting no longer matters. You’re there — you’re doing it. But it can also be burdensome. You have trained, but you have never done this before. Was it enough? Over the next few hours, you are going to find out.
Personally, I spent the early hours of my first marathon immersed in my music and constantly assessing my performance — how I was breathing, whether or not I was experiencing any pain, analyzing my pace and trying to dial it in as if I were a pilot trying to land on an aircraft carrier. I did begin experiencing pain — not all too unexpectedly — at Mile 17. Then, all cares about pace went away, and I just focused on finishing, which was a different mental game altogether. Focus is good, but don’t let it take away from the experience.
ONE DAY A WHILE BACK, YOU DECIDED TO BECOME A RUNNER. WHETHER YOUR GOAL WAS ALWAYS TO RUN A MARATHON OR WHETHER THAT BECAME A GOAL LATER ON, YOU ARE NOW RUNNING IT. SO IN THOSE EARLY MILES, MAKE SURE TO TAKE A MOMENT TO REFLECT ON THE JOURNEY THAT BROUGHT YOU HERE.
Look around you and soak it all in. Breathe the air. Smile. You’ve got this.
Scott writes about his running experiences on his blog, OrdinaryMarathoner.com
Featured image credit: iStock photo, Copyright: TonyTaylorStock