Mind, body, spirit and the marathon

Any motivation is good motivation. Illustration by Jim Carroll
Any motivation is good motivation.
Illustration by Jim Carroll

When I run, I usually find myself thinking about a lot of things. The mind generally hates running, so it wanders aimlessly like tourist in front of you as you try to get to work on time (just kidding, tourists, we love you…as long as you stay to the right while riding on escalators).

Thoughts can range from “oh, look, a pretty butterfly” to “I’m going to die alone and that’s really going to suck.” But the thought that comes to my mind the most is “why am I running?” It crosses my mind constantly, usually in a big picture kind of way. This particular thought is a dangerous one, and can get me into trouble. It usually comes in the first mile or two, or at 6 a.m. before a long training run. Why? Why does anyone one run? Do we really need to?

It’s not like I’m running from anything (like a bear, for instance) or running to anything (let’s say to get a fire extinguisher). It seems that things like fire, or angry bears, or the dreaded fire-breathing bear make sense for a person to start running — but to run just to run, at times, seems just plain stupid. It’s at these moments I almost stop, which is dangerous, because running overall seems to be about momentum (training, races, etc.). To stop is to stop and that can start to kill one’s spirit. After the body and mind cease to cooperate, the spirit is the only thing left that seems to push runners to finish their run, whether it be a 5K, a marathon or to safety from a fire-breathing bear.

When it comes to the physical aspect of getting ready for a marathon, nothing can test the body like a marathon training program. I recently started The Run S.M.A.R.T. Project training program through the New York Flyers (a local running club I recently joined). We train five days a week with Wednesday being a pretty intense group training session. Right now, I run about 32 miles a week, and that will gradually increase until race day.

Physical side effects from such training, so far, have ranged from walking across my living room like an 85-year-old with rickets, to screaming in the morning like a 6-year-old girl from the pain of intense calf cramps (my neighbors keep waiting to meet my daughter, who apparently suffers from occasional early morning nightmares — let them believe what they want). As noted by many marathon veterans, a major key to training for a marathon is actually making it to the marathon. I’m starting to see what they mean. This is tough on everything that makes a human, human: mind, body and spirit.

The good news is my spirit seems healthy. In fact, it seems to be getting stronger and that, perhaps, is the main thing that will get me to Nov. 3 in one piece.


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