26.2 miles. The famous grueling marathon that so many people subject themselves to for some unknown reason. Keep in mind that the original Greek warrior who ran that distance after the battle of Marathon died at the end. There is a reason for that and I will elaborate in detail later on. In an effort to stave off my mid-life crisis I decided to embark on a mid life "challenge" instead and run a marathon. My 43rd birthday was approaching and I could almost hear the fat lady singing (she was enjoying a duet with the Grim Reaper). I figured this was healthier and less costly than a fancy red sports car and much smarter and safer on the marriage than an affair:-). So I dutifully signed up and decided to run the marathon in December (of note is the fact that I am just now writing about it as I have finally recovered physically and mentally). I laid out a well-conceived training regimen that included running, cardio, weight lifting, and stretching, along with a good diet. I planned everything down to the last detail and began training four months before the race. I slowly built myself up to 10 mile runs and then 15 mile runs. I was getting there! However, Uncle Sam has a vote in everything I do and decided to send me to Fort Irwin, California, for the entire month of November. I had ambitious plans to run and train while there but being at Fort Irwin, California and experiencing a rotation at the National Training Center is an event in itself. Needless to say....I was quite busy and the running never really happened. In short order...I showed up on the day of the marathon having never run more than 15 miles. But no worries...I was only talking about a few more miles.
Well...that was my inexperience talking. The day of the marathon was quite intense. More than twenty thousand people were running that day. I smeared vaseline over my feet, ate a large bagel with peanut butter and a banana and promptly stepped off at 0610 in the morning. This should be OK...I was pretty well prepared and ready to go. I ran the first 6 miles at a good pace and thought to myself that I was going to survive. Then we hit Diamond Head and ran two miles uphill. I quickly realized that there was a long way to go. The next six miles were OK...but I had to stop and fight the crowd and use the port-a-john since I had consumed large amounts of water for the 48 hours prior to the race as well as during the race. I will admit..I used the 15 minutes I was in line to suck down some oxygen and ask myself why I was doing this. I only had 12 more miles to go. The runners all around me were amazing. I saw all types of runners from the incredibly fit to the average joe to the dressed up super heroes. I saw Wonder Woman, Superman, Spider Man...all running. I also saw women in wedding dresses and men in tuxedoes running as well as a man in a full traditional samurai costume complete with wooden shoes (he ran much faster than I did and is apparently a fixture at the marathon every year). Anyway...I digress. I pressed on and soon approached 18 miles. My body began to talk to me in earnest and question me intensely as to why I was subjecting it to this torture. I refused to answer and simply sucked down another energy gel pack and continued to plod along.
Folks....take a hint from me. When your body starts asking you questions in earnest, I strongly advise listening to it. I did not and my body simply took matters into its own hands (or legs so to speak). At 19 miles exactly I hit the wall and my legs refused to bend at the knees. My body had simply told me that enough was enough. Amazingly I continued to move forward at an odd stiff legged shuffle that caused the spectators along the route to cringe in pain for me. Some of the smaller kids started crying and asking their parents to put the poor tree sloth out of his misery. Of course...I did not listen. I continued to shuffle along stiff legged and stiff necked. My body became angry at my continued resistance and caused my knees to start aching at mile 22 and my eyes to fog over at mile 23. By mile 24 the only thing sustaining me was the thought that if I actually stopped the herd of runners behind me would trample me to death and steal my remaining energy gel packs. Also...I was almost there and had to finish in order to make this pain worth it. I will admit...at mile 25 I honestly thought I was going to keel over...but then the 1980s saved me! I was wearing my iPod and "Eye of the Tiger" came on. Listen....if it could work for Sylvester Stallone it had to work for me. I instantly felt energy surge through me as the old familiar words and music played across my ear phones. With trembling hands I put the iPod on repeat for that song and then pushed myself the remaining mile. I finished in a trance and finally stopped after staggering across the finish line. I had done it!! My feet ached! My legs would not bend! My socks had melted! I would never, never do this again!