“Keep your sunglasses on, I want to take a selfie.”
The Wife looked at me with a skeptically raised eyebrow. “A selfie? Since when do you take selfies?”
“Well-” I said “-this is a big trip, and I know you like to take the occasional selfie, so I thought you might want one.”
“Why the sunglasses? This isn’t for some stupid Blues Brothers joke you’re going to make that no one is going to get is it?”
“Yeah, I thought so, no selfie.”
I spent the rest of our ride on the Plane Train (1. this is its official name, and 2. it’s Atlanta, of course this story starts at the airport) quietly sulking at the lost potential of my Blues Brothers joke. I travel so much for work that once I enter the airport my body goes into autopilot until we’re in the air, so as I gave up on figuring out a “106 miles to Chicago” bit my mind drifted to the task soon to be at hand. Or at foot. Whatever. Unlike the lead up to Philly, the week before Chicago had been eerily calm. No work disasters. No abnormally idiotic clients. The partners were all traveling. And aside from some minor taper madness, training had gone exceptionally well. I marveled at all of this at first, and then had a horrible thought. Nothing goes this well for me, ever. Things had actually gone too well, and I began to feel that the other shoe was surely about to drop. And then I started thinking about how many different things could go wrong during a marathon, and grabbed the brown bag our sad airport lunch had come in out of The Wife’s hand and started doing some deep breathing.
I rarely get nervous before a race anymore. There’s no worries about finishing, and I generally know what will hurt and when, and for how long. There’s just not that many surprises left out there. But the marathon is, as you’re well aware, a wholly different animal. It's so long that doing half of one is considered a long race in and of itself. You need to train entire physiological systems to perform when they’re damaged and broken, and prepare yourself to ignore tremendous pain and suffering far beyond what you experience in shorter distances. All of this gives the marathon an epic feeling, and it was this sense of an impending monumental struggle which was racing through my mind as I filled my lungs with deep breathes infused with eau de soggy chicken panini. The Wife grabbed the bag back to take her lunch out before I ruined it and I disengaged the autopilot and rejoined the world around me. I started to give myself a little “there’s nothing to be afraid of, you’ve done this before” pep talk, but realized the anxiety wasn’t coming from fear. Before Philly, I was afraid of what lay beyond mile 20. I’d never been there, never seen the wall, never felt the despair of that last 10K. But this time, there was no mystery. I knew how cold it was in the shadow of the wall, how it feels to empty the whole tank fumes and all, and how a 4 inch curb could bring a grown man to tears. And I realized that what I was feeling wasn’t fear.
I have a delusional sense of grandeur and often view approaching challenges, be it protesting some asinine policy against “the man” at work or a local 5K, as epic struggles testing every ounce of my physical strength and mental fortitude. The root of this is likely some deep seated psychological demon revolving around a fear of living a life of no consequence. I wake up every morning in my Ikea bed surrounded by the beige apartment walls, go to work at my big city office job greasing the wheels of capitalism but making absolutely zero impact in the lives of the people around me, and ride the train home as an anonymous member of the mass of daily commuters. I pay my taxes, I feed the meter, I obey the honor system. A good worker bee. But knowing I live this life without consequence eats away at me, rots my soul. So I seek out chances to feel like I’m a part of something grand, something that matters. Imagining being a part of a herculean struggle against insurmountable odds with my very worth as a human being in the balance helps to keep me from leading a worker bee revolt and burning down the hive. There’s a lot more to unpack here, but this is already more than enough for a running blog.
Visualizing this epic struggle is how I mentally psyche myself up and prepare for big races. I was rolling this around in my head as I bit into my soggy chicken panini, and it dawned on me how ready I felt for this. I knew I was well trained. I had nailed my tune up race. I was well rested and fueled. And as I approached the field of battle for my profound clash of Revlite and carbon rubber against hot asphalt, I knew I wasn’t afraid. I felt like a mythic warrior from some old epic poem about to enter the dragon’s lair. A confident, purpose built and finely tuned machine driven by a razor sharp focus. It wasn’t fear. It was anticipation. I felt ready to slay some demons.
“He then went to visit and see - when night came -
the high house how it, the Ring-Danes
after the beer-feast had occupied;
He found then therein the nobles’ company
slumbering after the feast; they did not know sorrow,
misery of men”
-Beowulf, lines 115-120
We checked into the Hilton Chicago, a massive, beautiful, old fashioned hotel whose shadow cast onto the edges of Grant Park. The Wife and I did a 5 mile shake out along the Lakefront Trail and prepared to meet a friend for dinner. We were chatting as we exited the hotel and bumped into two people doing the same on their way in. I looked up and started to apologize but the words never made it out of my mouth. The Wife barely noticed and kept going until she realized I had stopped and was staring at the two people we’d passed. Before she could get mad at me for making us late, I told her that we almost just took out Galen Rupp and Alberto Salazar. Upon hearing this she started geeking out and I got to chide her for a change for making us late and we finally went on our way. After dinner at Pequod’s (highly recommended) we stopped by the hotel bar for a night cap. While looking for the bar we wandered first through the coffee shop, where I again spotted Mr. Rupp. I elbowed The Wife as we walked past, and in response she punched me in the arm. We grabbed a seat near the window and looked out at the park, sipping cocktails and discussing our race plans and anxieties as we watched the world unencumbered by marathon jitters pass by. And then I saw a familiar looking woman. Slight but strong looking, with short gray hair and dark, deeply intense eyes. I wasn’t sure at first, but the eyes were unmistakable. In every picture I’ve ever seen of Joan Benoit the intensity of her gaze has always struck me. I did a double take, which caught her attention through the thick glass of the window, and we exchanged half smiles and nods. This would have been the highlight of my weekend, had the race gone differently. But we’ll get to that.
We hit the expo Saturday morning and after picking up bibs and t-shirts sat in on a discussion with Deena Kastor and Emily Hutchins nominally about women in running moderated by the new editor of RW magazine. Despite the title though, the questions from the moderator mostly focused on general topics like “how to recover” and “how to incorporate strength training into your routine” which was a little disappointing considering the panelists. But, in answering one of these vague softball questions, Deena said something that I couldn’t get out of my head. I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist of it was:
“Don't judge the race just by whether or not you hit a specific time. Even if you don't hit your primary goal, think about how this race and this effort will change you and help you continue to grow and develop as a runner and person, because it will regardless of your time.”
Because this was only my second marathon, in the run up I kept comparing everything in training or preparations to Philly, which was my only frame of reference. And while I didn’t hit my A goal in Philly, I still saw it as a major success. Yes the conditions were awful and all that, but the fact that I was able to run a marathon at all, regardless of time or conditions, was something that had been unthinkable just a few years prior. I was reflecting on all the ways the marathon had changed me and by the end of the talk my head was swimming with all the feels. So when they asked for questions from the audience, I raised my hand. The Wife turned her head and whisper yelled to me “WHATTHEHELLAREYOUDOING” while the emcee brought over the microphone. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to ask, but as I grabbed the mic my thoughts coalesced into this: What, other than being good at it, draws you to the marathon as opposed to the 10K or 5K or other events?
I thought it came out well off the cuff, and was pleased with myself until I realized Deena was just giving me a blank stare and not saying anything. Oh God what the hell did I say? I replayed the question in my head to make sure the thoughts up there and noises that come out of my mouth had been the same, and I may have broken into a cold sweat. Then the emcee calmly repeated my question at an actually audible volume, Deena smiled and I felt a whole lot better. And then she said this (again, paraphrased, I’m not a frigging court reporter here):
“When I ran the 10K and 5K, it was always on a track in a stadium and I always felt like I was performing for people. But the marathon is different. There’s a community around the marathon. Not everyone who runs a 10K knows what it’s like running in stadiums full of people, but everyone who runs the marathon has the same experience. We all run the same course, from elites to the slowest finishers. We all have the same aches and pains and hydration and nutrition struggles and digestive issues and injuries. We pass the same aid stations and timing mats. We’re all in it together, and there’s a huge community all sharing in the highs and lows and supporting each other. That’s what I love about the marathon.”
I don’t remember the rest of the expo because I only have so much brain power and it was all being used absorbing this. If you ever get a chance to hear Deena speak, take it. Responsibly of course, please don’t go up to her in a restaurant and stick your fingers in her food to hear her yell at you or anything like that.
After the expo we met my brother and his family for lunch and had run-ins with Khalid Khannouchi, Tatyana McFadden, Feyisa Lelisa, and Rupp again. We had a low key dinner of pizza margherita and my traditional two beers and headed back to the hotel for an early bedtime. As we went through the ritualistic pinning on of the race bibs and laying out our fuel and gear I also went through my final mental preparations.
I planned out my pacing, which called for 7:45-7:55 for the first 3 miles, 7:35 for the next 17, and then as fast as I could manage for the last 6.2. The results would hopefully be 3:20 with a slight negative split. With every physical and logistical detail now finally tended to, I laid down to sleep. I replayed the day’s events to keep something positive passing between my neurons and stave off the anxious tossing and turning. It had been a day full of meeting heroes and legends, seeing family and friends, and enjoying good food and drink. A day without sorrow or misery, full of the feast of life.
“He came then to the hall the fighter journeying,
cut-off from merriment; the door soon rushed open,
firm with fire-forged bands, when he tapped it with his hands
plotting evil then he tore open, now that he was enraged...”
-Beowulf, lines 720-723
I woke easily, which is no small miracle, and quickly set to the task of making breakfast. Peanut butter on a bagel and hotel coffee were the morning’s fare. The bagel was stale and the coffee tasted like an old kitchen sponge had been floating in it, but I knew this offense against my palette paled in comparison to the abuses I was about to subject the rest of my body to. The patented two beer system worked perfectly, and with my top end full and bottom empty, we dressed and headed to the start line. The atmosphere in the hotel lobby was so charged the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as we made our way through the crowds of high strung runners and headed across the street to Grant Park. On our way we happened to bump into a large crowd of fellow Atlanta Track Club members from the marathon training group who were running together, wished them luck and found our gate. Once we passed through security, The Wife and I separated and entered our corrals. The journey of months and miles to this time and place was now complete. Very soon we would rush through the starting arch, leaving merriment behind and searching for the pain we all knew was out there waiting for us. There was nothing left to do now but run.
A few minutes after the starting horn sent the elites off to warm up the asphalt for the rest of us, our corral started moving and made our way into the start area, slowly shuffling forward. I kept moving with the crowd, expecting it to eventually stop and then have another horn sound to send the corral C runners on our way. But as we approached the starting arch, people just started running through it and I realized this was a rolling start. I panicked briefly and fumbled to ready my Garmin, which thankfully connected just in time, and in the least dramatic fashion possible I crossed the start line and my race began.
The Wife had warned me that the first few miles pass under several roadways and bridges, and that this would likely throw my Garmin off. She had also warned me that with the course’s roughly 9,436 turns, it was important to find the blue line and follow the tangents to not run an ultra distance. I kept this advice in the back of my head and checked my pace right before we reached the first overpass, even though it was something like a quarter mile into the race. But it was 7:55, which was right where I wanted to be. I felt absolutely perfect, and now that my anxious energy had a productive outlet even my mind was clear. I enjoyed the gorgeous Chicago architecture, took in the crowds, and enjoyed the fresh bounce in my stride because I knew it wouldn’t be there long. In between overpasses I checked the Garmin and saw paces hovering around 10:00, which I knew wasn’t right so I ignored them and went by feel. This is not my strong suit, but there was nothing I could do about it and I tried not to let it bother me. The first 3 miles were 7:46, 7:52, and 8:02. After mile 3, I made an effort to pick it up a little bit to get to closer to race pace. There was no worry or stress, I knew there were plenty of miles left, but I didn’t want to get too far off plan too early. We were no longer running under bridges, so I tried to rely on the Garmin hoping it would be accurate. It kept showing paces in the 8:00-8:15 range, which given my mile 3 split I assumed was correct and accordingly kept trying to pick it up. When I passed mile 4 in 7:10, I did worry.
I did some deep breathing and calmed myself down. I told myself one slow and one fast mile offset each other and comforted myself with some runner math, convincing myself I was right on track. I focused on getting the legs settled into goal pace. I took my first Honey Stinger and some water at mile 5 and found a groove as we left the city streets and entered Lincoln Park. The pathway through the park is decidedly narrower than the roadways which caused some congestion, but by now the mass of runners had settled into loose groupings of similar paces so there were no serious ill effects. Just an increased risk of being hit with some neighborly flop sweat. I was looking forward to miles 8 and 9 as I have a friend who lives nearby that neighborhood and was planning on coming out to cheer, but as we left the park and approached his neighborhood I was distracted by my first rough patch of the race.
The neighborhood we were running through had little to no shade, and by now the sun was high enough overhead to remind us that it was not going to stay cool for long. I also started feeling the shooting nerve pain which is a remnant of the piriformis injury I had two years ago and comes and goes periodically. This combination had me more uncomfortable than I was comfortable with this early in the race, and I slowed again in mile 8 to 8:02. This was far sooner than I had expected for my first visit to the Valley of the Suck, so I did some self-evaluation and revised my plan a bit. I was taking a Honey Stinger every 5 miles and had planned on taking Gatorade halfway between fueling points, but given how much I was sweating I decided to at least sip some green go juice every mile to make sure I stayed hydrated and full of those delicious lemony limey electrolytes. There was nothing I could do about the periodic shooting pain in my leg, and I knew it would come and go all day. So I borrowed a mantra from someone I knew was also on the course that day. You all remember the story of the runner who was assaulted last year and managed to fight off and beat the shit out of her attacker. She kept telling herself “not today motherfucker” as she fought back against her assailant, which I remember thinking at the time was the height of badassery, and she was running Chicago today with the rest of us. If she was able to fight through an attack like that I could beat this comparatively insignificant pain in the ass. Every time the pain flared up I would yell out “NO, not today” and press on until it passed. We turned into my friend’s neighborhood and a tunnel of cheering crowds and I started to feel like I was getting back on track.
I found my groove again and began ticking off goal pace miles like a metronome. I don’t know if it was the incredible crowd support, the modified fueling/hydration strategy, the defiant mantra or some unknown celestial favor shining down but I was feeling perfect again. I was ignoring the piriformis pain, I still felt fresh, and the pace was downright relaxed. I never saw my friend, but I did see my brother and his family at mile 11 which gave me a boost and I started the runner math to get an idea of what my half split would be. In the middle of my arithmetic I felt my Garmin go off for mile 13, and looked down to see a 6:23 mile split. I momentarily panicked until I realized I couldn’t even see the mile marker on the road yet, and I decided the Garmin was officially useless. Mile 14 was also way early, so I hit the manual lap button when I hit the 14th mile marker to try and give me some frame of reference based in reality. Which I found ironic as in my daily life I seek out every opportunity to escape reality. But, the marathon makes you do crazy things.
This minor Garmin drama actually turned out to be a fortuitous unpleasantness. The Chicago course is basically three out and back sections, and the stretch I was on heads west and away from the finish line which can be deflating if you reflect on being more than halfway done but somehow still running away from the finish line. It’s also where the crowd support thins a bit, and it starting to get noticeably hot. But because I was fumbling with my watch and doing runner math off my half time I hadn’t really noticed any of this. My goal was to be out around 1:41, and I crossed the 13.1 timing mat in 1:40:57 per the official timing. I was ecstatic with this, especially considering the early pacing hiccups, and as we turned around and the Sears (up yours Willis) Tower came back into view I resolved to ignore the watch, check my splits only at the mile markers, and focus on my fueling and hydration to combat the heat.
Mile after perfectly paced mile passed without even the hint of an issue, so I did something I rarely do in a race. I took in what was around me and enjoyed what I was doing in the moment. I knew I was getting very close to a whole world of pain, but for the time being, I felt amazing. And not “for mile 16 of a marathon” amazing, I felt “first night of the honeymoon” amazing. In fact I have never felt so strong, so in control, so capable during any stretch in any race I’ve ever run. My stride felt graceful and fluid, my legs felt light, I wasn’t breathing heavy, and I was even managing the heat well. I thought to myself at one point “who the hell feels GOOD in mile 18 of a marathon?”, but I didn’t have an answer. So I made sure I didn’t pick it up too much and prematurely empty the tank, and just kept feeding on the swelling crowd support and cranking out the miles as we made our way back into the heart of Chicago.
One of the things everyone is told when they sign up for Chicago is how great the neighborhoods are. And they are, with each having it’s own unique way of showcasing their city for the runners. The two I had heard the most about were the Frontrunners in mile 8 (who absolutely lived up to their billing) and Chinatown, which I was now approaching. But first was Pilsen, about which all I knew was that it was a Latino neighborhood. I was wearing my Atlanta Track Club singlet, and although the cheering was all in Spanish, I started hearing “Atlanta” (well, “Ad-a-lanna”, but close enough) in the cheers from the spectators. And damn were they energetic cheers. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand the words themselves, the energy and excitement with which they were screamed made their meaning perfectly clear. The blaring music and enthusiasm of the crowds manning pop-up aid stations was infectious, and I felt as though I was dancing through this stretch. Other neighborhoods were great, but for my money the energy of Pilsen was the best. Gracias amigos.
“Woe be to him who must.
through dire terror, thrust his soul
into fire’s embrace; hope not for relief,
Or to change at all”
-Beowulf, lines 183-186
It was just after the Pilsen neighborhood that the course turns south, away again from the Sears Tower and the finish line. I don’t know if it was a let down from the crowd support high, the psychological effect of running in the wrong direction again, or just the 20 miles I’d run, but here I had my first rough patch since mile 8. It only lasted a few hundred yards or so and only cost me a few seconds, but I knew this was the start of the race. For the next few miles, I would have stretches where it felt as though my body remembered what it was we were doing and sought to punish me for it. My legs would get heavy, the heat would get to me, and that bone deep fatigue would set in. And then, as quickly as it arrived, I’d pass through the Valley of the Suck and be back to skimming the pavement on feather light legs. Every time one of these rough patches hit I would remind myself “Don’t you fucking stop”. I knew if I did, or slowed down, or allowed myself to physically or mentally back off in any slight way I’d never be able to recover the pace. We approached Chinatown, and I kept an eye out for the famous dragon everyone had told me was such an incredible sight. And I needed the pick-me-up, because I was again descending into the Valley, and the visits were beginning to increase in frequency and unpleasantness. But when I finally saw the dragon, it was just a guy holding the head. The rest of it was nowhere to be found. Now, I’ve read and heard stories about the importance of being in a good mental state when indulging in psychedelic pharmaceuticals. Being in a bad place mentally while partaking in mind altering substances can, apparently, lead to what the kids call a “bad trip” and leave you in a terribly frightening hysteria. So I’ve heard, at least. And while I wasn’t preparing to expand my mind in quite this manner, the last 10K of a marathon certainly causes it’s own mind alterations. Distraught over a beheaded dragon was not how I wanted to enter this stretch, and I tried to shake the disappointment quickly. The Valley of the Suck is a bad enough trip on its own, I didn’t need any help making it worse.
I thought back just 2 short miles to Pilsen, and how strong and in control I had felt then. It felt like another lifetime. I went from the toes up to see if anything was wrong. My feet hurt, and for the first time I was wishing that the NB 1400s has a touch more forefoot cushion. But I didn’t have blisters or toenails shooting off, just fatigue. OK. My legs were sore and tired, but I was running a fucking marathon, so they should be. I wasn’t listening to anything coming from my piriformis so as the status reports came in there was nothing suggesting injury, just the fire of fatigue warming my lower extremities. It was a different heat I was feeling that was beginning to concern me though. By now the shade had all but disappeared from the course, and there was no avoiding the beating sun.
I reminded myself that it was still a full 20 degrees cooler than what I trained in all summer in Atlanta, and with a fraction of the humidity to boot. I’d tell myself this or remind myself that I wasn’t hurt, just hurting, and would gradually rise back out of the Valley of the Suck. Then, in a familiar pattern which would repeat for a few miles I’d slip back down and have to claw my way out gain. Somewhere around mile 24, we passed under a railroad bridge which required a short downhill stretch and then an equally short climb back up. I distinctly remember this as the last time I felt good. The little hill sucked enough life out of my tired legs that they weren’t able to keep pace and recover, and since I wasn’t slowing down, they just never recovered. As the walls of the Valley of the Suck grew higher and steeper, I realized I wasn’t going to get out of it this time. It was tough to judge how this was impacting my pace because my Garmin was telling me I was running at 8:30, but every time I passed a mile marker it would beep and show me a 7:3x split, which I verified with fuzzy runner math. I’d been trying to figure out if I was on track for my 3:20 goal since mile 16, but the Garmin issues and mental fatigue had made this like trying to navigate to the moon with a compass and sextant, and I kept alternating between a minute or two over and then under. As we passed mile 24 the math simplified enough that I knew I wasn’t going to make it, but still had a chance for 3:20:xx if I could pick it up a little bit. I tried to dig, but nothing happened. I tried to do a status check, but couldn’t formulate the questions in my head. I tried to repeat my mantra, but I couldn’t remember it. Then I forgot what I was trying to do all together, and all I could do was run.
“Fate often spares
the hero not fated to die when his courage endures.”
-Beowulf lines 572-573
We were on Michigan avenue now, heading back north to Grant Park and the finish. I was aware of this, and knew it meant I was almost done, but that was about all my mind could process. I never lost awareness like in Philly, but I could no longer form complete thoughts. And all there was to be aware of anyway was pain and exhaustion. There were no more pace calculations, or nodding to people yelling something about Atlanta, or mantras, or feeling bad for the guy cramping so bad he was sideways crab walking just to keep moving. Or maybe he wasn’t really there. I honestly don’t know. This was supposed to be my epic showdown where I pushed beyond my physical limits and dug deep to gather the strength for one last attack to slay the dragon, and instead I couldn’t even remember to swallow when I took Gatorade at the last aid station. I remember passing the 800 meters to go sign. I knew how far 800 meters was, but couldn’t understand what that meant to me in terms of how close I was to being done or how long I would have to keep enduring this. I knew we were supposed to turn right, and then go up a hill, but I couldn’t process how much further that was. It wasn’t until I saw a sign that said 300 meters to go that I was able to have a coherent thought again, and it was one of crushing disappointment that we’d only run 500 meters in what felt like 20 minutes. I couldn’t make out the numbers on my watch and had no idea what my pace was, but as we turned up Roosevelt and climbed the hill whose viciousness multitudes of Chicago veterans had warned me of, I managed to feed off the fact that I was passing scores of people on the incline. As we turned onto Columbus Drive for the final stretch, I remembered from Spirit of the Marathon and from watching the race in the past that this stretch was longer than it looked, but I had lost all sense of time and space by this point and have no idea how long it was. I crossed the line under a clock that read 3:29:xx, which I knew from when I started meant I had a 3:21:xx. I stopped my Garmin without looking, and for the first time in 26.61 miles I allowed myself to stop running.
The picture worth a thousand words
I wobbled through the finish chute like some alien life form adjusting to Earth’s gravity for the first time, grabbing whatever food and beverage I happened to be stumbling past because I didn’t entirely have control of where I was going but I knew I needed to eat and drink something, and slowly made my way to the after party to meet The Wife. That journey took a full 45 minutes, complete with multiple hands on the knees pauses to do some awkward am-I-gonna-puke-or-cry thing until I made my way to the Goose Island beer tent. Which naturally was at the furthest possible corner of the park from the finish line. I enjoyed the best Goddamned beer I’ve ever had, and sat on a bench chatting missed goals and exploding blisters with a nice Canadian couple while I waited for The Wife.
As I did my marathon post-mortem I keep focusing on two things. The first is, I set out to run 26.2 miles at 7:38 pace. For the 26.61 miles I ran, I averaged a 7:34 pace (and even managed a roughly 30 second negative split!). The second thing is, I didn’t hit the wall or bonk. I was in a world of pain at the end to be sure, but my last 5 full miles averaged 7:38 pace on the nose. The last 2.2k was my fastest of the day. So, while the number on the clock isn’t what I wanted it to be, I’m pretty damn happy with how this race went. I executed my pacing and fueling almost perfectly, I just ran too far. Which got me thinking. Did I run this pace because that’s what I trained for, or because that’s as fast as I can go? What if I’d trained faster? How much faster could I try for next time and still hit? It’s way too early to start setting goals for next year, but I might be setting some big ones.
I have also been thinking about this through the lens of Deena’s talk. I’ve never run in a stadium in front of a crowd, and never will. Nor will many of you. But we all participate in this little internet community and even let it bleed into real life when the opportunity arises, so we definitely embody the special thing that is the running community. We all share the same struggles and injuries and fears and anxieties, the joylessness of waking up at 3 am to get the miles in, or of running in sub-arctic temperatures. And those shared experiences are what the community is built on. And I don't think there's any deeper shared experience than the marathon. Because of what it does to you, stripping an otherwise highly intelligent and advanced creature at the height of the evolutionary ladder down to nothing more than a stinking panting starving animal barely capable of the most basic motor functions, to be a part of the marathoning community is to expose your naked soul. The well of your physical strength and mental will are on full display to your fellow road warriors and how you react in those darkest stages of the race shows more about you to the world than almost anything I can think of. I’ve shared a lot about myself with the running community, but more of it has come out through the marathon than from anything else. The support marathoners show each other is also unparalleled, bonded by the shared experience that is only understood by those who’ve lived it.
The marathon is something special indeed. Thanks for making it that way.