When you run a marathon, what do you think about?
So, this is a question that is often asked of people when they run marathons: “What do you think about while you’re in the race?” Below is a semi-stream-of-thought what I think about in a race:
I start by thinking I can easily run at 6 min/mile. At mile 0.5, I think that it was a mistake. By mile 1 I readjust my mindset (and pace) to a comfy 8:30/mile. By the 5K mark, I’m feeling great, so great I forget to drink and eat gels. By 10K I start feeling that “cold sweat” sensation that usually is a tell-tale of onsetting dehydration, so, I slow down to chow down a gel and drink some fluids. By the 11K mark I’m regretting gulping all that water to wash down the gel. By 12K I need to stop and walk instead of run because I feel like I will barf otherwise. After a minute or so, I restart running, but I’m fearful of eating or drinking anything, so eventually after much struggle around the 1/2M mark, I’m already bonking, but my guts feel better, so I slowly start eating/drinking, but, of course, by now my average pace is like 10 min/mile. No matter, I keep trotting along and eating and drinking as I can. Then I hit the 30K mark and I’m sore and my heart is pumping like crazy. So hard I can feel each palpitation in my eardrums. But no matter, I keep on going. At the 35K mark I start listening to the crowds getting thicker, louder, the bells resonate in my skull. I feel an adrenaline shot like I’ve never felt before. I feel euphoric, fearless and unstoppable. By the time the last 5K come along, I’m running on fumes and the world disappears. I hear no noise, feel no sensation other than the moment and myself. I can hear my blood flowing, I can feel my muscle fibers tearing, I can sense my ligaments being strained, the pain begins to become too real, but together with pain a sense of imminent accomplishment also begins to sweep my being and overwhelming and overshadowing every other sense, every breath, every painful stride. Then, the finish line. You cross it and it seems all so unreal. You can hear the crowds cheering for their runners again, you’re given a medal, but that’s pointless for you know what really matters are the 26.2 miles behind you.