One of these days, I’ll run out of marathon-related posts…but it doesn’t look like that’s going to be happening anytime soon.
I had a lengthy wait for the shuttle near the 20-mile mark of the course. The two police officers directing traffic nicely provided me with a chair and attempted to distract me from moping with conversation. Near the 6 hour pace group, one of the officers turned to me and said, “ok, I’ve got to know. You were up near the front (I wasn’t, but whatever) so I can sort of see why you’d do this. What makes these people want to do a marathon?”
Wow. How to answer that question? How to explain that only a scant few have any hope of receiving an age group or overall award? That for the majority (myself included), the act of running and (hopefully) finishing a marathon is itself the reward? That beneath the expressions of suffering and fatigue that runners universally exhibit 20 miles into the endeavor are universal feelings of determination or desperation to SEE. IT. THROUGH…if at all possible?
From the outside, it may be impossible to explain. “You put yourself through WHAT?! WHY?” For many, the simplest rationale is probably the challenge. Setting and working towards goals is the easiest way to run consistently. In the beginning, perhaps we set our sights on a 5k or 10k. Passing these milestones, we naturally raise the bar. 15k? Half Marathon? Marathon? Even (for the especially crazy) the ULTRA Marathon? Whatever level of training or ability you’re at, each race is an opportunity to test your courage and preparation.
The beautiful thing about running is its focus on personal accomplishment. Running Buddy’s achievement of a 4:15 marathon is not diminished because the winner ran a 2:40. She set herself a very nice PR on a very hot day, meeting a lifetime goal in the process. Awesome! With the exception of those at the very, very front, running in general is not about “winning” and “losing” in the traditional sense. Race the clock, battle the course, go after the distance, overcome your own obstacles. Making the impossible possible…on a personal level.
That’s not very eloquent, and my on-the-spot answer to one of Louisville’s finest even less so, but that’s the answer. That’s why.