If you run a marathon and no one sees you do it, did you still run a marathon?

By July 19, 2010 How To

I’ve been told that I’m exceedingly competitive. And it’s true. I love making bets. And I love winning them. (and conveniently forgetting about the ones I lose.) I’ve been known to challenge grown men who weigh at least 100 lbs. more than me to arm wrestling matches. Apparently, I love the chase and the fight. No matter the odds.

So, why, in the last couple of weeks, when I’ve been asked about doing a triathlon or running a road race, have I immediately and definitively replied, No way. Not interested. ???

If you write or art or play music or do anything creative, then you know that the creative process does not come in a bottle. It does not pay attention to time. It does not spurt on demand. And this characteristic is both maddening and magical. You never know when the well will be dry. You never know when something wonderful will surge up and out of you.

So we just keep showing up.

As some of you know, I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in time. I believe that if you write something else, start in the middle, go for a run, talk to people, move your body and go about your business (without staring at the keyboard or the clock), the words will show up. A watched pot…and all that.

Have I written on demand? Yes, of course, it’s part of my job description. Is it, sometimes, exhilarating? Yes. Is it also pressure-filled and does it make my skin itch? Yes. So, I try not to let it happen.

Imagine a marathon. A real one, with a finish line and thousands of people. These people train for ONE day. They are, in effect, running on demand. They train for four plus months or years for ONE day. What if they wake up that day with a headache? the flu? elephantitis of the big toe? or they just start running and feel like crap? What happens is this: they’re screwed. And the perception is one of failure.

All because of One Day Syndrome

I’m going to run a half-marathon and then I’m going to run a full one. By myself, on my island. No fanfare, no crowds. Just me and my trusty google pedometer charting the perfect course. And some stashed coconut water along the way. And my own awesomeness at the end.

Oh, and no pressure, no ‘on demand’. If I plan it for Saturday the #th and it doesn’t happen, I’ll try again the next week. I’ll find the right day and the right body state. And I’ll do what I set out to do. On my terms. Because lots of things are on someone else’s—but not this. I get this one.

I can hear some of you now, “But part of the challenge is getting through whatever comes at you on that THAT day!” And I will—it’s just going to be on my day. Come on. Of course, I’m not saying that I’ll give up at the first sign of discomfort, you know me better than that. But I don’t really like prescriptions. Look at New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and Prom. And I think there really is a reason that animals struggle to mate in captivity. Whatever happened to following an urge…all. the. way. up.

This blog—my terms, my space, my domain— is ‘the way’ my fingers write best. And, I think it will also be the way that my legs run best. I just don’t want it to come down to one day, one chance.

I want it to come down to one me.

Image credit: horizontal integration

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Cathy says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more on this! I am so competitive and LOVE to win, too. I can also say, though, that I am most competitive with myself and challenging myself to accomplish new things. Sure, I think there is some adrenaline and excitement with running for a crowd cheering you on, but in the end you still accomplishment your marathon whether you are alone or with thousands of people.

  • As a runner, I only have one thought: I always run MY race. It is a smart race, at my pace, how I feel… the rest be damned. I’ve run alongside others in marathons for miles. The smart ones run their own race. Others try to run the race of others and DNF (Do Not Finish). Road race, business, life. Run your best.

  • patrick says:

    I too, totally agree.

    I want to do a 50k trail run this year.
    I had set my sights on a fall race in Vermont.

    But it’s the ability to do 50k that is most important to me, not the race.

    Running is personal.
    Racing is social.

    There’s certainly value in both.

    But I’d rather do the racing as part of my training.
    I’d rather run the big one on my own.
    And know that I can do it anytime/anywhere I want.

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