It has been four days of deep soul-searching, a humbling exercise precipitated by an extremely disappointing marathon performance last Sunday.
The extent of the soul-searching has been such that, at times, I even began to question whether I’m physically and/or mentally cut out for this human torture that is called the marathon.
The only consolation from the race is that I crossed the finsh line … barely. While the official time of 4 hours and 33 minutes was some 44 minutes outside my Personal Best, at least it was an improvement on my last shameful DNF effort over the distance.
Nevertheless, I feel like such a failure.
It all started perfectly according to plan. I paced myself at 5 minutes per km for the first half of the race. I hydrated and fuelled myself diligently, even swallowing a couple of those sticky, foul-tasting GU Gel for good measure. I kept my competitive streak in check, refraining myself from having mini-races against those who were trying to overtake me. I even held back from tailing pretty girls with long legs, so that I don’t later in the race turn into a pathetic old man with wobbly legs.
Unfortunately, all that was to no avail.
At the 34km mark, the first twinge of cramp began to rear its ugly head on my hamstrings. I knew if I stopped to stretch them at that point, it would have been all over. However, at the 35km drink station, my lack of mental tenacity forced me to stop and gulp down a cup of water. And it was indeed all over at that point.
When I tried to resume running, my mind was ready, my heart was willing but my hamstrings and calves basically declared: “Buddy, that’s it! We’ve had it, we’re going home. Good luck!”
And that was that!
I started the ‘loser’s walk’ from that point on. Everytime I attempted to run, excuciating pain rippled right along my hamstrings, all the way up to my butt. In fact, I could have picked up a 10 cent coin with my butt cheeks, such was the extent of the tightening sensation in my ass, brought on by the breaking point-strung back thighs.
Jog-walk-stop-curse. Jog-walk-stop-curse. Jog-walk-stop-curse.
That was my pattern for the remaining 7km of the marathon. It was the longest and the most humilating running experience ever since I picked up the hobby again back in 2006.
At one stage, I thought perhaps I’m just getting too old for this shit, having just turned 40. Then, out of nowhere, I got passed by a man who looked at least 65. At another stage, I questioned whether I’m just not the wiry, skinny-type for marathon running. Then, again out of nowhere, I got passed by a 6’6 rotundo, heavy-set type. Basically, I was running out of excuses, and the God-damn finishing line was still an eternity away.
In the end, and I don’t know how, but I did manage to finish.
And having painfully reflected on the race many times over, I have decided that I am NOT going to go out like this.
I have decided that one of the problems may well be due to complacency. I have always considered myself to be pretty competent over anywhere between 10km and 21km. Perhaps I have been foolishly carrying this cockiness over into 42km events. Maybe I should realise that, just because I can run a half-marathon even with a hangover, it doesn’t mean I can run a full marathon fine and proper. Indeed, this is no different to the recent realisation that, just because I can maintain a blog, it doesn’t mean I can write a book.
It comes down to dedication and preparation. Those are the keys to conquering this thing called the marathon.
So, I have decided that I WILL enter another 42km run later this year. And for that event, I aim to follow a strict 8-week marathon training program – something that I have never bothered doing to-date, again most likely due to this unwarranted ‘know-it-all’ complacency that I have built up over the years. Furthermore, if stopping the cramps in the latter stages of a marathon means I have to load up on a cocktail of potassium, electrolytes and minerals a week before the race, then, back up the fuckin’ truck and get in my belly!
Because there is no way I’m going to let 4 hours and 33 minutes to be etched in the books as the time for my last marathon.
More importantly, there is no way in hell I’m going to let jog-walk-stop-curse to be etched in my mind as the chief recollection from my last marathon.
Keep on pounding.