from mile to marathon

The journey of a thousand leagues begins from beneath your feet.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

the zone

The first time I did six miles, I was utterly spent by the time I stepped off the treadmill. I was still running in the evening then, and by stomach was in knots after dinner. I stepped off the treadmill dizzy, and managed somehow to drag myself home. My cheeks were flushed, my breath was short, and everything was sore. Everything, not just the legs.

The second time I was due for six miles it was a week-end, and I went to the exercise room Saturday morning. Even though I pushed myself for a more sustained pace, and thus exerted more effort, the experience was surprisingly different. Don’t get me wrong, it did not come easy. But it wasn’t exhausting. I was left with the willingness, even eagerness to do more. Seven miles was an approachable prospect, a task likely to be finished. Until then, the next mile I had to add to my trek had been an insurmountable task, a scary prospect, a dreaded anticipation.

That Saturday morning though – April 9th – I fell unawares into some sort of rhythm. I didn’t loath the time spans at high speed, I almost looked forward to them, those several minutes at 4.6-4.8 miles/hour, when my motion became so sustained, my pace so seamless, that in spite of the acceleration I felt as if I moving in slow motion, not in control of my own advance, but controlled by it, propelled by it, carried forward, like an athlete in THE ZONE. Okay, so 4.8 miles an hour doesn’t warrant bringing up such a transcendent term as “the zone.” But, slow and humble, I had an inkling of it.

I could not describe it as exhilarating, because it came with a mixture of soberness,, relief, and astonishment that grounded it to the earthiness of my rigid muscles. But I felt, for the first time, regardless of prior speculation, wishful thinking, alleged determination, or wild hope, I felt that one day I would, I could run the marathon.

I even returned home, through the beguiling fragrance of spring, walking like a normal person.

In any case, running in the morning, with a lean stomach, was much better than carrying around the load of dinner.


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