from mile to marathon

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

looking at the bright side

With only two weeks left until Shiprock, I had to put in a decent run this last week-end, sick or not. The last run over five miles was three weeks back, a past so distant I doubted the legs could remember it.

It’s not fun to run when you cannot breath and the coughing shakes you so hard that your chest hurts. But I went out determined not to care, since the alternative – no big run, no Shiprock - was unpalatable. I managed sixteen miles before the body gave in. Less then I hoped, but more than I could reasonably expect. My big run for this marathon is going to be the marathon itself.

This is not the way I wanted to return to Shiprock, my first marathon, my best, my magical race a year ago. But then I don’t think I ever went to a race feeling prepared. I will walk it, if need be. It’s still so much better than not finishing. And that is still so much better than not starting.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I went to a four-day seminar in Santa Fe over the last week-end, very intense, from morning to evening. No way I could do a long run, but I managed to squeeze in over an hour of running Saturday morning, and it was mesmerizing to do it at dawn in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Then I got a fever.

First I thought it was the run - only five miles, but at 7,800 feet it might have tipped the scale toward exhaustion. Then I thought it was stress over the seminar, not a comfortable affair. A Reiki practitioner who saw me that evening concluded I was working too hard.

The fever broke during the night but I am still not well - first it was a headache, then a tummy ache, then a sore throat, today I lost my voice. The bad part is being sick turns me off from running. I cannot envision doing a 16-miler this week-end without getting myself ever sicker.

I said Shiprock, in three weeks from now, will be my last marathon. For a while I wasn't sure, since I spotted one in Taos in June and started plotting how to get there. Now, again, I do not know if I am even able to do Shiprock. The heroic focus I exerted for El Paso while sick for weeks, it might have worked once, but it seems insane to repeat it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

the last six miles

When I first embraced the idea of smiling at mile twenty, I had no idea what that implied.

I had not yet run ten miles. A year later, when I ran my first marathon at Shiprock, I was just as clueless. I hit the wall at mile twenty, without any inkling about the wall awaiting to be hit. Only afterwards did I learn that muscle reserves get depleted thereabouts, and from then on, unless you fuel wisely, you are running on empty. Yes, I was that ignorant.

I thought the smile at mile twenty bloomed from the twenty miles left behind. With so much terrain already covered, the last six miles would inevitably follow, because it did not make sense to falter at that point.

Now I know that is the point where one is prone to falter.

Only now I know that the smile at mile twenty arises from the anticipation of the territory ahead. With a little bit of judicious training, twenty miles, more or less, are a given. It is the stretch beyond this virtual breaking point that we cherish. At the core of our being, the prospect of running further is not what we dread. It is what we relish. It justifies why we are there, on track, undeterred, running. It is what we run for.

The pure motivation to smile.