Saturday, January 16, 2016

Three Fourty-Four: A Marathon

There's nothing like it. Not love, not money, not good news, not great memories. Nothing comes close to the feeling you get when your effort pays off. You can't explain it, and in a way it's inherently selfish: you look at yourself and share your pride with yourself, and yourself only.
I was raised to believe modesty is the only way to be an upstanding member of a (freshly post communist) society. Russians do not encourage. Pride goes hand in hand with guilt, and I grew up with my parents enthusiastically pointing out everything that could ever be wrong with me. Luckily I got you back, mom, through the art of the written word! Who's laughing now?


I ran my first marathon in October. It's been three months and I've only now gotten the nerve to write about it with the pride it deserves. But today I thought enough is enough, it needs to be said: I fucking killed it. If it had come easily, if it had been something that happened by chance, I wouldn't bother writing about it because nobody likes a bragger. It did not happen by accident. I gave up my summer, my weekends, my sleep, some friends, and any sense of physical comfort. I broke a few toes, lost a few nails, and came embarrassingly close to fainting on a number of occasions. I wanted to stop, to skip runs, I wanted to give up more than I would ever admit. I didn't feel the running paying off, I just felt weaker as every week went by. And then, Toronto came. And then it was time to just do it, and I felt the same way I did three years ago, when I first thought about running. I was so nervous I put my mom and sister in a separate hotel room from mine. Anais suggested I get race gear because no matter what happens, I'll always want to remember my first marathon, so I got this one.


I couldn't find the 4:30 pacer so I decided to start with the 3:30 and let myself fall behind.  I didn't feel the first 15 kilometres. They just flew by, song after song, mile after mile, with no breaks or walking.  It was only at the halfway point that I realized my legs had started to shake. 15k later I knew I was in a new place. I had never run longer than 26km and I didn't know how my body would react to this new distance. This is what makes me nervous: the uncharted part. Still, I didn't stop, aside from slowing down to have a power gel. "I figure once we hit 35k, we're in the clear!" a Rastafarian man wearing head-to-toe neon green walked up behind me, eating a gel of his own. Perfect, I'm hallucinating, I thought. I mumbled something incomprehensible akin to "good luck" or something, and we both laughed and began running again.

I could no longer feel my feet in the last 5k. The pain had become too much to process, so I counted on what I memorized as a running stance, no longer sure of how fast I was going. I remember the 41km mark. The numbers ceased being numbers and it stopped being a countdown, but was something my body had decided was a continuous treadmill of pavement. And then..the finish line.  All I hoped was to not fall before hitting it. I remembered my silly goal of 3:55 that I talked about in the blog post I wrote while training.  It couldn't be that fast- I had fallen behind when my knees started to kill - but I knew I would be happy with whatever I got, as long as I just didn't fall. Hundreds of people high-fived us as we ran the last kilometre. I was sure I would cry, but all I did was thank them again and again, gasping for those last few breaths that would get me there so I could finally stop.  Just finish. Don't fall.


3:44

Three motherfucking fourty-four. 



Did I cry when I saw this? No. It's been months and I've been waiting to have that moment where I realize how overwhelming it was to see myself beating any goal I could've ever imagined. I thought I would be overcome with a mental slideshow of how far I've come, but I've felt nothing aside from an overwhelming shock. I'm still in shock, months later. 


230 / 1313 in my gender. 50/ 236 in the 25-29 category.  1:46 half-marathon time. *enter every Kanye song that has ever existed* Turns out the Hansons Marathon program really works. It kicks your ass, it's hard as hell, but it works. It helps you endure the pain, it helps you stay strong, stay light on your feet despite feeling every pound hit that pavement for the last few miles. It helps you push the pain aside, and isn't that what you have to do, not only in running but in life? Just keep going.

Running with hypothyroid can be tough.  My body wants to be slow, with my metabolism constantly playing tug of war against the supplements I take to counter it. It's a constant struggle to run faster, run lighter, to persevere despite the voice that tells me to just sit this one out. What screams louder than all that is effort. Effort is what got me here, bragging my ass off, and I stand behind it. Effort has no emotion. It doesn't care about your excuses. It just is or it isn't. You train, you see results. Effort will never let you down. I'm proud that I've felt it, I'm proud to have found the formula, and to have found that it's actually very simple: do it. In a sea of catchy sayings and quotes that are supposedly meant to inspire but don't hold weight in the real world, this is the absolute truth.

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