Diary of a Marathon Trainee: The Marathon Conversation

September 12th, 2014 | In Running Meets Life, Training

What I call “The Marathon Conversation” is predictable to a fault. It starts like this:

“Oh my gosh, what happened to your toenail?”

“Oh, yeah, I run a lot.”

“You run a lot?”

“Well I’m training for a marathon.”

Person A kills several minutes acting appalled, like I pull my own teeth out for fun.

“I could never run for that long. I would rather die. I would rather you murder me slowly right now.”

“You could do it. It’s all mental.”

“Do you listen to music?”

“No, I don’t like earphones.”

“Really? What do you think about for that long?”

That’s my favorite question because I think it’s really interesting. What do I think about? I usually just say I drive myself crazy, which pieces everything together for them. But for all of you who struggle to answer this question on a daily basis, I’ve compiled a list to which you can refer people. And if some of these are new to you, maybe it’ll give you something fresh to think about.

  1. My week. This usually starts out my run because forward physical motion is the best remedy for lack of forward mental motion. I organize my goals, break them down into to-do lists, pep myself up for upcoming events, pound out tomorrow’s stresses and yesterday’s woes, etc. That will usually take me two miles. Great, my entire life is situated. Now what?
  2. Music! Maybe to override the sound of my wheezy breath, my brain fishes around for some rhythmic song and then plays one line of it on repeat without my approval. It’s usually a song that I hate, like “Umbrella” by Rihanna, but it’s always set to my breathing and running tempos, so I let it carry me for a mile or two. And then it fades into background music and haunts me for the rest of the run.
  3. I daydream sometimes, but I find that’s the worst kind of thinking to run to. I slow without realizing it, lose steam, get too caught up in it. So nix it.
  4. This blog! Writing in general, actually. I can entertain myself for a long time recomposing sentences. I think I’ve written four complete novels while running, but I’m too bored of it by the time I get home to write it down, which is definitely for the better.
  5. I think about how lucky I am to be able to run and feel alive. This one comes early on. In another hour, when I’ve forgotten what it’s like not to be running, I don’t feel alive at all.
  6. When I start to feel tired, I motivate myself by doing math. I find that breaking the run into segments, calculating pace, and translating distance into fractions and percentages is the perfect balance of staying aware of my progress and getting just confused enough to be distracted from  my fatigue.
  7. When I get really tired, I have a few inspirational quotes I pull out to keep my mental strength up. My favorite is an excerpt from a poem by Rudyard Kipling: “If you can force your heart and  nerve and sinew / to serve your turn long after they are gone / and so hold on when there is nothing in you / except the Will which says to them Hold on.” Another good one: “The human spirit is greater than the human condition.”
  8. Finally, when I’m exhausted and I’ve just got to keep powering through, my weary mind which can no longer hold a conversation with itself grasps at just a few words and turns them into a chant to the rhythm of my breathing. The first marathon I did, the last four miles I just thought “The Will, the Will, the Will….

Written by: Emily Overcarsh

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