Sometime in November, I decided to run a marathon. But obviously, just saying “I’m going to run a marathon,” does not make it so. So I needed to actually train. Unfortunately, the day after I decided to run a marathon, I got bitten by a dog on a run, and that made me very not into running. Already I was not into running. As a swimmer, I like floating. Some people think swimming is hard, but, like, you can just float there. If I went limp while swimming, I’d float. If I went limp while running, I’d probably break my nose on the pavement.
After I decided to run a marathon, I found a marathon training website that gave me a 21 week schedule to prepare. Then I found a marathon that was happening about 21 weeks from December 1st, so I decided to try training and if I thought I could keep up training, I would sign up.
The first few weeks of training were easy – just running for 20-40 minutes every other day. Over New Years I totally fell off the wagon. I took two weeks off my training. Then, in the middle of January, I was like “YOU ARE LAZY. GO RUN.” The deadline to sign up for the Chunghwa Marathon was approaching and I still really wanted to do it, but I didn’t trust that I actually could.
Then one Saturday I went for a run. I was planning on running 5 kilometers. But the weather, which had been gray and cold for the previous few weeks, was warm and sunny. I thought: why don’t I keep running?
I ran 12 kilometers. That’s probably not a big deal for some people, but for a floater like me, getting myself to run for more than an hour (it took me over an hour because I’m slow) is amazing (I didn’t even motivate myself with cupcakes!).
The path I ran was one I’d done before: run down my street about 2km, turn right and start a slight incline up a road with a nice sidewalk that becomes a steeper incline until you’re at a park area. The sidewalk vanishes, but keep going up the road, which turns into a single curving lane up a hill, until you’re at an overlook where you can see ALL OF KEELUNG. It was beautiful. I thought I would turn around there, but it was such a wonderful day. So I kept going another 2 km until the road starts to significantly slope downward. Fearing the inevitable ascent if I kept on, I turned around at 6km instead of going further down.
This has since become my favorite exercise: pushing myself up the hill for the view and the solitude of a jog on small hillside road.
You’re probably wondering: why am I running a marathon?
At first: I’ve always been interested in doing triathlons. Since I’m a swimmer, I feel like I can swim well enough. But since I’m a swimmer and never really ran competitively (besides Marie Murphy school Olympics – RED TEAM REPRESENT), I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. So, why not sign up for a marathon, do it, and then feel confident with shorter runs in triathlons down the line?
Then: WHEN ELSE AM I GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS? My body is deteriorating naturally and I’d rather do a marathon now then later. I know I could just never run a marathon, but then I’d never be able to say I ran a marathon.
Which brings me to the most important reason: why am I running a marathon? To say I ran a marathon. This sounds totally selfish, but I wouldn’t be saying it to other people, unless they asked, “hey have you ran a marathon?” “Yeah.” That’s not what this is about for me. It’s about me telling me I ran a marathon. I’ve realized that discipline is so incredibly important to accomplishing anything meaningful in my life. During adolescence, it’s easy for exterior factors to influence your discipline (need to get good grades for college apps, need to go to practice because my teammates are counting on me, need to work hard for my parents, need to blah Blah BLAH). But post-grad has been the first time that no one really cares what I do (yes I have a job, but that seems a lot more compartmentalized; for whatever reason, it doesn’t carry over into how I feel about myself the way responsibilities in high school and college did). So I want to run a marathon because training for a marathon requires DISCIPLINE. Running the marathon of April 25th will require DISCIPLINE. And I want to refine my SELF-DISCIPLINE. I imagine in the weeks, months, years after I’ve finished the marathon, I’ll keep that memory in my back pocket for when I’m struggling with a project, as a way to remind myself I can accomplish things, I can push past a breaking point, mentally or physically. “Remember that time I ran a marathon?” “Yeah.”
This past Friday I ran 23 kilometers for my 23rd birthday. To be honest, it was not impressive. I was so slow. Sometimes I feel like I could’ve gone faster, but I remind myself that it’s not about going fast, it’s just about going. I got myself a KILLAH playlist that’s capable of amping me up hills. At first I was hesitant to be animated while running, but now I silently sing along. Sometimes I air drum. At school there was a Professor who would run around a field shouting along to his music, and I remember thinking: that guys kinda weird. But now, I’m like: “I DON’T CARE IF YOU STARE AT ME. I KNOW I’M NOT CRAZY.” But people do stare at me. I think it’s because I’m black (is that racist? Not people looking at me because I’m black, but me thinking people are looking at me because I’m black?). Not in a mean way, but like, “whoa who’s that?” I TURN HEADS, YO!
My knees hurt almost the whole 3 hours, but you know, gotta keep runnin’. After I got back to my apartment, I gave myself an ice bath and it was quite soothing. I think I need to stretch more, but I don’t really know anything about stretching. Maybe I just need to stretch more effectively.
I hope I can run the marathon. I think I can. I know the only thing that stops everyday people from being great athletes is their minds. Somewhere there’s a circuit breaker in our minds that tells us when we’re “overloaded,” but some people’s tolerance is just so much higher. They can push their bodies so much more. I know what I’m asking my body to do, it can do because I’m a fairly healthy person. I know that it’s not my body that would fail – it’s my mind. I have seven more weeks of training before my mind goes through the final test. On my 23km day, a few times I thought: “Maybe I should stop…” But then I told myself: “No. Keep running.” And I did.