The Spontaneous Marathon: A Marathon With No Training
This Wednesday morning I ran a marathon.
With no training.
In a city where there isn’t a flat stretch of land any longer than a couple hundred feet.
It wasn’t fast by all means, but I covered 26.2 miles by foot and lived to tell the story.
The good thing about writing a blog on adventure and personal development is that it forces me to step out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. The thoughts going through my head at the beginning of this week were something like:
“I haven’t doing anything ridiculously epic in a couple weeks. Hmm, what can I do here in Asheville? I know! I’ll run a marathon!”
Before I go into my marathon adventure, realize that there were a couple things working against me:
- I’m fat – Not fat like “I eat all my meals at McDonald’s” fat. But fat like “I’m a 220 pound Asian man” fat. Yes, I am around 100 pounds too heavy to be a competitive long distance runner, but that wasn’t stopping me.
- I don’t run – I’ve never been much of a runner. I was an overweight kid growing up and then as I got older I transitioned into weightlifting and powerlifting. Then I got into practicing and teaching yoga. Today my workout routine looks a lot like what they teach over at Physifit. Running long distances isn’t and hasn’t ever been part of my workout repertoire.
So now that you have a little background information, here’s a story about a fat guy who doesn’t run finishing a marathon…
At the beginning of this week I decided I was going to run a marathon. I looked at the weather forecast for Asheville and the warmest day was going to be on Wednesday so I decided that would be the day. The night before was Valentine’s Day so I had the added benefit of carbo loading with some great homemade shrimp scampi, french bread and ice cream.
On the morning of the race I wrote this blog post and debated on whether or not to post it. I stared at it for a long, long time. I hadn’t told anyone I was running a marathon so I easily could have backed out and stayed home. I had that butterflies in the stomach feeling as my finger hovered over the “Publish” button. My internal dialogue battled for a while. It went something like this:
This is crazy, there’s no way you’ll finish. Running a marathon at your weight is impossible. But you do the impossible all the time. Let’s do this!
Why do you have to announce it to the world though? Why not just try it and write about it if you finish? Burn the ships! Throw in all your eggs! Dive in headfirst!
I’m going to fail. I know it. Well, failure is just feedback. No matter what happens today, you will learn from it and you’ll be better for it.
With my mind made up I hit “Publish,” sent some tweets out to some fellow adventurers, and walked out the door.
I set up a mini aid station in the trunk of my car with Myoplex, Gatorade, water and bananas. The plan was to run out for a couple miles, come back and refuel, and repeat until I hit 26.2 miles.
The first mile wasn’t bad. Then somewhere in the second mile I had a startling discovery. Asheville is really, really hilly. At any given time I was either running up or down a hill. My confidence started to waver.
At around mile 6 I was totally sure that I wasn’t going to make it. I had 20 miles left and in my mind that seemed like an impossible number of miles to run after running an extremely hilly 6 miles already.
Then I looked down at my phone and had some messages from friends.
That’s all I needed to keep pushing on. At least for a couple more miles I figured.
So I kept moving. And drinking Gatorade. And eating bananas. And moving some more.
After a while I was suddenly at 13 miles. The most I had run before this was a half marathon, so I was excited to make it back to that mileage at least.
At this point I was walking a majority of the course. The hills had already done a number on my body so running was pretty much out of the question.
I really, really, really wanted to quit at mile 16. There were 10 miles left which seemed like an eternity. But the messages kept rolling in.
That last tweet from Kyle carried me for at least another couple miles. Kyle is by far the most ridiculously fit dude I know, so I channeled my inner Kyle and kept moving. And drinking water. And listening to Bon Iver. And taking deep, full conscious breaths.
Somewhere in between there I made several stops to the YMCA to refill on water, several trips to the apartment for snacks, and a trip to Ingles supermarket to use their bathroom. Which was kind of a fun break. As I walked through the aisles of the supermarket I thought, “Little do you people know that I’m in the middle of a marathon. Tee hee hee.”
And then sometime shortly after I looked at my phone and I had somehow completed 25 miles. And then even more messages came through.
So I kept moving. And drinking water. And thinking about my mom a lot. And my dad and brother. And people who inspire me. People like Nate who walked across America last year, Joel who ran a Half-Ironman, and Josh who despite many health challenges is the only person who I’ve met who’s more optimistic than me.
I thought about how lucky I was to be experiencing this moment in an unbelievably beautiful place. And how lucky I was to be alive in general.
The last half mile was through a beautiful nature path that leads back to the apartment. I looked at my iPhone and watched as I got to a quarter mile away from the finish. Then a tenth of a mile away. Then a couple hundredths of a mile away. Then a single hundredth of a mile away. Then I was there.
I completed a marathon.
The feeling of doing something you once thought was impossible is unlike anything else. It opens up a world of opportunity as you smash through your fears, limiting beliefs, and perceptions of human potential. Now that I’ve finished a marathon, I’ll run one again in the near future. I’ll actually train for it though (a little) and I’ll choose a nice, steady flat course. It will be fun.
Here are the full statistics from my run as tracked by the endomondo app on my iPhone (which I highly recommend). The time is nothing to brag about, but I did face a total elevation gain of 3983 feet, with a total elevation change of 8137 feet.
And I didn’t run the marathon for time, but I ran it for myself. Making comparisons is a big waste of time. The only person who I make comparisons to is myself.
And today that self is walking around like a 90 year old penguin.