Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Marathon Breakdown: 5 Easy Steps

I've been spending some time on my long runs lately wondering what’s going to happen at the Boston Marathon. My past 2 marathons haven’t gone exactly as planned. In each, my calves were left shredded like Dolphins in a tuna can. (Save the Whales! Yes, I've chosen a side.)

With each race, I've cautiously approached the start like a kitten tiptoeing to a saucer of fresh milk.

Hold it.

What’s going on here?

My main metaphorical artery is clogged. Cripes. I need 40 cc’s of Shel Silverstein STAT!

I've determined that my marathon experience usually travels a range of emotions starting and ending with happiness. Those middle areas? Well, they’re like…like…bad…or something. (I’m going to need a booster shot of Kafka also.)

So, I’d like to relive these stages for you now. Here in my forum. Perhaps you stopped by for more discussion on Huey Lewis and have no interest in running? Perhaps you are now considering leaving. Perhaps, you know, you should just shut up about it and read on. There is a lesson to be learned here whether or not you are a runner or baker or needle pointer or reality TV star or, anything, really. The lesson? Nitmos don’t like miles 18-22. Take that and apply it to your own career or hobby. And you’re welcome.

With the metaphorical medicine working its metaphorical magic, I wish to liken each stage to that of a metaphorical relationship. **

My typical marathon in 5 easy to read stages.

Stage 1: Dating

Keyword: Exhilarating

The first few miles are exciting. Lots of new people. Lots to see and do (again, metaphorically, as really, you are just running). Everything is new and fresh. Hope abounds. What could go wrong? Depending on the size of the race, this is also the closest anyone will come to being part of an actual stampede.

Stage 2. The Honeymoon

Keyword: Happiness

Somewhere around miles 5-11, you've chosen your mate, er, pace. You are feeling pretty strong. The world is your Hello Kitty purse (let’s not get into this issue here). This marathon thing isn't so bad. The aid station water even tastes like a Bahama Mama served at a poolside Jamaican all-inclusive resort. You can imagine the stunned looks on your friends’ faces when you sprint out that 26th mile in 5:30, grab your banana (maybe a Fig Newton) and circle back to the start shouting over your shoulder that your are “going for a second lap”.

Stage 3: Career

Keyword: Contentment

In these middle miles, time has flown by. Where did the time go? Here you were savoring every mile just a short while ago and now you have become so distracted by career (the first signs of exhaustion) and family (my legs hurt) that you barely notice your sagging gut (knees hurt) and serious demeanor (serious demeanor). You've settled in now. It’s a haul but you are still up for it.

Stage 4: Trial Separation

Keyword: Pain

At some point after mile 18, all of the aches and pains suddenly hit. I hate this marathon. Where did the marathon I was dating go? You're thinking you don’t want anymore to do with it. The water now tastes like the collective spit of the aid station workers rubbing their hands together with a chorus of mwahahahas. Also, somewhere in this range, you typically fight the urge to punch a smiling spectator in the throat (at least, I do. I don't want to speak for everyone else.)

Stage 5: Renewed Vows

Keyword: Reconciliation

By mile 22, the worst has passed. All of those problems you had in the last stage were merely symptoms of a mid race crisis. You worked through it. You're looking forward to the finish now. Of course, since this is a race and not an actual relationship, you didn't get to own a Corvette, get a Gold’s gym membership, and wear gold chains and a muscle shirt during the last stage. You did, however, lose all feeling below the waist. So, in some respects, it’s the same.

By the time you cross the finish line, you're once again exhilarated and content. It was worth it! Now comes the post-race stage (Kids), where you’ll find non-stop aches and pains for the foreseeable future.

I expect to be in mid-race crisis somewhere in the Newton Hills of the Boston Marathon. If you are there and see a half crazed, Dolphin-hating runner, with an angry look in his eyes, cover your throats. Fair warning.

Happy trails.

** I realize some of these “metaphors” may actually be “similes”. If you noticed, this is another thing you can shut up about. **

** I also realize I have been using footnotes way too frequently. Guess what? I’m going to continue to use them starting with here. **

** Here **

** And here.


Danielle in Iowa said...

Often those smiling spectators deserve it for saying things like "You're almost there!" at Mile 20, when they clearly do not know that Miles 20-26 last for an eternity and a half.

Growing up in the hills of Newton* (only to marathon runners is Newton known for its topography), we used to have marathon parties and camp out and watch the runners and laugh :-)

*Since you mentioned the Fig Newton, it was indeed named after my town. You can mull on that during the race :-)

nwgdc said...

GREAT PIECE! Every time I think of those early miles, running the last mile in 5:30, and then heading out for a second lap!!! Hilarious!

Vanilla said...

Now I really don't want to run a marathon, but nice use of the quadruple footnote. It's not everyday that one gets to witness a footnote on a footnote on a footnote about another footnote on a footnote.

Topher said...

I may be with Vanilla. Was planning on doing my first full later this year, but now I'm second guessing my stupidity. Hmmm, I wonder if I could just take a cab through my "career" and "trial separation" phase...

Amanda said...

Dude I take full credit for this post, you know all my talk of weddings got you thinking about what a great metaphor it would be for you.

Eric Gervase said...

In my first and only marathon last year, I didn't hit the "trial separation" until mile 22. But, I never got to the "renewed vows". But, we're talking about dating again. So, hopefully it goes better this time.

L*I*S*A said...

Love the multiple footnotes. Gives it such a nice, author-like touch.

Anonymous said...


Have ever considered running with a cast iron skillet in your hand and when you get to miles 18-22, grip it a little tighter and beat the crap out of miles 18-22(metaphorically speaking)?

Go Steers,

sRod said...

Not gonna lie: I'm a little upset that you couldn't carry the relationship metaphor through Stage 3. How about "the first house?" Everyone is content with their first house, but it's not their dream home.

Otherwise, completely agree with all the stages. God, how you feel invincible during those first miles. And while those last miles suddenly become easy, they are unmercifully long.

RazZDoodle said...

so wait a're dating a marathon? what's a metaphor?

The Laminator said...

Very nice analogy and the footnote on footnotes was very cool footsteps as you're running past us...Wait is that a metaphor too? I'm confused. Anyway, I'm sure you'll rock that Newton speed bump and laugh at it after reconciliation.

MissAllycat said...

Love stage four - great description. Thanks for outing me for reading blogs at work - my coworkers are wondering what I'm laughing about. :)

thebets said...

Love the stages! However, I ran two full marathons in the past year and never reached stage 5. What am I doing wrong? I did have a run-in with an obnoxiously happy spectator at mile 23 of my last one. She actually ran on to the race course and tried to stop me just to tell me that her name was Betsy too. If I had enough energy left in me to lift up my arm and punch her in her in the throat, I would have...good idea.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Vanilla. This reaffirms my committment to stay far far away from running a marathon.

Reluctant Runner said...

I must be a very embittered person because I spend much of every long run in stage 4: "I hate this run". And I have just barely reached 30K in my marathon training schedule. I think the actual marathon experience might end up being like a very long production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Thank you for a very funny post!