To run is to make yourself vulnerable. Unlike other activities, there are comparably few skills to learn and it is something as natural to our bodies as eating and sleeping, making it much more difficult to hide behind a lack-of-knowledge. It is not a team activity, depriving you of the many excuses to be made from the innumerable variables that such sports entail. While running to the best of your abilities, you are exposed to everyone, yourself included. In a race, you cannot pretend to be better than you really are. Time and speed are not subjective. On top of those things, running, for whatever reason, intimidates people. I have seen few commands (let alone ones that are shown to prolong your life) inject fear into the hearts of middle school girls more than the gym teacher informing the class “time to run the mile.”
I have been thinking about these things a lot lately. There is plenty of literature out there about how human beings are literally engineered for long distance running (I even wrote a little article on it). It has always baffled me how averse people are to the activity. But then again, looking back to when I first started in the fall of seventh grade, I too hated moving my legs for prolonged periods of time with a fiery passion. In fact, during the first week of Cross Country, I went as far as to hide out in the woods during the team run in order to save myself an extra fifteen minutes of dreadful physical effort. It wasn’t until I connected with a handful of hugely influential people that my interest was piqued. I won’t get too into that here (I could easily write an article on those people alone), but I will say that I had two coaches in particular that helped me recognize running’s potential. So here I am now, hoping to give whoever reads this a fraction of the encouragement they gave me. Anyways, the day that it finally clicked was July 28th, 2012. Since that fateful date, I have run (at least one mile) every single day except for 99. Well actually, I’m writing this instead of running today, so that makes 100. My average distance (mean) has been almost exactly 4 miles per day. The longest streak I have made it without missing a day was 811, though I made two other 150+ streaks as well, one of which ended yesterday (ran second marathon a couple days ago, legs are tired). This technique of running every day is not necessarily a smart one when it comes to training. Most elite runners take a week or two off here and there to recover, or don’t run on Sundays. However, the point I hope to illustrate is that I choose to run for more reasons than simply for race times or health benefits. To me, the lifestyle is for my mental health more than anything else. It is a stable force for good in my life, and one that I feel we all need. People are very much goal-driven. We like definite accomplishments that we can check off of our lists. Thus, I would like to make a plea that you can probably guess from the title. I want you to run a marathon.
As I mentioned earlier, huge amounts of evidence points to the face that we as humans are physiologically made to run long distances. However, I’m not going to do the usual anecdote-followed-by-data article that proves so effective. No, this time I’m going to make a plea from the heart, backed up by nothing but a single one of my experiences, and see if I can’t get you to hit the pavement with thousands of strangers in the most sadistic parade ever conceived.
It was mile fifteen. I had just passed the furthest distance my legs had ever carried me, though at the moment the realization failed to hit me. My headphones had fallen out, exposing my ears to the unbelievably gentle sound of seven thousand sweaty bodies pounding over the pavement. To my left, Lake Superior unfolded as wide as any ocean I’d ever seen. The rain had proven relentless for the first half of the race, but now slivers of light were tearing apart the clouds. No thoughts were being articulated in my mind; my own body felt weightless and I remember no pain. I can’t promise what your body will feel physically if you experience this point in a marathon, but I know what emotions you will experience. Everyone I’ve ever talked to who has ran a marathon has shared them. Invincibility. It dominates not only your entire being, but that of each runner around you. You mesh with the crowd, feeding off one another’s, creating this organism of nothing but movement and energy. It’s not possible to feel sadness or anger at this point in the race; you kicked it behind miles ago. Now, all that’s left is confidence because you are doing something of such difficulty that there cannot be anything left out of your reach.
So much of my life depends on external factors. Decisions by other people about what I can do. After all, you don’t hire yourself for the job, get to decide which schools accept you, or control when it rains on your parade. Yet, when you are out there running, you feel more in control than at any other moment in your life. You might be in pain, you might not, either way it is your decision to keep going, and having that precious choice makes all of the difference. Running will make you live longer and get fitter, and who knows what else, but more than anything, it gives you the opportunity to make a choice that no one else can make for you. The choice to endure for no reason other than because you can. Regardless of your pace or comfort, you are making a decision to do this, and if you embrace that power, I’m willing to bet you’ll find it quite addicting. It will make life’s everyday challenges seem smaller. It will give you the capacity for handling bad luck, because honestly, if you willingly subject your body to the level of discomfort that running can entail, how much worse could a few bumps in the road be?
Do me a favor, run a marathon. If that seems a bit much right now, then at least go outside for a couple miles. If that seems to hard, find a treadmill in front of a television and watch Game of Thrones while jogging. Anyplace is a good one to start. I know this isn’t my best writing, and it’s definitely not the caliber of argument I was hoping to make, but please, just trust me on this one. If you run consistently, your life will improve. I’m not saying you’ll win the lottery or get a six pack. You might even puke if you run a little too hard. But puking by your own doing is a heck of a lot better than doing it because you can’t help it, right? Okay, I’m losing myself here. Just go for a run. Don’t expect it to feel magical at first, that takes time and consistency. But once you get that one momentous moment, I promise you’ll be hooked. And when the day comes that you sign up for the 26.2-mile-march, let me know, and I’ll freak out because that means I may have helped share something so important to me that I just rambled on about it for quite some time. And that’s pretty cool.
Oh, and read Born to Run if you want to be further enthused.