My first entry for this blog was 41 entries ago, on the 26th October 2012. Now, as I reach the conclusion of my eighth cycle of marathon training I’m wondering how I feel at the end of all this. Just a longish run, and the obligatory Nan-Jog left till its race day again.
Like those earlier entries, I find myself drawn to Murakami again and his excellent book of wise running words ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’. He identifies:
“Usually when I approach the end of marathon, all I want to do is get it over with, and finish the race as soon as possible. That’s all I can think of. But as I drew near the end of this ultramarathon, I wasn’t really thinking about this. The end of the race is just a temporary marker without much significance. It’s the same with our lives. Just because there’s an end doesn’t mean existence has meaning. An end point is simply set up as a temporary marker, or perhaps as an indirect metaphor for the fleeting nature of existence” (p.115).
So fleety one, how are you feeling now?
How’s that temporary marker of the meaninglessness of your existence coming along?
Well, hmm, thanks Mr Murakami.
But then he brings it round, in only the way he can (read the book and you’ll know what I mean) by a further turn of the page….
“At this point a new feeling started to well up in me – nothing as profound as a feeling of pride, but at least a certain sense of completion. A personal feeling of happiness and relief that I had accepted something risky and still had the strength to endure it. In this instance, relief outweighed happiness. It was like a tight knot inside me was gradually loosening, a knot I’d never even realized, until then, was there.” (p.115-116, my emphasis)
The rhythm in his writing, the ups and downs of mood it conveys, and the vision it gives is much like that I think everyone experiences from running.
So what does the end of this training cycle reveal, what does it mean?
Well it should be a sense of achievement whatever that training cycle has brought to you, however injury affected or not, how much of struggle or not it has been. This is an achievement. You’re ready, whatever your body, head, or heart will be telling you, to run and you should visualise your race day. Get prepared to enjoy it, be present to what’s going to happen, whatever the time. Again Murakami helps here:
“Competing against time isn’t important. What’s going to be much more meaningful to me is how much I can enjoy myself, whether I can finish twenty-six miles with a feeling of contentment. I’ll enjoy and value things that can’t be expressed in numbers, and I’ll grope for a feeling of pride that comes from a slightly different place” (p.121)
Now whilst I don’t agree with the ‘time isn’t important’ line, we all have our target times, and achievement of these will make a massive contribution to our level of contentment. What’s more important here is the non-numbers bit. The fact running as part of a group you’ve shared some key moments at your weakest with others, forged new friendships through that, connected with yourself in entirely new ways, and persisted with something in a way that you perhaps thought impossible, before you started all this. And even, perhaps on occasion during some of it.
Now stronger, coming from these experiences you can head into race day with a contentment, a satisfaction, pride, a reward to yourself that come race day you will have packed a bag of experience ready for the journey ahead that will leave you prepared for what’s coming. Give you the support you’ll need to get through the pain and the struggles, help you revel in the joy of the experience, and get to the end, the temporary marker, but with a different appreciation of what YOU have been able to do, and what YOU have done to get there, and what YOU will have achieved by getting to the end.
That end is in sight, reach for it.
Relax your body.
Dedicate those kilometres.
Get to that next lamppost.
Get the techno on. Big box, little box
You’re off the sofa. You’ve got the medal. The end is the end. Smash it.