“Hopelessly Inadequate” is not something most people like to feel first thing on a Sunday morning- let alone when you haven’t even had your
sweet nectar of life morning coffee yet. But feel it I did, as I sleepily stumbled out of my apartment and straight into dozens of dry-fit, numbered-bib clad runners, all making their way to the starting line of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
Of course, “inadequate” was not the only thing I felt upon encountering these shiny, happy (presumably already caffeinated) individuals at 8 a.m. “Fat” and “resentful” were also thrown in there, peppered by a slight hint of self-loathing.
It also made me think back on my own experiences as a distance runner.
I’ve always considered myself somewhat athletic; I played soccer and basketball in high school, ran the occasional 5k, and have been sufficiently trained in the arts of smurf-biting; figure four leg locks; and the circle game due to having two older brothers.
Perhaps fuelled by this sense of false confidence, 3 years ago I signed up to run a half-marathon.
I spent about 6 months training, running anywhere from 30-50 km/ week, and during this process, I learned a number of important lessons:
- Chafing is no laughing matter
- You will not lose any weight while training, because you will constantly be as hungry as Kirstie Alley on an all-protein shake diet
- Cotton is not your friend
- No matter what delicious sounding flavour combinations they come up with, energy gels will always taste like ass
and, most importantly:
- Anyone who would ever attempt to run TWICE this distance- a full marathon- must be a masochist.
You see, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with running. I mean, I do it and everything- but I’d be lying if I said I was primarily motivated by a love for the sport, rather than an overarching desire to look like Giselle Bunchden.
While I love the feeling of having completed a run, the process itself is usually painful, and I spend most of my time wishing it were over. About 1 run out of 10, I manage to hit “the zone” and am all “one with my thoughts” and stuff; but unfortunately for me, on the day of my half, instead of hitting “the zone”- I only managed to hit a deep dark zone called hell. For 2…straight….hours. I remember seeing the full marathoners continuing on for another 21 kilometres, and thinking to myself that these people must be distant relatives of Astar- the Robot from Planet Danger, who are either impervious to pain, or have some sort of sick fascination with it.
But yesterday, as I looked at this group of runners on the street, I was surprised at how.. well… normal they all looked. In fact, their levels of fitness seemed to be less “Kenyan Immigrant” and more “couldn’t watch a ‘Top Chef’ marathon let alone run one“.
And there were so MANY of them. In fact, 3,951 people completed the full marathon this year. Waayyyt? I did a little investigatory journalism on google and discovered that marathoning is incredibly hot right now. The Boston Marathon sold out last year in under 8 hours, and marathon participation in the US is up nearly 10% in the past two years. It seems like any joe blow is doing it- joining a Team In Training to raise money for charity, or simply crossing off another item on their “bucket list”. Time Magazine even published an article about this phenomenon recently. They blame Facebook.
I find this all very frightening. We stage interventions for people who engage in other sorts of self-harming behavior, like cutting, or crystal meth additions, and yet we all stand by and watch marathoners throw themselves at the mercy of the unforgiving running gods time and time again. What gives??
I called up a Marathoner friend of mine (who has completed two ridiculously fast marathons, and qualified for Boston in her first shot..I’m convinced she’s part gazelle), and asked her point blank why she puts herself through this. She gave me two reasons:
1. The “Runner’s High” you get after completing a marathon is apparently one of the most intense feelings of natural euphoria.
Fair…. But that sh*t fades. I’m not buyin it.
2. Carbo Loading. When training for a marathon, you can basically eat whatever the hell you want… and in the weeks leading up to the marathon- your diet is meant to consist of approximately 70% Carbohydrates.
THERE it is.
It’s so simple- why I didn’t think of this. You little marathoning robots aren’t exceptionally virtuous OR masochistic… you’re just hopelessly addicted to pasta and dinner rolls. Instead of feeling jealous of you, I should be feeling sorry for you.. or offering to fix you a salad.
Well – I guess if we’ve learned anything here today, it’s this: Friends don’t let friends run marathons.
……Unless they offer for you to be their plus one at the pre-race pasta dinner. Then I guess its ok.