Every year around this time I fall into a delusional day-dream as I run.
Around mile seven or eight of my first 16 miler in my training schedule my chest swells. I can hear the cheer of the crowd lining the streets. Some upbeat tune plays full blast in my ears. I am transported to race day and I feel great.
Not only am I making an under 4-hour marathon time this year,” I think to myself, “but I’m blowing the doors off.”
The imaginary digital clock under the invisible inflatable arch of the finish line ahead of me flashes 3:45 in my head. That’s my unbelievable time in the world of marathon make-believe.
In my long-run pretending, I stumble to the end. Sometimes I fall. At other times, I cry as I see a parent or loved one past the blue mats that read chip times cheering me on.
During these practices leading up to race day I ignore reality. I become slightly unhinged. The closest I came to running a sub 4-hour marathon was last fall when I clocked in at 4:07. During that run I held onto the delusional dream until about mile 23. That’s when I did what I ALWAYS DO – I bonked.
I ran a 9 minute pace right on the dot for 22 miles, I began run-walking (limping really) at mile 23. My brain told my legs, screw this, you hurt, let’s take a break and walk for a bit. Again, I always do.
I can’t seem to get over the hump. I cannot run an entire 26.2 miles. Do I lack the mental toughness to push through? Am I just physically incapable?
I don’t know. I take it as a sign of weakness that I admit this. Admitting I give up and that my legs give out are a surrender of sorts. Non-runners can tell me I’m too hard on myself. Just finishing (now six marathons) is GREAT!, they say. I still tell myself its bull that I can’t power through.
Of course, I don’t help my cause as I keep putting on weight each running season. I swear I will lose those extra pounds this go around. The more I swear, the less likely the healthier eating is going to happen.
The other bad things I love include clichés. So, I’ll write one here: Running is sort of like life for me. I rage against the thought I am incapable of doing something. Even when mountains of evidence suggest I will never run that fast, write that well, make that much money, or be as successful as I want to be, my natural response is screw the evidence, Katie-bar-the-door, I’ll show you . . . some day. And maybe I embarrass myself and break my heart a bit in the process, but I will not admit defeat.
I’ve watched too many based-on-a-true-story-movies, read to many daily affirmation quotes to let go. It’s also why Batman, not Superman, was my favorite superhero growing up. And no, it’s not because Bruce Wayne was super smart and trained to physical perfection. It’s because Batman, that poor bastard, decided to take on a mission that no matter how well he trains, no matter how equipped or committed he is, he will never, ever win. He just can’t eradicate evil or save everyone. It’ s not possible. But . . . he goes out every day and tries in his pretend little world. He’s done so for 75 years in American popular culture.
And I’ll add here that I know I’m warped. A grown man talking the philosophy of superheroes on a blog about running (and not that well even).
I also know I’ll never be truly happy until I can accept some limitations and base some of my expectations in reality. And as far as running goes, again so much like life, it’s not like I’m getting younger, and therefore faster.
Unless something truly miraculous happens the chances of achieving my dreams are dwindling. And that pisses me off a bit to think about.
Yet, I can’t help but daydream. On those long runs, my mind just goes there. I probably wouldn’t be running if I couldn’t slide in a bit of unrealistic hope.
And honestly, there are times when I look at certain people and think happiness and complete fulfillment is over-rated anyway.
I am delusional. I am a daydreamer. This time I will run a sub-4 hour marathon, right?