Most people I know like synergy and roundness in their life. If there’s a yin, they want the yang right there with it. Most people prefer even numbers to odd. Most people prefer watching the movie all at once rather than in pieces. And, of course, most people eat dessert because it completes the meal (although I’ll argue dessert does just fine by itself).
In my 44+ years of running, I have competed in 29 marathons. Now, I have not finished them all, but I have toed the line with the intention of completing all 29. And of those, I have crossed the finish line 22 times. Those are pretty good numbers for a competitive marathon runner. But apparently, my lack of desire to pony up once more for marathon attempt #30 drive people nuts.
In 2010, my friend Mike and I travelled to Burlington, VT for the Vermont Marathon. It has a sponsor name but I don’t recall it off-hand. Anyway, I had trained very well all winter and through spring. Oh, and as a side note, early spring marathons are cruel for people who have to train through winter.
I put in some very good training, my confidence was high, I tapered well and race day appeared. And out of nowhere, my motivation and desire disappeared. By midway through the fourth mile, I knew I wasn’t going to finish, but I trudged on until mile 20 where I finally threw in the towel. Marathon #29… DNF (did not finish).
I’m okay with it now, and I was okay with it the moment I dropped out, too. But when people ask me how many marathons I’ve run, they don’t really expect THAT to be my marathon dessert. “Ya gotta do just one more”, they state. “Even number”, they scream. No. I don’t. Really.
Runners sometimes don’t know when to say ‘enough is enough’. We attempt to run our streaks (consecutive days without missing) or toe the line for our 20th or 30th or 40th Caesar Rodney half marathon (yes, I know a guy who does, even though he cannot train for it). Runners have egos? Uh, yes. Yes we do and those egos can be our downfall.
Another friend, a two-time Olympic trial competitor and national class runner for years, didn’t know when to change course. For years, he fought hamstring and knee issues. Had he changed course a little bit, rested a bit more, even went to a real doctor or orthopedic, he may still be running at a decent level. But he’s given up the fight and no longer runs. Not the kind of dessert he was expecting.
I have a rule that I never run the same race more than two years in a row. That has generally held up over the years, with a few notable exceptions (three Boston Marathons, for example). In order to avoid being bored, getting burned out, injuring myself beyond repair, etc… I have varied what I do, how often I do it, and even with whom. And, as of 2010, I’ve given up marathoning.
There are dozens of ways to stay engaged and motivated in sport and in running. I’ve often said that we need to break out of our comfy comfort zones and experiment. The great running philosopher George Sheehan once said ‘All of life is an experiment of one’. But if we don’t experiment, we’ll never know.
I’ll admit that every now and then, I get the urge to run another marathon. But then I recall that utter feeling of defeat and discouragement that I felt running in downtown Burlington, just past the three mile point, wondering ‘where else can I be right now other than here?’. Not a feeling I’d wish on ANY runner.
So when ‘A Christmas Story’ comes on TBS this month on a 24-hour continuous loop, realize that you don’t need to watch it straight through in one sitting. You have a whole day to catch enough segments to put it all together. And feel free to saunter up to the dessert table without eating the meal first. Synergy is sometimes boring. Running should never be.