Today I wrote in a friend's livejournal; something about how I was balancing SCA fencing and running pretty well way back when. I was getting into both at about the same time, and I thought they complimented one another nicely. The endurance given by the running helped my fencing, as well as leg strength, coordination, and breathing. The lateral movements, balance, and mental concentration of fighting helped balance the running. It was fun to have two whole new worlds to explore, get better in, and play off one another.
Then came along the marathon, and she is jealous. Oh, yes. I got little injuries from all the training, certainly. I got worried about getting injured during the fighting, and set back my training. And then there's the time and energy commitment; the first marathon takes a hell of a lot of both.
And that may be the reason I love it so.
I can wing a half marathon. It may not be fast or even very pretty, but I can do it without a second thought. I got to a point in the last few training cycles that 13.1 miles felt like a decent run to get the blood moving, but not that big of a deal. That is, anything under 10 miles was barely worth getting dressed for, and it wasn't until 16-18 that I felt like I was moving. Though I didn't go much over 20 miles at a time, two or three days a week at 16-18 mies wasn't out of the question. It wasn't even abnormal. It just was.
And that's one of the amazing things I find about the marathon; the training is both teh suck and awesome, takes both sacrifice and commitment, and to do it well takes pain and tears. Well, maybe not tears, but curses certainly. The occasional dry heave isn't out of place, either.
The thing that I find I love about the marathon is that at mile 20 or so, I get to meet myself. If I've been running it hard and right, mile 20-21 I begin to find that parts of my body start failing to work right, and pain begins to set in. How do I react? How do I keep my legs moving when I feel like some of the muscles have entirely given up, and now are acting as dead weight? What does it take for me to keep moving and not give up?
And, if at mile 20 something is really going wrong, will I be bright enough to figure that out? DNF typically means "Did Not Finish" although some say it means "Did Nothing Fatal." On the other hand, the latter read isn't always true. Had I dropped during the 50K DNF would've had the first reading without the second. But I digress.
I love the marathon, and I love the training. I revel in the soreness in the morning, when I'm staggering around like I'm double (or triple) my age. I love the feel of humming along, running at my marathon pace and feeling like I could run that way forever.
I love the fire in my throat as I'm doing intervals, the rasp that comes from too much heavy breathing in the cold. I love how every footstep is an adventure, running hard on icy pavement and trusting in screwshoes to keep me upright.
I love being outside in the winter. Of being completely on my own without a care in the world except to do the next mile, or next interval, and slowly wear away the rubber on the sole of shoes. I love wearing a single layer in freezing temperatures and feeling hot, like the idea of wearing short sleeves might not have been a bad idea.
The marathon spurs me to these things like nothing else. Ultras don't have the interval sessions for the most part. Half marathons- well, I could train for them more intensely. And I've love to run a half marathon goal race, and shoot for 1:35 or less (1:37:02 is my current PR) but... the marathon is a daunting challenge. I've run six, I think, and they've all taught me something. I really can't say the same thing for the halfs or ultras I've run. Curious that. I'm going to have to think on that a little more.
Anyway, that's my love letter to the marathon. She's a cruel lover; but I've never had another who gave me so much back in return.