The above phrase was coined by my lovely friend Krista. She uses it to describe how she feels about the leaders’ debate during a federal election. She makes stick puppets of all the candidates, gets some snacks together, and watches every minute of the debate with a delicate mix of excitement and anxiety. She has a great time, but she’s clearly stressed out by the whole ordeal.
Well, I’m going to have to borrow this phrase. Because I can’t think of a better way to describe how I feel about Marathon Day. A typical training period for a marathon is 19 weeks. That’s just over four months. Four months of almost daily runs. Four months of trying to eat like a runner (which, for me, means not getting up to eat cheese in the middle of the night). Four months of counting down to One Epic Day. Nineteen weeks later, my day finally came – the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
It was awesome. And it was, of course, my Ninety-fifth Official Act of Happiness.
I’m borrowing Krista’s phrase because, as excited and joyful as I am about Marathon Day, there are few things as stressful as knowing that tomorrow morning, not only will you have to wake up at 6:00am, you’ll also be running 12 kilometers beyond the human body’s fuel capacity. FUN, RIGHT?
For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of running a marathon, let me break it down for you. When you begin your training, the thought of running 42 kilometers is so far off in the distance and unfathomable, you hardly think about it. But as the weeks wear on, and the training distances grow longer, it slowly dawns on you that Jesus H Christ, a marathon is fucking long! And you’re going to run one! Even though this was my fifth, I was still a bundle of nerves.
For me, it all comes to a head in the three days leading up to the event, during which I turn into such a ball of nervous energy that I can’t. Sit. Still. The day prior to the race, I attended the Race Expo with Jenn, a.k.a. my marathon girlfriend. We trained for our first big race at the Outremont Running Room in 2007, and have since run a total of 4 marathons together. She’s the only person who can truly appreciate – and match – my excitement, so she’s the perfect date for any pre-race event.
We picked up our gear, including our race numbers. Some of the larger and better-organised races will print the runner’s name on their bib so that spectators can cheer them. When I registered, I thought it would be fun to put an exclamation point at the end of my name. I’d completely forgotten about this until I opened my packet and pulled out a bib that read “Cristina!” That’s the moment I knew it was going to be a really good race.
In the final hours leading up to The Race, I did my best to prepare. I watched “Spirit of the Marathon,” and cried at least 3 times. I ate a metric ton of moose-shaped pasta (the fun shapes are unnecessary, but I’m convinced they help). And I tried desperately to get some sleep. By the time my friends and I reached the starting line, my energy had reached a fever pitch. It was cold, grey, and windy. And I was wearing a bright pink shirt, a bib with an exclamation mark on it, and was jumping up and down shouting “WE’RE GONNA RUN A MARATHOOOOOON!” Needless to say, I was the only one.
I’ve heard it said that a marathon is like life – you’re going to encounter obstacles. What matters is how you deal with them. The first half of the race went off without a hitch. My parents even came to meet me at the 12k mark – bravely waving a Montreal Canadiens flag so I could spot them. I probably spent the first 21k trying to slow down, but I was just too bloody excited.
Around the 25k mark, fatigue hit me for the first time. And I still had 17 effing kilometers to go. But instead of having a (characteristic) panic attack, I stopped for a moment, stretched my knees, and reminded myself of all the things I’d done to prepare for this day. I’d done dozens of training runs. I’d gone to crossfit twice a week. And most recently, I’d loaded myself with enough carbs to fuel every runner in the 5k. So I kept going. And every time I hit a roadblock, I went through the checklist again. There was no conceivable reason for me not to finish, so I pressed on. I listened to cheesy music, I played air drums, I punched the air, I smiled and waved and thanked every wonderful person who cheered me on.
And I finished. I finished with my best time to date, beating my old record by almost 4 minutes. I put my arms up and screamed as I crossed the finish line, with more joy than my birthday, Christmas, and five Halloweens combined, and I remembered why I put myself through this mania year after year. No matter what’s happening at work, no matter what state of disarray my personal life is in, I can still run. I can still push my body to new and exciting limits. I can still complete this distance that should be impossible for the human body. And I can still have that feeling of victory. And nothing can take that away from me.
Cheesy, but fucking true. Run a marathon for yourself, and you’ll see.