Tomorrow is it. I've gone over the race route, plotted my pacing plan, and begun hydrating. Today I will visit the expo and the hospital briefly and spend the rest of my time resting and reading.
Running a marathon is certainly a physical challenge. But as Brianna Bleymaier, one of my former students, reminded me with an e-mail full of great quotes recently, it is much, much more than just a physical challenge. Indeed, according to George Sheehan, "It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit."
Likewise, according to Jessica Propst, "Games require skill. Running requires endurance, character, pride, physical strength, and mental toughness. Running is a test, not a game. A test of faith, belief, will, and trust in oneself; so hardcore that it needs a category all to itself to define the pain... Running is more than a sport; it's a lifestyle."
For as long as I can remember I have been either in or around sports. My father was and is a life-long sportsman--to this day, he plays tennis or golf or both nearly every week. The sports page was and is the most coveted and the most carefully read section of the newspaper. We got involved--both when I was a kid and when my kids were kids--in Little League, swimming, soccer, football, and basketball. My son, Joel, actually started the sports program at Franklin Classical School when he was a student there. Three generations of Grants have competed in team sports at the college and university level. Clearly, it is in our blood. We can't seem to help but want to go to the games, climb the rock walls, compete beyond all reason and exhaustion, and memorize every stat in the books.
But, there is something about running a marathon that is more profoundly life altering than any sporting event or activity that I have ever particiapated in before. It is such a monumental challenge; it is such a test of will; it is such an intellectual puzzle; it is such a solo effort yet rooted in such a throng of community support; I find it almost in a category all unto itself. I've never done a triathalon (although, that's next), but I'm guessing that there is something similar at work there too. But, this business of running for hours and hours and hours on end really is a remarkable experience of deep soulfulness.
I am ready to do it again.
William Shakespeare wrote, "Bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible." Amen and amen.