Leading up to it there's the anticipation, the excitement, the nervousness and the little bit of fear. You have a feeling you'll never be the same again. During, there's sweat and pain and focus and laughter and joy. Afterward there's elation, exhaustion, satisfaction and the wonder if maybe you couldn't have been just a bit better. Then you can't stop talking about it for days and wonder when you can next try to recreate that experience.
We're on the same page here, right? Your first marathon?
Eight years ago I was training for my first marathon. I knew I would complete it, the only questions were in what condition I'd be after crossing the finish line and how long it would take to get there. I was reminded of the whole experience while watching The Biggest Loser last night (oh hush - you watch crappy reality tv too, don't tell me you don't!). The remaining 4 contestants were told less than 30 days in advance that their final challenge would be to run a marathon. Four weeks, to train to run 26.2 miles.
In a way I was a bit miffed that this would be thrown at them. After all, a marathon is a serious undertaking requiring months of training. You can't complete a marathon on a whim, there has to be preparation. Then I realized that these people have been rigorously exercising for 6-8 hours daily for the past several months and aerobically, at least, shouldn't have a problem. Although they probably didn't have the time to build their mileage in a traditional manner, they at least had time to direct their focus toward running (or at least toward distance for the 2 who weren't able to run).
I watched the two women running along, listened to their comments and was reminded of my first time. Despite watching with a massive headache I wanted nothing more than to immediately get out there and run a marathon. Run several marathons. Right now, this weekend. Unbelievable how much I miss it.
I saw the women run across the finish line and knew exactly how they felt. For someone who isn't a traditional athlete the sense of accomplishment, the feeling that now anything is possible, is overwhelming. There was the knowledge that you did the best your could, that you left nothing on the table, that you pushed until you couldn't push any longer. A validation of you as a person. The joy of setting a seemingly impossible task and completing it. The memory of where you started physically. The pain and exhaustion and nerves and knowing that you must, absolutely must, do it again.
I don't know if I can wait for Chicago to do it again.