It's marathon season, so time to cannibalize some old material.
The following is from a blog post that appeared 2 years ago. I revised it, and it also appears as a chapter in: Chasing the Dragon: Running to Get High.
Squeezing Me to Tears
Marathoning is such a grand event, and the way it takes place on the streets and the earth is nothing compared to the way it takes place in my mind. The way it plays out in my heart and soul is spectacular and has a deeper existential meaning beyond just a physical endurance event on a Sunday morning.
Sure it's a long as hell run, but more than that. It is me staring into the void, and the void challenging me back, asking me to show what I am made of.
It is the eternal existential question: What's in your essence? What's in your soul? Are you up to the challenge of being your best? Can you blast past previously self-imposed artificial limits? Can you walk on water, part the Red Sea, can you not shrivel in pain and fear when the moment comes? Will you run on and endure or crumble into a fetal position and whimper with the challenges you face?
A marathon is the arena in which I prove myself worthy, that I am strong, a frigging fuckin' warrior of life who will battle back, fight to the bone and not let blood or sweat or ripping muscles and tendons stop me. It is life squeezing me and squeezing me to find out what's inside, and my essence oozes out and I bare myself for all to see, and I answer; Hellz yeah, I got this. I got this and life is beautiful. I am king, hear me ROOOOARRRR!!!! Fucking beast.
Just to show up on marathon morning is to face the fear. Dreams of thousands hang on the precipice of that start line, and fear is at the start of every marathon. I don't care if you have run 50.
There's fear that you won't run your goal, fear of that little injury in your calf since you know that if there's any weakness the course that awaits you will exploit it to its core. Fear of not finishing, fear of embarrassment, fear of the weather, of being hurt, of having your dreams squashed and buried. Will you chafe, did you wear the right thing, you have to pee, you may throw up, you ate too much, not enough, will you curl up into your safe ball of comfort when that gargantuan test is put before you? How will you feel when the heat of the event starts to boil all of your fears and truths to the surface, can you hack it?
It's primordial and filthy stuff, and you won't come away unchanged. And the power of thousands of people answering the challenge collides at every event.
Don't you believe you can feel the people next to you in the last 6.2 of a race? That there's a mystical and spiritual connection to thousands of other runners? Hard to describe, but there is some odd connection that happens to people you never saw, may never see, but just to be near them and experiencing the same thing, all of you in your most vulnerable and stripped down moments. Because you know the person next to you at mile 24 has also been training for weeks, has been running many hours of the day and thinking about running the rest of the hours of the day, and now you have come together for the grand and ecstatic climax.
Yes, that's a lot for just some training, but I have always made the marathon about way more than just training. It means much more than a way to feel fit, a way to give my life purpose, clarity, and a spiritual and emotional detox. It does all of that, and more. It is an existential moment where I have to define myself and rise to the occasion and prove my worth. And since there is such a buildup, maybe that's why I always cry. The moment I finish a marathon, the tears flow unabashedly, not because I am hurt, (because of course I am hurt) but because I am so alive at that moment, and everything I am made of is being squeezed out of me. I showed up, I did it, I am a warrior, I felt the fear and did it anyway.
Then again, I also tear up every time I watch Terms of Endearment and The Lion King (especially when Mufasa challenges Simba that he is more than what he has become).
No, those aren't red boogers on my sleeve, that's my heart. Well, maybe a mix of both. And all that stuff that comes out of you when you run — that's not sweat, that's your heart and soul dripping out of every pore of your skin, because you're getting squeezed.
A marathon is not just a run. Don't ever let it become that. It's you against the negative forces in life, the voices in your head, that old teacher from seventh grade or the evil deities in your head all trying to make you feel and believe you are less than what you are. You aren't, damn it, and you got your medal, your race day T-shirt, your appetite, and your tears to prove it.
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