Paris Marathon: Part 1
A week ago, I spent a hundred and seventy Canadian dollars for content to write about. Hence the subtitle: “Part 1”. Because if I’m paying what is likely going to be around a thousand dollars in total to run until my body breaks down, I better get some blog posts about it.
In the middle of last year, my friend C ran a marathon. It wasn’t an organized race, but he had begun running long distances consistently, and decided that he wanted to commemorate that period of his life by running the full 42.195 kilometers. Or 26 miles and 385 yards as he probably thought of it. It was inspiring to see him go from virtually not running at all when I first met him, to a marathon finisher.
Knowing that I run on occasion, we had engaged in several conversations about destination marathons we could do after the pandemic abated. One of them was the Paris Marathon. I signed up for the mailing list at that point in time, and C agreed it would be a fun race. Unfortunately, C declined my invitation to run the marathon this time around. He reads my blog, so this is another invitation, C.
Fast forward to December 2021. Two of my friends who had gone to Paris with me on exchange looped me into a group chat, and told me I was running the Paris marathon with them. If we started training then, we’d have 16 weeks. Most marathon training plans recommended 18. I was hesitant for many reasons. Cost was one of them, as was my ability to complete a marathon. I regularly assert that marathons are mind over matter, especially for someone who’s young and healthy, but after testing the waters with a run of 16 kilometers, a whole 15 minutes slower than I was accustomed to doing it over the summer, it wasn’t looking like a sure thing anymore. Both my other friends had ran half marathons in the past.
Then a few weeks ago, I got an unexpected raise. Nothing mind-blowing after taxes, but surely enough to cover the costs of the marathon. I immediately signed up, and was off to the races. Or the training program, which placed me halfway through week seven of an eighteen-week schedule. After the first long run, my bad knee ached like it never did before, and I felt cramping in my calves, something that had actually never happened before. But it felt good, despite the residual pain and the blisters.
I was still doubtful that week as to my ability to finish the marathon, worried about both my physical and mental tenacity. I didn’t want to write a series of posts announcing my intentions to run a marathon, only to back out. But as I started telling people and bumping into friends and strangers while running, I realized that the shame of failure could be a motivating factor. Just like I often announce my intentions to complete certain tasks to my friends, hoping social disgrace would hold me accountable, perhaps I could shame myself into running a marathon.
Granted, the physical factors are just as much of an issue. I have had some lingering knee problems ever since I was dragged up the side of a mountain for winter camping, certainly exacerbated by the mileage I was putting in. The possibility of it stopping my marathon dreams finally persuaded me into seeing a chiropractor next week. I had to tap out and subway home halfway into my run today because I didn’t have enough carbs to eat prior to the run, something that had never happened to me before. Around the twelve kilometer mark, I just felt tired. I missed my stop while taking the subway home because I fell asleep.
There’s also something to be said about the blisteringly cold Toronto weather. We’ve had one day of positive temperatures over the last two weeks, and it was raining. It is expected to be below zero for the next week as well. The sidewalks take a few days to clear up after snow. Running by the lake today was so miserable we had to change our route. It’s the Rocky training montage, complete with all the folks on the street wondering why people are running. The indoor training scenes are obviously out, replaced by more running. There’s also snow everywhere, and it lasts two hours not two minutes.
Now, I actually haven’t written much about Haruki Murakami, but he’s certainly one of the most influential writers of our age, and one of the most influential ones in my life. I haven’t written about him because I’m still not sure where I stand on him: does he write pretentious drivel for softboys with superiority complexes (me)? Or is he actually deserving of the Nobel Prize nominations? Regardless, I still remember picking up IQ84, still my favourite Murakami to date, at an airport in Italy while waiting for my flight, and becoming instantly hooked. He put me on Fitzgerald, probably my favourite author now. He got many of my dear friends back into reading.
Fifteen years ago, just before the publication of IQ84, he released a collection of essays titled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Within, he describes his relationship with long distance running, and of course, likens it to writing. But he does more than dabble, he’s run the Boston Marathon six times, the qualifying time of which is an hour faster than my intended time to finish my marathon. It was a purely academic read when it was first recommended to me, but now perhaps it can be instructive, at the very least therapeutic.
It’s high time to give it another read, but the main takeaways from the first pass were: to run or to write better, one simply has to run and write more. The tenacity and discipline required for either are one and the same. The truth of that cannot be understated.
Perseverance won’t allow someone to become the best at something. No, some gifts are distributed unevenly. But so long as there is a single-minded dedication to improvement and a mindfulness when acting, you can get pretty close. Kobe Bryant will never be Michael Jordan, but he’s Kobe Bryant. I don’t think I can come anywhere close to the Kobe Bryant of running or reading, but it’s a worthwhile effort. So while it looks like I’m simply finishing up my blog post for the week, I am also mentally preparing myself for the Paris Marathon.