It’s 490 B.C. The story goes that having run 150 miles in two days, Pheidippides ran back from Marathon to Athens (over a distance uncannily similar to a modern Marathon race) to announce the Greek victory over Persia, at which point his heart called it a day and Pheidippides died on the spot. It’s hard to believe this has become a popular feat to emulate, but then I figure most people who attempt it do not reckon on it being their last act. And probably nobody does the 150 mile run in the two days prior to a race.
It has long been my intention to run a marathon. I watched the various degrees of insanity in the London marathon every year when I was growing up, and always vicariously felt the sense of achievement when the amateurs with ‘respectable times’ were finishing. I don’t much see the point in being a professional runner – I can’t access that psychology – and I’ve no desire to put on a monkey suit and schlep about in public like an idiot. I respect those who do it for charity, although I suspect that for many this is an after thought. 26 miles is a long way. People aren’t generally given to putting themselves out too much unless they are somehow directly implicated in the cause. But the truth is that it’s pretty difficult to get a place in the London marathon without signing up with a charity. The fund-raising obligation is not small.
The primary mentality, therefore, is that which wonders if I can. It is not dissimilar to those climbers who are plagued by the mountains simply being there. All kinds of qualities are at stake, but they can be boiled down to two: physical fitness and mental toughness. In an age of obesity and apathy, to be athletic and focussed sets one apart. There is, in addition, the not inconsiderable sense of achievement inherent in completing such a venture. Fortitude, self-reliance, endurance. How many know, for certain, that they possess these qualities? When the dial says empty, can you keep going?
I will be running the Montreal marathon this September. I promise not to bore you all with a training diary. I am not, after all, doing it for anyone else.*
*But I might raise some cash all the same, since people seem determined to give it.
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