Monday Musings 220 - The run is bigger than the runner
Claiming that I ran my first full marathon, a neat 42 kilometers will be both, a truth and a lie. It is true to the extent that I reached the finishing line in one piece and supported ably by two aching limbs and yet it is a lie because what I did in the last 10 kms cannot be called a run even if one were to be blessed with a hyperactive imagination or a penchant for the hyperbole. I did something between a walk and a crawl in those kilometers, supported by conversation with a fellow lady runner who was in equal distress. As far as my own distress is concerned, let me only comment that male distress often takes a U turn when it meets the distress of the opposite gender.
Even though my amateur attempts at long distance running are a few years old now, nothing had prepared me for what I experienced. Here are a few things that I discovered.
The first one is that all long distance runs, marathon being only one of them and one can safely treat life and career and relationships as others of the ilk, is about dealing with unpredictability. One can prepare and one must, but at the end of it all, one has to deal with at least one thing that he was never prepared for. When that happens and something or the other will happen, there is no solution as you are in the middle of the run, you only deal with it. Now dealing with a problem is different from solving it. One realizes through the experience of marathons that in long runs, one does not always have the luxury of a solution – one only has resort of ability to deal with it. So the big question I asked myself – can I deal with a problem even when I cannot solve it?
The second experience is about the whole array of things around preparing for the long run. My experiment of the 42 without too many training attempts at the distance clearly showed in my shoddy timings and a weak end. Motivation, energy, enthusiasm is good to have and probably are critical too. However a runner buoyed only by them will discover that they are insufficient if not fickle. Long runs are run on the dint of old fashioned practice, training, regularity, discipline and diligence. My last 30 days tapering of the practice, indiscipline of diet and dilution in diligence was never compensated enough by the power of passion. So even if there is the shadow of unpredictability looming large, there is no substitute for preparation. So the big question I asked myself is how often do I submit to the lure of allowing my sense of passion rule over my sense of preparation – and how much of my outcomes are a result of it?
Long distance running is different from all other competitive sports because in no other sporting activity, maybe with the exception of mountaineering, even competitors respect each. In some sense each one is running his own race, competing with his own timings, his own limitations, and his own sense of self. When you see a fellow runner in pain or in trance – and these are the only two states runners are in the last few kilometers, the emotion that gets generated is not that of competition but of respect – for you know what he is going through and what has taken for him to reach here.
Even though all of them covet the place on the podium there is no animosity or jealousy or a pettiness of mind – but the magnanimity of heart that blooms out of respect. He is running his race and you are running yours. Even if there is competition, it is uplifting and not petty. One cannot imagine a runner who appreciates the nature of the long, very long run, do anything that is petty. The nature of the run is such that it uplifts even those who might have tendencies otherwise. So the big question I asked myself is how much everyone around me deserves so much more RESPECT for what they have endured and still have the gumption and courage to be in the run.
Finally and I am saving the best for the last – the big realization is that when all is said done and everything is done and dusted, every runner worth the salt that he loses recognizes that whoever you are and whatever your timings are and howsoever large are your accomplishments and talents, the run is always bigger than the runner. Often in other runs like life and work, runners start believing in their own indispensability and importance a tad too much, only to be jolted to reality sooner or later and often in a manner that is tragic and painful. My suggestion to those who are lucky enough not to have received such jolts so far is - run! You just need one long run to realize that the run is bigger that the runner – any runner.