Monday, April 9, 2012

In the Long Run: Spirit of the Marathon

Last week, after a friend sent me a Hulu link to Spirit of the Marathon , I e-mailed Midlife Rambler and suggested we use the movie as a topic for this week's "In the Long Run" installment. On Sunday afternoon, I e-mailed him again and suggested that we not see each other's draft post before we published on Monday morning. I also asked him to not ask me why I didn't want to see his - nor he to see my - draft post.  I did it in a fair, Italian-kind of way.*

And here's why: what struck me the most about this movie -- even above and beyond all of these people training and racing in MY city, next to MY lake and using MY el station to get to the big event -- is how unbelievably universal running is. If you've ever tied a pair of trainers to your feet, you're gonna relate to this movie. You don't have to be training for a marathon.You don't have to have the speed of a Kenyan, or even the speed of a congenial, customer-service-oriented Dairy Dude in the Great White North. But if you run, this flick will speak to you because running is an amazing, universally shared - and completely relateable - experience.

I'm willing to bet Midlife Rambler is going to say the same thing.  And then I'll get to be all, "Fuck, yeah! I knew it!" by 8:10 in the morning.

Unless he doesn't say that at all. **

First things first.  

I totally blew my long run yesterday. I am having some issues with the arch in my right foot and I had some pain. I think the worst pain, however, was in my head. I stopped at 4.4 miles. I should have run about 18-ish. I was a little pissed with myself, but it didn't derail me. I have a 20+ miler ahead of me next week and if I've learned anything from this 18+ week training process, it's that I always learn something from a shitty run: I've got a different strategy for next week. I'll make it work.

It was a little ironic to fuck up Sunday's long run and then go home to watch a 102 minute movie about people who were doing what I had failed to do earlier in the day.
I took three pages of notes when I watched this movie so I could provide some kind of insightful review for this post. That was a lot of needless note-takin', readers.

The "I-don't-care-if-the-readers-are-bored" part of me wants to list every single thing I related to ... from a first time marathoner joking about her friends asking her if she thought she was going to win the marathon ("uh... no...") to Deena Kastor getting stuck aqua jogging while she recovered from an injury. Oh, I could go on and on. But the three things that really got me?

K. Switzer #261: Pioneer
1)  Listening to Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon (in 1967), brought tears to my eyes. Women weren't welcome to race -- in fact, there was concern decades prior that distance running might make a woman's uterus fall out -- but she registered using her first initial and her last name: no one knew she was a woman. Well, not until the press van saw her around mile 2, made a big deal of it, and then a race official caught up to her and tried to tear her number off her chest.

She fought to keep running that race, even though she wasn't welcome there. I know there are oodles of woman who have fought and sacrificed so that I can do the things I do today ... like work and vote and stuff ... but K. Switzer fighting for my right to run 26.2 miles -- that feels personal.  Thank you, K. Switzer. I will work hard to keep my uterus inside me on May 5th, 2012.

I have a love/hate relationship with these things.
2)  Watching all of the athletes wake up at the crack of dark the morning of the marathon, getting their gear packed, kissing their loved ones goodbye and standing restlessly in corrals with that 'lamb to slaughter' look on their faces...well, my heart nearly beat out of my chest.

I think there is nothing worse than race morning.  If it wasn't for the morning of the race, I'd probably race a lot more frequently. You're hours away from actually racing, trying to force a poop before you're left to make in one of those filthy, stinky port-a-johns, freaking out about whether or not you remembered everything in your race bag and if you're me, you're second guessing all of the life choices that have brought you to this low, low place in the wee hours of the morning, when all sane and happy people are in their own, comfy beds, sleeping.

I. Hate. Race morning.

I do not look forward to 4:30 am, Saturday, May 5th, 2012. ****

3)  One of the runners profiled in the movie stops running in the race. Her support team is edging her to keep moving forward, but her face shows the pain and disappointment and defeat that all runners have experienced at some point. More powerful than her face filled with the pain of defeat is when she starts running again: the look on her face metaporphoses into one of strength and determination. That's when I started to sob.

I haven't run a marathon yet. I've run 21.1 miles. I know that at some point in the race, the pain and frustration and fear is going to take over my face: I'm sure I'll be in good company. I am, however, terrified that the transformation to strength and determination might not register and I'll let my face dictate my actions and my feet will stop moving.

There. I said it. It's out. Now... I just have to make that fear not turn into a reality.

In the opening scene of Spirit of the Marathon, American record holder and Olympic medalist Deena Kastor says, "Sometimes the moments that challenge us the most define us."  

I am anxious to see how those 26.2 miles of moments are going to define me.

Wanna see what Midlife Rambler has to say about Spirit of the Marathon? I sure do! Nothing like high-fiving myself before I've had the morning cuppajoe.*****

# #

* I made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

** For fuck's sake, Midlife Rambler? Why wouldn't you mention that running is universal? ***

***If you did mention that running is universal, I'm sorry for the footnoted attack above.

****But I'm thankful that K. Switzer has given me the right to run 26.2 miles on May 5, 2012.

***** Or not.

Port-A-John Photo Credit: darkmatter via photopin cc

Sadly, I couldn't find a credit for the image of K. Switzer.


  1. 1) My experiment was fairly successful. Altho MLR did not use the word "universal" in his published piece, he told me he had it in his first draft, but deleted it out. Funny thing - stuff that I had deleted out in my first draft -- stuff about what I thought he might say -- he actually said in his finished piece.

    2) I am sad that I neglected to mention that the Beastie Boys fought for my right to party. I know they aren't women, but a fight is a fight, right?

    1. I am indeed thankful for the beastie boys and their fight for our right to party. I shudder to think of what our parties would be like if they hadn't fought on our behalf. Yet another great log run blog TTT. I look forward to these. I would love to discuss PF and allergy stories with you on a run someday. :)

  2. Thank you for your kind words relating to "Spirit of the Marathon". It's always good to hear about how people have enjoyed the film!

    Keep in touch and let me know how your first marathon goes. You can do it!

  3. Thank you for making such a beautiful, inspiring film! And I'm visualizing that finish line every day!