“Fear being only partly something that makes us run away – at times, at least, it is something that makes us come back again and stare at what made us run away.” – Norman MacClean, Young Men and Fire.
One year ago, my pelvis began hatching a plot against me. Having a year to think about these sorts of plots, I can now see my pelvis was feeling disenchanted after several years of mistreatment. Honestly, I rarely even thought of my pelvis. If someone said “pelvis,” I would either:
- Giggle, because “penis.”
- Think of a Labrador or Golden Retriever because they have silly hips.
It turns out Stephen Kersh’s pelvis was not content with being conflated with genitalia and/or a general canine afterthought. It yearned for the tender touch of a trained medical professional and dreamt of a slight realignment. My pelvis was screaming at me for attention, and I shunned it like my first wife. (I’ve never been married).
The plot started off with some innocuous tugging and pulling on my sacrum, but given time and resources (lots of run), the pelvis pulled with enough force to cause a nasty little fracture in my sacrum. Pelvis got my attention rather quickly after that. Pelvis played me and I forgot Rule Number One: Don’t Ever Play Yourself. Touché, Pelvis.
Anyways, that was kind of a roundabout way to give some context to the beautiful quote I led with.
As dramatic and overzealous as this may seem, getting back into marathon training, after having it beat the shit out of me once before, was like stepping back into a fire while knowing full well you were about to get burned again. Maybe this time you’re able to step out of the flames stronger, better; but there’s also a good chance you just flat out don’t.
For the last four months, my thinking has been consistent with the fire analogy. If I make it through this training and to the start line of the Houston Marathon and I run really fast, then this has all been worth it. If any other negative variation of that formula happens, then this was all for nothing. All of the miles, all of the beet juice, all of the sacrifice. Nothing.
But then, in the past few weeks, I’ve been able to look more closely at this body of work I’ve compiled and understand I’m not the same person I was when I chose to start ambitiously training again. Regardless of final outcome, I’m not who I was when this all started. There were mornings where I had no idea how I would get through the day of training, and even more evenings where I was just as perplexed at how I had survived the day. If this sounds at all like a load of bullshit, I invite you to do a 16-week marathon training build-up under the guidance of a Samurai Warrior.
Seriously though. Everyone SHOULD do a marathon. Marathon meaning an arduous task and a scary undertaking and something that rips you from any comfort zone you thought you had. The lessons you learn about what your body and mind can handle are immensely helpful and applicable in many facets of life. It’s about doing these insane tasks that force you to find a place you didn’t know you had, and then to go back to that place. Over and over. With no qualms, or concern, only with the curiosity that maybe – just maybe – there’s an even deeper place you can find. It’s about pulverizing yourself over and over until you realize all of this is just your fate beating the shit out of you, chasing you, and not letting you go. It’s a chaotic dance. It’s about facing that storm and agreeing to dive in. And that will be the best part, because once it’s complete you can look back at it and be proud of that journey.
And so, only a few days away from the Houston Marathon, I am able to look back on my journey with equal parts exhaustion, satisfaction, and excitement. Those don’t quite equally add to 1.0, though. The missing 0.1 is definitely irritation. I’m irritated that a few workouts didn’t go perfectly, or I wasn’t quite able to hit my goal weekly mileage a few times. 0.1 ain’t bad. I can live with 0.1.
The payday is near, but the payoff will be paying dividends for the rest of my life. This is certainly not the last time I will put myself through this type of training, so I’m not sure why I’m being so sentimental. It has something more to do with how I’ve never been so thankful for an experience, so humbled by an assignment. The love and support of my family and friends has carried me through all of this. From biking alongside me at workouts, to pacing me on the track, to just understanding I really need to lay down and not be bothered for an hour and when I wake up I am going to want to eat a lot of food. It’s meant the world. During the moments where I thought I was totally alone in this, I would get some reminder of the massive amount of support and energy selflessly being shown to me. It has made all of this so much more meaningful and valuable. Please know a mile will not go by during the race where I won’t think about all of this.
Mile by mile. Step by step. It’s quite simple, really.