I Ran the New York City Marathon
Training: Month 4
Less than two months from the big day, on September 15, I joined my team for a 20-mile run. Four times around Central Park, starting at 7 a.m. When my alarm clock went off at five, I looked bitterly over at my husband, jealous of his sound sleep and thought briefly about putting a pillow over his head. But then I'd have no one to rub my feet at night. I hobbled to my dresser and pulled out my running clothes, then sulked out into the Brooklyn darkness. When I arrived in Central Park, it was raining. Not hard, but one of those late summer drizzles that make the air feel suffocating. I saw my team in the distance, their bright green shirts like a beacon of neon under gray skies. As I got closer I saw they were all smiling while doing jumping jacks.
"Are you guys ready to run?" yelled the warm-up coach-turned-cheerleader.
"Yes!" screamed the 50 or so other members. I tried to scream with them, but all that came out was a grunt.
The rain let up and the run began. My pace was off and I found myself between two separate running groups, going at it alone. But on this day, my misery was so great and probably contagious, I didn't want to run with anyone anyway. I put on my iPod and tried to tune out my emotions. As I made it past the first mile, my mind started to taunt me. Nineteen more to go, it said. Ha ha. I told it to stop renting space in my head. But it didn't. The taunt continued and a constant battle ensued for those first three miles. I waited for my hypnotic state to set in; where my mind goes blank and my body numb. It's sort of like my version of purgatory. But on this day, as I rounded the first loop in Central Park, crossing 6 miles with 14 more to go, purgatory dropped me and sent me to hell. My ribs ached, I couldn't catch my breath and I started to doubt my abilities, both physical and mental. Thoughts zipped in and out, none encouraging. Buddhists call this the monkey mind -- the constant chatter that grates at your soul, your purpose in life. I call it my mean mind. You suck. You can't do this. It hurts. I lived with the harassment for three more excruciating miles, hoping that those conniving voices would soon tire and give up. I crossed the halfway point at 10 miles and the sun started to peek out. I dumped a glass of water on my body and another down my throat. I shouted at them -- inside my head of course, for fear of looking like a complete lunatic-- Ha! Your stamina sucks. I will beat you. Finally, as I passed 11 miles, there was no rebuttal. I smiled and ran my way back to purgatory.
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