I ran a half marathon.
It was great.
Despite the hill at the end that no one told me was there–I knew about the first two but not that the finish line was literally atop a long, gradual hill–I still had extra oomph to throttle past ten or so people in the last 50 yards.
What I wonder about is, had I been able to see the finish line over the incline earlier–say, the last 100 or 150 yards–would I have had enough left to shave even more seconds off my time?
Even though it’s obvious you should put your all into races, since you’ve been prepping for them for months, I find it difficult to “put in 100% effort.” This is because once, leading a race at 100% effort as a child, I tripped, and came in last. Then again, a little older, I surrendered my second place spot to third and then fourth place, because I was running so hard I saw spots and was pretty sure I was going to vomit, which I didn’t want to do. Even if I know people do it all the time and no one thinks less of them for it.
What’s interesting to me and I suppose to no one else (because it should be obvious) is that despite a life filled with narratives about pushing past the extremities of exhaustion with those last hoarded ounces of strength, I have very little experience doing exactly this. I don’t do it in training because I need to be able to function later in the week to, well, continue training. And I’ve been in precious few situations–this most recent race is really the first in a long time–where every ounce of anything I have has been called for.
I thought of this in the immediate aftermath of the Moore, OK tornado, when this footage aired:
After it aired I turned the TV off and tried to put that situation together in my head. (I feel uncomfortable just watching people fall apart over their tragedies so even though it’s doomed to be a failed effort I do try and kill the feed and sit and think myself into the situation they just described.) They’re huddled in there, their ears popping, in the place they’ve been told by everyone from scientists to the old salt next door is the only safe place to be: the cellar. That’s all you’ve got safetywise, a burrow in the ground. And then the door blows open and you have to hold it closed. What you have in your arms, your back, your muscles, and what your neighbors have in theirs: that is IT between you and not just your death but the deaths of all these loved ones down there with you. That is fucking terrifying. We develop our bodies for fun or vanity in this culture; barring service as soldiers, police or firemen we never tend to our bodies with the intention of saving someone else’s. And suddenly that is what you are doing: relying on the meat clinging to your bones. If you don’t use every muscle tissue available to you to the very end of its usefulness, everybody dies. (And of course even if you do use every muscle tissue available to you to the very end of its usefulness, you may all still die.)
I am, to be perfectly clear, not suggesting we should all find ourselves in some life-or-death situation where our bodies determine the outcome. Nor am I golf-clapping those who do find themselves in such situations and survive.
I guess I’m just saying what people who aren’t making any money off catchy back-of-shirt-or-car slogans already know: you have no idea what you have to bring to a situation until you have to bring it.
I don’t know if it is better to think yourself into the belief that you are running to something, or from it. My interior monologues have always tended toward “to”: toward thinness (high school: “run, you filthy fat bitch!”), toward freedom (japan: “if you beat the train to the station you’ll go home”), toward responsibility (pre-storm: “if you don’t get to the vet in time, the storm will break and the dog will be terrified.”) But maybe I would do better if I were running from something.
The downside being that anything you could possibly be running from will ultimately catch you, so. How to get around that, mentally?