So I’m registered for my first marathon—the Walt Disney World in January—and am starting to freak out about it.
I’m also very excited. Disney is supposed to be a great beginners’ marathon. The course is flat, the weather is usually mild, and it’s Disney, which means it will be well-run and entertaining. You have to finish in under 7 hours, which is very doable. My brother will run with me, and our whole family will be there for the biennial Florida sibling reunion, which will be great.
But it’s going to be hard.
It’s going to be hard physically. I did a half marathon in March and finished fine, but there’s quite a leap from 13.1 to 26.2. The half marathon was hard, but while I was doing it I never had the sense that I might not make it. By contrast, I remember seeing the course split around mile 12 and thinking, Oh heck no.
I’m also getting antsy. The training program I’m using doesn’t start until fall, so my goal for the summer is simply not to lose too much ground. But I don’t love the treadmill, and it’s hot outside. And I get headaches after I run in hot weather. (Which frankly is a potential problem on race day. It’s Florida.)
It’s going to be hard emotionally. I have many decades of self-talk to overcome about being the brainy one, not the athlete. My inner harpy tells me I’m slow and should’ve stayed with shorter distances. I remember the time I did the Turkey Trot with my mother while I was in junior high and came in last. Last.
Part of the emotional baggage is having a friend who was my age who dropped dead while on a run. I think about him often while I’m running. By all outward appearances, he was in excellent physical condition, not to mention naturally athletic (which I am not, and please don’t argue that point with me).
And there’s also Dad, who died suddenly of cardiac arrest. Unlike me, he did not exercise regularly, but still—I have half his genetics. (And yes, in terms of physical maladies, I’m much more likely to blow out a knee than to keel over. But hey, if you’re gonna catastrophize, do it RIGHT.)
And it’s going to be a logistical challenge. Honestly, carving out the time to train will be the biggest issue. Remember when I ran the half, my favorite sign along the course was “trust your training.” Well, you have to do the training in order to trust the training. By the time January 12 rolls around, if I follow the program, I will have run 500 miles.
Remember “factorial” in math class? It’s represented with an exclamation point and involves multiplying the number by all the other whole numbers less than it. So 5 “factorial” is:
5! = 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 120.
Well, Marathon! = 500.
That’s some intimidating math right there.
But that’s the math of life, isn’t it? Whether it’s changing careers, sticking with your marriage, raising kids, finishing grad school, relocating to a new city, the worthwhile stuff is hard. The worthwhile stuff is a grand mashup of physical endurance, emotional labor, logistics, and dumb luck… or grace if you prefer to call it that, and I do.
And of course there’s this:
So off I go.
Would love to hear your own stories of Life, factorial!
P.S. That Turkey Trot in which I came in last? I was the only one in my age group, so I got a blue ribbon. Importance of showing up? OK, universe, I get it.