You've done all the training right? OK, most of you have done almost enough
training. OK, OK, some of you at least have done enough training I hope.
Alright then, have it your way. None of you has nearly enough training and
you're all totally unprepared for this thing, but you're going to do it
anyway because you've sent in the entry fee. And next to the mortgage and
car payments that represents the biggest investment you've made in weeks.
You know why don't you? You've been so tired from the marathon training
you haven't had the energy to shop for anything but the absolute
essentials like milk, bread, pasta, shoo-goo. So I know you've been
working at it real hard but you have your doubts, then one day your Mom
says, "Oh dear, what's the matter honey? Have you been sick? You look so
gaunt, you look terrible." That's when you know you're ready.
OK, now you're ready! Except for one more thing. What to wear? Never mind
all planning and preparation of your training schedule and the hundreds of
decisions and trade-offs you've had to make to get this far, the biggest
issue facing you is you can't decide what to wear. You've worn one baggy
old shirt at least 80% of the time which has holes and stains and really
should be relegated to the car washing ragbag, but you love it so much.
It's from your favorite race where you set your all time PR. That's not
the one you'll wear. God-forbid anyone should SEE you with a tattered
shirt. Never mind the fact that you'll look like death in the final
stages of the race, the least you should have is a cool looking shirt.
And the shorts. Even though never before have you ever cared about color-
coordinating shorts and shirt, now you begin to think you should have both
shirt and shorts that match the color of your shoes even. So you lay out
every single thing you own that could possibly be worn to run in,
including 12 pairs of socks, only one of which does not have holes on the
toes and after an hour of indecision, you choose THE perfect, fully
coordinated, outfit and pack it in your gym bag for race day. You also
throw in a couple other old rags randomly selected from the bottom of the
pile "just in case". These are the ones you'll wear.
OK, now you're ready. Except for one more thing. The pre-race preparation
rituals. You haven't bothered with stretching at all on 99% of your
training runs but now it becomes necessary to plunk yourself down in the
middle of the local high school gym along with dozens of other phonies
and do your "regular" stretches. What none of you realizes is that the
marathon organizers hire several circus contortionists to come over and
bend themselves like pretzels just to make all the rest of you feel like
it's the right sort of thing to do. Then after bending in ways which are
guaranteed to expose yourself you do the shoe tying bit. Tie and untie
and retie the same shoe at least 4 or 5 times. You must. It's part of
OK, now you're ready! Except for one more thing. You have to -- you know
you don't want to -- but you have to go stand in line at the Port-a-Potty
so you can empty the bilges. There's something about marathon morning that
makes your intestines turn inside out. You unload at least 10 pounds,
maybe 15, of excess weight. This is good, yes less weight lets you go
faster, but it's also troubling because you find you are dumping a load
like you've never dumped before, even meals you haven't even eaten yet.
All the while, you wonder, "Am I losing too much fluid? Is this going to
effect my race?" So you go out and load up on more fluids, which in
another 10 minutes has you waiting in the potty lines again. But sooner or
later, you realize there's nothing left inside your gut to expel, so you
head for the starting area.
OK, now you're ready! Except for one more thing. It's kind of chilly in
the early morning and you're clad in shorts and singlet, shivering. But
being a true marathoner, you know what to put on that will keep you warm
until the race gets started. The gorgeous green garbage bag outfit. Oh
sure, some will use black or brown and there's always the occasional
daring individual that will wear a see-through clear plastic garbage bag
but only the green ones are true marathon wear. Can't you just picture
some immigrant kid on a boat out in the harbor waiting for his first
glimpse of the Statue of Liberty and he looks over on the island and says,
"Pappa, you said the streets were paved with gold but all these people
over here wear GARBAGE BAGS!" But you're warm and that's all that matters.
And then the gun goes off, and you churn along and chug along and trudge
along for 26.2 miles until someone at the end of a roped off chute grabs
you and says it's OK to stop now. And that's all there is to it. Except
for one more thing. You have to recite the marathoner's mantra. "Never
again, never again, shoot me if I ever even think of doing this again.
Gawd help me, never again" Of course this iron willed resolve lasts until
you meet the next runner and start comparing war stories.
A week later you get an envelope in the mail from one of those finish line
photo companies. Who on earth ever thought of that! "Hey guys, I've got an
idea. Let's go take pictures of people when they look the absolute worst
they have ever looked in their whole sorry lives. I bet they'll all want
to buy those." You take this photo of some alien out of the envelope and
wonder is it maybe an appeal for a war-ravaged country? Are they showing
you this pathetic, half-dead semi-human being to get you to send sympathy
money? And isn't it strange that a refugee from hell would wear a race
number? And by the way that's the same number you had in the marathon.
Then it dawns on you, that's the look of a true athlete at the marathon
finish. Yes! You NEED that photo, never mind the cost. You have to have a
wall-size poster of it. And you know why? It's going to be your personal
inspiration to train for the next one. Are you ready?
Jack Berkery (First published by the Hudson-Mohawk RRC)