How to Marathon
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How to Run

a Marathon


by The Common Sense Coach --

Jack Berkery

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 "the experience".

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)

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