The most daunting thing about the marathon is the distance. You never really grasp how long 26.2 miles is until you do it. Even if you train up to a 20-mile run, the remained 10k is still longer than you think. But I must say, that of all the distances I have covered, this one is the most satisfying.
The day began warmer than expected, especially since it rained the day before. The sun had broke through the clouds by 8am but there was still breeze that kept the air moving. One never realizes that there is very little shade in Los Angeles, and very little trees as well. The first 1.5 miles was a steady climb up Cahuenga followed by a steady descent for the next 4 miles. I paced myself carefully throughout the first 10 miles, I walked when I needed to in order to lower my hear rate. But as I approached mile 11, things suddenly started to hurt.
I am well accustomed to the usual dull pain in your legs after moving for 3 hours. It’s all part of the training. But I started feeling hotspots on my right foot –and that was alarming. I have used the same shoe and sock combination all winter in my training and never had a problem, but the hotspots were disturbing because they are the first sign of a blister. Blisters and I do not get along very well.
By mile 12 I was down to a walk. Because my blisters had been forming for some time, I realized that I had been adjusting my gait to compensate, and in turn was wearing down the left side of my body.
There is a point in all endurance events when stopping seems like the only logical choice. It is a point where your body is yelling louder than your mind can handle. It is at this moment you discover what it really means to be an endurance athlete. Being an endurance athlete means that you have chosen to ignore the voices telling you to stop, that you actually dare to go further than you planned, that you have chosen to discover how far you can really go. It sounds crazy and seems risky, but it is an incredibly liberating experience. That’s why I’m out there.
I’m not going to lie and say that everything from mile 12 to the end was easy or fun. It was painful and uncomfortable. And even three days later I’m still limping from a pulled hamstring and dealing with blisters. Some may ask if the experience was worth it. Others may ask why didn’t I stop.
The truth is that I had to know what it was like. I needed to know what crossing that finish line felt like. And it was more than just knowing for the sake of the Ironman, but to actually do it. Even though every step after mile 19 was painful. Even though I knew that every mile meant a longer recovery time and a bigger blisters.
This was the first big event for the year and it seems frightening to say that the events get bigger from this point on. The next stop is a half-Ironman in Northern California on July 20.
This is a year of long distances and fantastic journeys.