The last marathon I trained for seemed a lot easier, but that was 6 years ago. Back then, I still had some pep in my step and definitely more cartilage in my knees. I had just moved to Los Angeles and I didn't have much going on. I just broke off a year-long engagement to my high school sweetheart and moved across the country for a shot in the dark interview for an internship at what I thought was a marketing company (it wasn't). I didn't have much going on, so the running- slowly ramping up to about 30 miles a week- didn't take as much effort. If anything it was a reprieve from the uncertainty I was facing every day as my savings wasted away and my job prospects remained unchanged.
Now, I'm married with plans on starting a family this year. Now, I have a career that pays well but is demanding, snapping pieces of molars as I chew beef jerky from all of the nervous night-time teeth grinding. Now, I have even less time between the bevy of creative projects I've started and struggle to finish.
But fuck it. Let's try to run a Marathon with less than two months to train!
I've always been impulsive but frugal, which usually keeps me from doing stupid shit. The ticket price of $160 for the opportunity to run 300+ miles in less than a season doesn't appeal to a lot of people, and admittedly it doesn't appeal to me either. But my weight has ballooned up in my 30's and now I'm as heavy as I was in high school. For most people that's a good thing but I was fat 75% of the year back then.
The truth is that I wanted to shake things up. I had become comfortable with life and I don't do well with that. Call it nervous energy or call it depression, all I know is that it's not good for my mood or my relationships. I have a tendency to hyper focus on things for short periods of time. In most cases it means I can pick up lessons extremely fast, but it also means that I get transfixed by pieces of news or trends in pop-culture, making it the only thing I can concentrate on in my free time.
Sometimes that's good, sometimes that's bad.
My valleys are low and my peeks are high, with less and less time in the between. I went to a therapist for the first time in 8 years and found out the thing that pushes a lot of my creative energy, CHANGE, is also the cause of my now diagnosed depression. Great.
I started writing again, but that's a forest in which you can get lost in the trees. I started producing a show with my wife but that will take another few months to come to fruition. The peace I found in working on these felt great and I could rest my head at night knowing I was milking the day for all it was worth. But as those tasks got easier and there was more free time in my day those empty moments were filled with doubt and depression.
That's where running came into play.
The last time I was running for fun I had broken up with my girlfriend of 7 years and was looking to hit the social scene with a splash. My goal was to lose all of my premature dad-bod, get a good career-type job, and get on with the life I put on hold while in a failing relationship. It kept me from drinking too much and got me used to making myself do things I didn't want to.
This time around the relationship part of my life is rock solid, but I have gotten squishy in appearance and attitude so something has to change.
I think everyone has their meditations, if not about running than something else. I have two meditations in my life. One is bike riding and the other is running. Riding my bike in and out of LA traffic on a fixed-gear/no-breaks bike made me as present as I ever could be. When there's nothing in between you and the 25-mile-per-hour Prius to your left there's very little that can distract from the singular thought of "Do Not Die."
With biking my luck eventually ran out and I was struck by a pair of Italian tourists trying to beat a traffic light. Even though I recovered completely and will ride from time to time, it's not with the same fearlessness that I used to. And with that there's a lot of joy that I had to replace. More on that later.
Running is the opposite experience. Rather than being in the moment, running for distance gives my brain the chance to wander wherever it needs to. I figure a lot out on my runs. Just recently I even realized I had a lot of apologizing to do to a co-worker, which helped us tremendously.
I feel revitalized after a run, not tired. I feel like I can tackle anything and match anyone.
The difference between now and when I ran so many years ago though is my body. I'm not mad about it, more fascinated. Things hurt that didn't used to. Parts of my body ache, my knees click, spots in my back swell up. I feel like Jeff Goldblum as he's about to turn into the Fly. Last night after finishing my first 5-mile run I laid on the couch and said to my wife, which I never said in my previous training - mostly because I didn't have anyone to talk to - that I "might have made a mistake."
She assured me I didn't, but still... This could be a bad idea. Not that training is a bad idea in general, but my plan is a little intense. I want to increase my distance by at least 2 miles every week, ramping up to 20 miles runs the week or two before the race. That's a lot of distance to cover in a short amount of time and I genuinely don't know if it will work out or my legs/feet will hold up. But the great thing about running is that it always sucks. So the extra doubt doesn't necessarily stop me from trying.