My First Marathon: Analogy To Life Hardships

I wasn’t that serious about running. But I needed a result to convince myself that this dabbling in running wasn’t in vain. So, in August I registered mysef for a Full Marathon at Jakarta Marathon 2015.

At October 5th, I was deployed to my new office in Meulaboh.  I did consider canceling my participation in the race since the flight would be expensive, but arrogance and recklessness pushed me to disregard money in exchange for experience. At October 23th, I flew to Jakarta.

But why? Why would someone wasted his cash to put himself through  42.195 km of torture? What is so special about finishing a marathon? We’ll see the answer to this question later. For know, let’s keep going.

***

It’s a lie if I didn’t prepare at all, but it’s also a lie to call it adequate. I didn’t train enough. That’s one excuse, and yeah, I have a lot more excuses in my arsenal, for examples:  I didn’t sleep enough the night before the race (I blamed the mosquitos , the nightmare I had, and the broken air conditioner) and the visit to a sushi restaurant with my family was also a blunder (digestion problem! Not enough rest time!), etc. Damn, I’m a man of excuse indeed, what a fool. These crappy characters of mine then manifested in how I ran the race.

I arrived at Monas 5 minutes before 5 am. I was anxious that I’d be late; panicked and confused. Where should I go? Where’s the starting line for Full Marathon? Damn. So many people!  While I was feeling lost in the crowd, I heard some young men shouting about rushing for the Full Marathon, then I quietly followed them. Fortunately, I made it to the Full Marathon starting line in time; gasping for breath but glad.

When the race started, the weariness of lacking sleep and rushing about in panic was gone. I felt a surge of euphoria. I was overwhelmed by people’s desires. The mood was excellent. Amazing.

The first half of the race was really fun. I enjoyed the pace, the sweat, the energy, the pumping of the blood, the beating of the heart, the breathing through my nose and mouth, the scenery, the variety of people running around me, the frustrated citizens who complained about the road blocked because of the marathon, and of course: the sight of the elite runners when they passed by, running with the agility and grace of prideful wild beasts.

People were talking, cheering, joking, laughing, smiling. But after we passed the 20th km, those signs of jollyness slowly replaced with teeth gritting, limping, and cramping. Because the people who participated in the 5k, 10k, and half-marathon had finished their course before us, we marathoners were getting lonelier and lonelier in our struggle. This, worsened by the fact that our lines were stretched thin; not all marathoners were equal in terms of speed and stamina.

The despair and agony we suffered, made every gesture of kindness by anyone –the girls, the boys, the old folks, the children lined up to cheer us; the fruits, snacks, and drinks provided; the ice and the  cold-wet-sponge; the pain relieving gel; the shades provided by the trees and buildings; etc– felt like blessings.

The second half of the race was the true test of endurance and also, willpower. I knew that, so I slowed my pace down to a walk, grabbed my phone and played my favourite songs. I sang my favourite songs to welcome the great torture ahead with a wide smile. If any of you Jakarta Marathoners reading this recalled a man singing so carelessly like no one is watching, that’s probably me.

But then I got bored, and thought that, I wasted too much energy singing. Even, merely listening to songs were tiring. So I turned the songs off then switched to another method to distract my mind from pain and exhaustion. I took out a paper from my pocket, it’s a list of things I wanted to ponder while doing the marathon. There, after reading it for a while, I continued my run, deep in thoughts, mostly about hardships I survived since childhood, schools, college; my visions and plans for the future plus its possible obstacles; abandoned dreams and regrets; etc.

Past the 30th km: my garmin watch’s battery was almost emptied, so I saved the run before it died. I was too tired to run and think, then I stopped pondering about the things in the list. I also sat, and drank a 500ml of coffee I kept at the back pocket of my running vest. After the cafein jolted my brain, I tried to run again. But goddamn. It wasn’t merely a matter of mental fatigue, it’s an actual physical limitation. Almost at every running attempt after that, ended up in me limping because my legs were in the state of soon-to-be-cramped-if-I-pushed-even-a-little-more.

Near the 38th km, while limping on a flyover, tears flooded my cheeks. I cried my eyes out when I realized I cannot finish the marathon before Cut Off Time. I thought of this marathon as an analogy of life hardships;  that roads to achieve worthy goals may include tedious steps over and over and over wrapped in misery, such as these steps we took under the merciless heat of the sun, and the breath we inhaled from the polluted atmosphere of Jakarta. The truth is even worse: this marathon is actually far far simpler and easier than LIFE. I was strucked with the vision of my dreams crumbling before me. I was saddened to acknowledge that I may not possess the discipline and endurance to achieve the thing I aspire. The road bellow the flyover was so tempting to jump into.

I kept going. Because thepossibility of failure was already calculated and predicted. Even the emotional outburst was logically foreseen. I had anticipated these things before the race, and I already promised myself to keep pushing no matter what. Because it’s a fact that not every struggle reciprocated with the intended result. Hit and miss. That’s life. Keep hitting. Hurt the self. Pain is the gift of life. Pain is the curse of life. Whatever. Burn and learn. Then possibly earn. No? Burn again. Burn. Burn. Burn.

I finished the race in 7 hours and a half. Half an hour past the cut off time. I was given a finisher medal, but not given a finisher t-shirt. I laid myself down on the road under the refreshment tent, where other runners were also resting. My whole body was pained and weakened. I wondered: Why am I doing this?

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But why? Why would someone wasted his cash to put himself through  42.195 km of torture? What is so special about finishing a marathon? Why would someone want to run a marathon?

I read answers to such question in quora, and I fancy Michael Boeke’s answer:
“When presented with the choice between a 5k, 10k, or marathon, knowing that marathon may bring me a bit closer to my inevitable meeting with the Grim Reaper, I choose the marathon – cause fuck him, that’s why.”

In Jessica Long’s answer to such question, she mentioned that, “Running is about overcoming yourself. It tests how strong a belief (the necessity of stopping) you can overcome with your mind. You learn how to choose what to believe.”

In his Galloway’s Marathon FAQ book, Jeff Galloway answered the question with this:
“Thousands of runners, many who have been high achievers in their career, have told me that finishing a marathon gave them the greatest sense of accomplishment and achievement ever. Not only do you have to put together 4-6 months of hard training, but during every long run and the race itself, each person has to draw upon resources inside. The empowerment gained from completing this journey often leads to other positive life changes.”

I’m plagued with failures in my whole life. I gave up too frequently and too early in so many aspects of life. I lost so many war before the first skirmish even fought. That’s why I always aim so low. Yet, recently, in this year of 2015, I dared myself to set myself a vision, that maybe too big for mindless worm such as I.

Failure is death. My Grim Reaper. I choose marathon. Cause fuck failure, that’s why. As I ran the miles, I fought against the belief that I needed to stop. Yeah, I rested indeed once in a while. But I continued and finished the race.

Who would’ve thought this strange lonely psychotic boy who grew up fat, even obese, managed to finish a marathon?

I surprised even myself.

I want to,
I must,
I will surprise myself even more.

If the marathon was my life, then I failed to reach my goal in time. Unfortunately, life is far more complicated and harder than mere marathon. I may starting to limp at some points of my life, I may cry at the 38th km of my life. Fortunately, the marathon wasn’t my life. This means I still possess a lot of chances to prepare for and struggle in the war ahead. I just have to make sure that I don’t jump at the next flyover I find myself weeping at.

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