Mind, Motion & Matter

Running, Essentially . . .


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The final mile, a state of grace

By the time you get to mile 23 the prospect of the final .2 miles of the 26.2 mile marathon distance seems magnified.  Why 26.2 and not an even 26 miles?

It is helpful therefore when the race course has a one-mile-to-go sign at the 25.2 mile mark, as on this course.  During that final mile I think of myself as running a mile on known terrain such as two laps of Winston Churchill Park or the final mile of various routes out and back from my home to make the remaining distance seem less onerous.

The day before the marathon, a trip to the finish line to visualize race finish

I began to push harder on the homestretch and there were a lot of people along the course to cheer us on.  As familiar as I am with the event when I am a spectator I feel a world away from connecting with the unique mind-body experience of running a marathon and feel at a loss for an appropriate cheer.

There are a couple of mantras that I repeat to myself, “rhythm, relax, focus” and the other which I feel a bit embarrassed about revealing, “strong as a bull, smooth as silk”.   I particularly remember repeating this last one in the 2007 Boston marathon when I placed 3rd in my age-category.

I once read that the difference between your average fitness runner and those running for optimal performance is that the first group disassociates while racing and the second group does the complete opposite.  My experience has been that two elements that have made a difference for me are; belief in the remarkable capacity of the human body and the ability to experience your body in the moment and react accordingly for the task at hand.

For me a part of achieving this balance and fluid mental state involves what you could call prayer.  I recognize that while there are factors under my control that allow me to run and race, there is so much that is out of my control and that is a gift so I give thanks for this state of grace. So, part of being in the moment is a mind-track, if you will of bits of traditional prayer as well as the self-composed.

With around 700 meters to go, my husband spotted me but too late to get a photo.  He was trying to pick out the red singlet that I been wearing in the morning and I had stripped down to my base layer.  He shouted encouragement in very emotional and endearing terms and I increased my pace through to the finish, my 20th marathon completed, the 25th anniversary of our first date celebrated —  in the final mile.  I crossed the finish line and felt a surge of emotion —  as joy, fulfillment, satisfaction and relief converged. 

Hallelujah!

There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen

Finishing my 20th marathon in 3:42 at age 55

A few minutes after the finish with finisher's medal, teary-eyed, elated and exhausted

 


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