Friday, May 9, 2008


I ran a marathon on Sunday.

Marathons are like, I imagine, combat. Intense experiences that you need time to decompress from. The closest I have ever come to a combat experience was the nine years of police work I did. Most nights I was out on my own on patrol, focused, active, confronting situations fraught with peril, occasionally experiencing fear (or once or twice, terror). It was intense and, at times, dangerous work. Twenty years after I left it, I'm still decompressing from it. Marathons are a lot like that.

You never really get over any of them. I can vividly remember each one I have run. For the several hours that you are engaged in them you are thrust deeply into their immediacy. All actions are aimed towards the solitary completion of a difficult task. Hours of drudgery and acute discomfort are coupled with an occasional uplifting moment such as when you view a magnificent vista or come upon a rehabilitating wounded veteran struggling along doggedly on injured or missing limbs.

You are limited by the possible. Do you need a 5:40 in the last mile to PR? It ain't gonna happen so enjoy the finish. Do you need a 7:40 instead? Then it's time to get a move on and hope for the best.

Like a soldier placed into the field, the whole community supports you. The supply train is loaded and people hand you drinks, food or comfort in the form of aspirin, cooling sprays or encouragement. If you falter, they will immediately succor you. But you have to go it alone. No one can cover any part of the 26 miles for you. On the race course, there is no place to hide from the elephant.

Also, you can't escape from your own effort. Were you a coward, did you do your duty, or did you perform extraordinarily? Deep down, you know the answer. It's your own secret, but the knowledge is there within you.

A few years back, a friend, perhaps feeling the tug of mortality after passing the half-century mark, asked me if I had done even one thing in years that had left me feeling truly exhilarated. The way the question was asked implied that after long reflection the answer would invariably be no, sort of like when W was asked if he could think of any mistake he had made following 9/11.

The answer instantly sprang into my head. Sure, I replied, I feel that way after every marathon.

That's how I felt about it then, and that's how I feel about it now.


Danielle in Iowa said...

Congrats on finishing up another! As I am mentally prepping for a fall marathon, it was good to read!

Sunshine said...

Congratulations, Peter! Good job, nice time, helpful inspiration.

Since that Iowa State Patrolman spoke to our high school government class, I have had high respect.
Thanks for thoughtful perspective on both highway patrol and running marathons.

I highly resolve to train more, help Sweet Pea more, and live to run more marathons ... because I absolutely love the experience.

Mike Fox said...

I just completed my first marathon on Sunday and this is a very accurate way of how I felt. As the race went on, I had to adjust pacing and strategy to deal with signals my body was giving me and the course ahead.

This was a great post! Thanks for sharing your insight!!!

DawnB said...

Congratulations Peter. Your previous post tells a heart felt recollection of the marathon day. I read from a few others what the day was like as well. We have so much to be thankful for.

I love your post today. I love marathons, I love runing marathons, and each time I cross that finish line I too feel "truly exhilarated"

Sounds like you had an excellent race, congratulations again.

CewTwo said...

Wow! Marathons sound like the experience of life itself!

Congratulations on another notch in you (umm... err...) belt!

Peter! You always make things sound so much more interesting! Thanks for it!

gary said...

Hey Peter - thanks for stopping by my blog and reading the Flying Pig report... I was hoping to have the podcast up by now, but it will have to be done this weekend.

The Flying Pig is a great marathon.. and I do agree about feeling fully fulfilled after a marathon. I was no where close to a PR for this marathon, but will be one of the more rememberable one's yet!

Dori said...

I didn't realize you were running the the Flying Pig. Congratulations! Well-said in your post.

Anne said...

This is a wonderful post that everyone should read because you speak the truth: we do secretly harbor all those feelings during the struggle. And they do come back to haunt us when our resolve is weakest. It's the test of strength to see how well we ignore or indulge those demons.

yumke said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog. Well said, it's quite difficult to explain to someone what it's like to run a marathon. I'm in the DC area quite often and am racing the Marine Corps (and Army 10 miler) this fall

Rainmaker said...

Funny about that 5:40/7:40 math that goes on in your head the last mile - I hear ya!

Congrats on another one!

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

Congratulations on another marathon!!

David said...

Roger that. Every time.

Jade Lady said...

You're right - the feeling you have when u cross that marathon finish line is total exhiliration - it's been 2 yrs since my last exhiliration!

akshaye said...

Congratulations on the race!

I love the perspective you bring to it. It is an intense experience no matter what your time may be.