Running for It, Week 30: In which it gets real

Two weeks to go, the epic 20-miler behind me, the tapering process well under way… and all of a sudden this arrives in the mail…

i was kind of hoping for 24601

That’s right, babies: it just got official.

You know what this means, right? It means this thing is actually happening. I mean, yes, I’ve been training all summer for this thing (the better part of a year if you count my half-marathon training) (which I do). So many hours spent running in the dark, running in the heat, running to the bathroom… but now that I actually have a bib number, it’s real.

And now that it’s real, now that I cannot avoid the fact that I am actually going to have to run 26.2 miles before God and everybody… that’s my cue to start neurotically stressing out about how I can screw it up.

That’s just how I roll.

This incipient marathon-based anxiety has been simmering for a while, but now that success in within reach, it’s suddenly reached a rolling boil (or possibly a “roiling boil,” which is kind of hard to say). Anyway, my mind is constantly divining new ways for me to ruin everything and disappoint everyone (specifically concerning the marathon, not life in general, in which ruination and disappointment are par for the course).

It’s even ingrained itself into my subconscious; the other night I had my first marathon nightmare. Here’s how it went:

It’s Race Day, a bright Sunday morning in Chicago, and I am getting ready to leave for the starting line. Family, friends, even co-workers have all traveled to Chicago to support me and wish me well, and they’re all there with me in the room as I’m getting ready to leave. (For some reason, we’re all staying in a college dormitory, but such is dream logic.) So, dressed in my running togs, I go to pin my bib to my shirt and I realize that I don’t have it. Somehow, in the craziness of the weekend, I completely forgot to go pick up my race packet, and four critical words from the marathon website come to memory: NO RACE-DAY PICKUP. I don’t have a bib, so I can’t run. All that training time, wasted! All these people traveled all this way just to see me, and I completely let them down. As I am desperately trying to think of a way to break it to everyone that I ruined everything, I wake up.

(Filled with dread and covered with sweat—which, to be fair, is how I usually wake up.)

But it’s not just my REM sleep that’s filled with thoughts like these. I’m constantly second-guessing every choice I make that might, might, conceivably affect my running performance.

  • These flip-flops leave my toes exposed… what if someone drops something—say, an ACME anvil—on my foot and I break a toe and I can’t run?
  • I should probably take the stairs, you know, to keep the leg muscles nice and limber. Wait—what if… what if I’m actually overworking my leg muscles?
  • Does this meal have enough protein, or too many carbs, or too much protein, and exactly the right amount of carbs, and anyway what exactly is a “carb,” it sounds made up?
  • I run in low light conditions all the time… what if I trip and fall and hurt myself?

Of course, that last one seems improbable, right? I mean, I’ve been doing this for a while. I think I can run a few miles without, say, tripping and falling and bloodying myself up real good, can’t I? Can’t I?

not pictured: all my sissy tears

No. No, I cannot.

It was last Thursday morning, two miles into my last five-mile run before Race Day (which is a huge deal on its own; I feel like I’ve run a thousand miles this summer, all in five-mile bursts). I crossed the road—to get the other side, natch—and in doing so, I ran across the end of a driveway that was all busted up for some reason. This is, by the way, a driveway I have run over probably dozens of times. But on this fateful day, something caught my shoe—my beautiful new shoe—and I went flying. I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to catch myself, but I did at least have the presence of mind to try and roll toward the grass to soften the blow. So I didn’t land right on my knee, but the rough driveway did manage to land a glancing blow against the side of it there, with the above results.

So what did I do? I got up, I looked myself over and determined that I seemed to be okay, and within 15-20 seconds of tripping, I was running. I finished the last three miles without a hitch. (That photo above was taken after I got home.) Yeah, it looked groady, but it was, in the words of the Black Knight, just a flesh wound—nothing a big bandage and some Neosporin wouldn’t cure.

Actually, those aren’t cures… they’re just treatments for symptoms of a bigger problem: my own klutzy dorkiness, that is, being Price Horn. And that, my friends, is a disease for which there is no cure.

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