Marathon Camp Lesson No. 1 Run for an hour. Turn your hat backwards. Follow the moon home. Wash your face with cold water. Do crunches for four minutes like Coach told you to, 40 years ago. Do 20+ push-ups. Eat toast, drink coffee. Go to a meeting. Do it again tomorrow. Life is where you find it. Life is what you make of it. “Welcome to the mountain. If you love mushrooms you are already a billionaire.” Sakai said that.
Marathon Camp lesson No. 2 Run more. Facebook, Twitter, ESPN? Less. Rest, eat some good stuff, sleep and then get up and run again. Keep an open mind, open clear eyes, trust your pure heart. In other words, run daily, run slowly, don’t eat like a pig. Equally, relax and keep paying attention. Ernst Van Aaken said that, with a little help from Roger McGuinn.
Marathon Camp lesson No. 3 Pain is nature’s way of telling you to stay the hell in bed, get some rest, use ice, elevation, vitamin I (Ibuprofen), watch movies, read a book. Or maybe, get the hell up, do the run, the sit-ups, the push-ups, eat something, go to work. I suppose one could do both, in reverse order. Or not. Maybe the best approach is to walk slowly in a circle, and think about everything. Or not
Marathon Camp Lesson No. 4 Go out before daybreak. Start at bottom of trail. Turn hat backwards, turn on headlamp. Walk slowly. Pick up pace as muscles loosen. Pump elbows, breath in, breath out. Follow the trail. Avoid the glittering eyes in the trees. At the top, turn off your headlamp, lower your voice. Gaze at the stars. Pause. Turn on your headlamp. On the downhill, stretch it out, let it rip. Breathe deeply. In. Out. Smile. Everything is possible.
Napa 2009 Memory No 1 A steady rain falls over the hills east of the Silverado Trail, an augury of the internal storms to come for those here to run the 31st Napa Valley Marathon. Cold, wet, tired, migrained, 62, I am at a start line after an absence of three long years. The rain seems a messenger from on high, cleansing the earth, the road ahead, readying the bodies and minds of the faithful for the task at hand.
Marathon Camp Lesson No. 4.5 Whip 2 eggs, 3 cups of skim milk, 3 cups of oatmeal, cinnamon to taste, 2 tbs sugar…preheat oven to 350, bake until done. Taste and refrigerate until morning or the midnight creepies, which ever comes first. Homemade carb loading after midnight. How cool is that?
Marathon Camp Lesson No. 5 1/2 bagel with PB. 1/2 banana. Water. Gatorade. Walk to a start line. Clear mind. Start slow, find your pace, look around. Lean on the final turn, keep your head up, eyes clear. Get a medal and some food. Look for a smile and a hug. A 1/2 marathon is not half of anything really. It is a full 13.1 miles. Later, when the road shows no sign of the race, embrace the idea, the reality, that the memory will last your lifetime.
Marathon Camp Lesson No. 6 Thomas Wolfe of Look Homeward, Angel wrote that he would “…go up and down the country/and back and forth across the country/…go out West where the States are square/… go to Boise and Helena and Albuquerque/ I will go to Montana and the two Dakotas/…the unknown places.” Unknown places in the heart, a cadence of breath and footfall; the miles unwind, mind clears; all there is left is the doing.
Marathon Camp Lesson No. 7 How will I be humbled today? It is difficult when it is difficult because it is supposed to be. The lesson is that water wears away the hardest stone by flowing around it and over it; so, too, I get where I am going by yielding and continuing on at the same time. There is exhilaration, relief that the hard part has arrived. Now it is my time to find out what there is to find out on this day.
Marathon Camp Lesson No. 8 We do not often speak of the Wall, of leg cramps, hunger, rain, or hills in reverent tones. In each of us lives a desire to be challenged, to keep on, to stay in when the road gets hard. Without the difficulty, the victory over distance, of self over self, is harder to calculate, harder to embrace. It is harder to cherish, harder to keep shiny for the moments when things get lost and life gets away.
Marathon Camp Lesson No. 9 My magic mystical tour of the marathon has given way to a recognition that a run is just that, a run; train for it, run it. To carry the weight of recovery, of failed dreams and self image is way too much. 26.2 miles brings people to their knees, no matter who they are — it is a humbling exercise in reality, in acceptance. It is less about will power and guts and more about being present with who we are in that moment.
Marathon Camp lesson No. 10 Take a step. Take another step. Repeat.
Napa 2009 Memory No. 2 By late afternoon there was no evidence of the 2,500 runners and volunteers. No paper cups, no Gu packages. The sun came out and by nightfall the Silverado Trail was dry. The next morning all that remained was local traffic and the faint sense of something that had happened here. It, too, would be washed away by the morning rains, falling light upon the vineyards whose bounty was still months away.
“Sunset Runner” joshjanssen @ flickr. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.