I don't remember having any of these feelings the first time I ran a half marathon. What's really so different about a full marathon (other than the additional 13.1 miles) where my mind is telling me to drop out before I even try?
This past weekend I hung out with a few friends who incidentally have finished full marathons as average runners setting out to prove they can do it. Naturally, a million questions started flying out of my mouth -- before they even got to answer -- because I wanted to hear every detail of their experience. What scares me is that I haven't heard very many positive things about what happens to the human body during the marathon. Maybe it's my slightly stressed-out mentality lately, but I'm not hearing a lot of happy/proud feelings of finishing, which I thought is what is supposed to happen when powering through "the ultimate test." This past weekend, I heard about how my friend's knees stopped working and he ran with completely straight legs for a mile, all while laughing at how ridiculous he looked and how much pain he was in. I heard about black toenails, bowel movements, puking up all fluids, shot nerves and spent bodies, injuries, dehydration, swollen limbs, being passed by the bus, and having to walk down steps backwards for the following week after the race.
I have heard about the infamous "wall" at mile 20 and how my body will hurt in ways it's never hurt before. I've heard about how I will be in pain for a long time and how nothing will prepare me for what I'm going to feel toward the end of the race. When I did my 22-mile run, I certainly hurt, but I don't think I hit that wall. And after 22 miles, I didn't unbearably hurt afterward and felt pretty much ready to go again the next day. Will I hit the wall in the last 4 miles? What is going to happen if I do hit it? Is it really going to hurt? Is it possible to not have a wall? What if my wall comes at a distance I will never experience?
Another close friend who's come very close to running 3-hour marathons keeps telling me to have faith in the taper. He's guided me to believing that healing is positive, my training was sufficient, and a "good" taper can shave up to 10 minutes off my marathon time. Of course I don't know what my time is so I don't know how I'll gauge whether my taper was successful, but I'm trying to trust him that this is a good thing. I am trying to trust him while truly questioning how -- when you rest for a day of training it's the equivalent of losing two days of progress -- taking time off this close to a race is a good thing.
Why is it that we channel our energies to the doubts of our bodies and our physical capabilities? A marathon is obviously mostly physical, but it's also equally as mental. When the body (inevitably, by the sounds of it) shuts down, the mind has to take over to push us to the finish. I really don't know if I'm ready for that. My training has prepared my physically, but has it prepared me mentally? I'm in the best shape of my life, and until recently I've never felt more driven and excited to run a race before. And yet, I'm still scared of what's going to happen to me. I'm scared of twisting an ankle at the starting line and how I'll deal with the fact I only made it a few feet giving my full effort. I'm scared of running out of fuel or passing out and hitting my head on the concrete and never realizing what happened or that I didn't finish. I'm scared of getting heat stroke. I'm scared of not knowing what I'm going to go through. I'm scared of not knowing how I'm going to do. I'm scared of how I'm going to deal with a physical and/or mental breakdown in front of spectators. I'm scared that this time I've needed to take off to rest my blisters is going to hurt me. I'm scared at how much "not knowing" is eating away at me.
Tomorrow marks 10 days until the race, and I am so, so nervous.