Running Commentary: The Road to Marathon


The other day over drinks, a friend asked me if I knew the history behind the word “marathon.” I laughed, then replied “Yes, and dont remind me–I dont need more convincing that Im crazy for doing this.”

The term comes from the Greek legend of Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, who was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon.

It is said that he ran the entire distance (approximately 25 miles), without stopping.

And then he promptly dropped dead from exhaustion.

Since clearly a 25-mile run treacherous enough to kill a young, strapping, tanned, shirtless, olive-oiled, muscle-bound cabana boy in Ancient Rome (What? Im sure thats what they all looked like) wasnt challenging enough, the length was extended to accommodate British royalty, who wanted to watch the event without leaving the palace.

Im less than a week away from my marathon, which will take me through the city I love, along rivers and around lakes, and end at Minnesotas state capitol in St. Paul. I couldnt possibly be more excited.

I also couldnt possibly be more terrified.

Ive touched on this before, but sometimes the hardest part of this mental and physical journey is the identity shift–I truly believe the mantra, “What the mind believes, the body achieves,” and Ive never found that to be quite as true as when Im running. If I think Im going to have a lousy run, Im going to have a lousy run. If I wake up casually assuming that I can go bang out nine miles, easy peasy. So perhaps its time I lay all fears and jokes of impending sudden death to rest, and live by the words of Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or you think you cant, youre always right.”

One of the hardest to do at this point is trust in my training–the Greek cabana boy may have had genetics on his side, but I highly doubt he got up at 5 a.m. every Saturday for 20 weeks. I doubt his Friday nights were filled with pasta and early bedtimes. I doubt he stocked up on Gatorade and Gu, invested in cool-max clothing, expensive running shoes, and a GPS.

I doubt his journey started, as mine did, with a single step and a single mile. And since taking that step, Ive taken so many more, each one stronger and more confident than the last. On Sunday, I look forward to taking my final step across the finish line. The beauty of which, Ive learned over this summer, is that there is no final step—rather the first step in my next journey of a thousand miles.