The Planet Wave - Why Marathon?
by Bob "Wish" Wischnia on September 21, 2011
I used to be a pretty decent baseball player all the way through high school. Had a very good glove and hit well enough to get a sniff from a few colleges. Don’t remember exactly what I averaged at the plate, but it was probably just south of .400.
That average might be mostly a figment of my imagination. Still, I was pretty good for a skinny guy with no power. But it also meant I was a dismal failure six out of 10 times every time I went to the plate.
Which is just about my marathon average. For every 10 marathons I’ve run, a couple have been good and the rest were death marches. If my batting average had been as bad as my marathon average, I would never have gotten off the bench.
And that brings me to the basic question: Why then, do I continue to run the marathon? It’s a great question and one I’ve asked myself many times, usually about the 23-mile mark, staring up from the bottom of my existential abyss.
I’ve run so many marathons by now that I should have a standard answer by now of why I go back time and time again to run the race. But I don’t have one.
I’m not the most introspective runner on the planet, but after a summer of training for my umpteenth Chicago Marathon through the hottest three-month spell in the history of the great state of Texas, I have come to the realization of why I—and maybe even you--continue to run the marathon.
It’s simple really. Running a 26.2-mile marathon is an extraordinary challenge for ordinary people like you and me. In our humdrum lives, we don’t do much that is truly remarkable. Maybe you do; I don’t.
But running a marathon to the absolute best of my ability is my tiny way of doing something exceptional. It is something out of the norm that I can do. It is my art. Regardless of the outcome, it is my chance at an accomplishment.
Let’s face it, 26 miles is a long way to drive. It’s a helluva long way to run and the marathon throws challenges at nearly every level of my being. It’s as much an emotional/mental battle as it is physical. Merely getting to the starting line in one piece is tough enough. Making it 26 miles to the finish line can feel downright impossible.
But we do it and finish. I’ve run at least 30 marathons and each and every one has been painful and incredibly difficult. Fun? Not for me.
And yet, somehow there’s always self-discovery and utter satisfaction patiently waiting for me at every finish line. That’s my finishers’ medal. The race may have pounded my quads and drained me of my senses, but it also bestows upon me a gift of enlightenment that changes with each marathon.
I’m not one of those guys who gets too metaphysical and touchy feely about his running. To me, marathoning is a purposeful thing that I’m fortunate enough to be able to do. I can place one foot in front of the other for 26.2 miles.
But that’s about it. Nobody truly cares whether I run well or not. Nobody will care whether you run well or not. It only matters to you and me.
Our marathoning doesn’t better mankind. It just betters us. That’s what keeps us coming back.