“If you want to run, run a mile.
If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.”
— Emil Zatopek
I could barely understand the full meaning of this quote until yesterday, this day when I finally took the step to run my first marathon, and one of the best, in Paris where I currently live.
From my first days as a runner, I was always impressed by this distance. How can your body and your mind can keep the pace for so long ? How much effort it requires to go there ?
3 years later and some great experiences hardly acquired (5 half-marathons, some 10k, 15k, etc.) , after hearing a lot of my running-mates telling me amazing stories about their own experience.
Rule your mind, shape your body
Before contemplating this mythic distance, you first need to shape your body and rule your mind to get ready to travel through this journey of 42.195 kms (26,21 miles).
Going to the marathon requires full-dedication and some sacrifices during at least few months, and even more if you consider all the preparation required to work one’s way up. It is a full-time job on yourself to resist to all the temptations that life has to offer.
Preparing such an event will completely re-organize your life, from the things you eat, you drink, your week-ends, etc. For few weeks, your life will be paced by the race.
On this distance, you can’t cheat. Your body and your mind will catch you back soon enough to remind you.
It is a long and hard-work, full of ups and downs, putting your mind into an emotional roller-coaster. Some weeks you feel great and the day after, you’re hurt and you start doubting about it.
Fortunately, you’re never alone and in this journey, you’ll meet amazing people fueled by the same motivation than you, always moving you forward. Hopefully, you will be there for them as well when needed!
I highly recommend Jogg.in, a web platform founded by good friends to friend running-mates anywhere!
Told like that, it might sound silly, right ? But there is something higher and greater that keep pushing you to your final goal. If you never experience yourself this kind of situation, it is really hard to describe and everyone has its own perception of it.
A 30kms warmup
The Day as come. After months of hard training and mental preparation, I was all set to going through this journey. 39115 runners are ready to go through.
As any situation like this one, the first time you can’t really know what to expect. You’ve heard friends and people telling you about their experience but since each of them is very personal, you can just imagine what your own one will be.
I personally never ran more than 28kms (17 miles) during my preparation. So until there, I knew more or less how my body and my mind will react. After that, I will have to discover, the hard way.
From my previous experience, I also knew that during events like that, you’re pushed by all the people coming to encourage you, other runners around you which give your extra-motivation.
First great point: the weather. This sunday was a very sunny one which I knew would help a lot (I was very anxious about that during the week and even more since they announced rain until friday).
Nonetheless, I took precautions to avoid disaster with conditions like these: protect from the sun and always have water on me.
The first 21kms (13 miles) , a distance I’m usually really happy to end with, went super-fast and easy. The atmosphere of the race was amazing! People were encouraging us everywhere, pushing us to move forward. The Paris marathon has a real international dimensions with people coming from a lot of different countries especially for this event.
Things started to get harder for me from the 26th kilometer. I started to feel tired, losing energy. I took the time to handle it to get back in the race.
The most common feedback I heard about the marathon is that the race is starting at kilometer 30. I know now that this is not a myth!
A journey against yourself
Passed the 30th kilometer, you’re now entering in a second phase.
You’re now at only 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) of the finish line, but everything starts to be very tough.
For me, things started to become way more complicated from the 29th kilometer where a pain suddenly appears in my right thigh, forcing me to slow down a little bit. From there, in addition to a — supportable- pain, a lot of questions started to flow in my mind: will I be able to complete the race? Should I keep the pace? Slow down? A lot of questions without any answer except be confident with your feeling and hope your body will follow you!
The next big thing to fight is “The wall”. This unmissable step of the journey will mean the starting point where the things will become very tough. Obviously, the later, the better!
My own wall appears at kilometer 33 (20.5 miles). I really feel tired and my body started to ask for some rest. This is at this precise moment that all the hard mental work done in the last month had helped to smash it!
From kilometer 33 to the finish line was a real fight against my body, asking to stop and my mind which can’t accept that.
I used my own mental tricks, like only projecting me to the next kilometer and so on until km 38 (23 miles) where I knew I will finish without walking!
I finally cross the finish line, 3h55min55s later, with a final adrenaline boost which let the opportunity to do a final sprint!
Even if the chrono is above my initial goal (I wanted to complete in about 3 hours and 40-45 minutes), the fight against your body and your mind to resist until the end was the biggest win.
I’ve now taken the real measure of why so we go so far and keep pushing our-self harder and harder. It is only in these situations where you really discover yourself, your limits, your strength and your weaknesses.
I strongly recommend to anyone this amazing experience at least once in a life.
Finally, I have one only certitude: I’ll do it again!