Last weekend was the Shibata Sakura Half-Marathon. Also the Boston Marathon? But who even watches that one?
I was first introduced to marathons as a kid. The Boston Marathon runs through my hometown and was essential viewing every year. As a child, I might sit on my father’s shoulders so I could see over the crowds that would gather. The concept of running a marathon seemed impossible at that time. Such an ungodly distance. And yet, thousands showed up to run.
I didn’t know at that time that humans were meant to run. That running is perhaps one of our most dominant skills. All I remember is the story of a family friend who would climb up and down Mt. Monadnock every day in order to prepare for running it. And he wasn’t even looking to win it–just completion was good enough. In learning to respect the runners, I also acquired a newfound belief that running the marathon was virtually impossible. In spite of how many people ran it every year.
A lot is made of achievement, but perhaps the most damaging aspect is the degree to which it pushes others away. The idea that something amazing isn’t just “something anybody could do”.
When I was in college, I had a professor that often wore bright neon orange sneakers. Tom Havens. He’d often go to Japan, and had been going for the past couple decades. At the time, he was writing a book about the history of Japanese marathons (which I’ve just learned is out!). In class, he commented about how many people in Japan run. A lot, apparently. I guess I’d have to see it to believe it.
The truth is, he wasn’t wrong. Lots of people here run. And it was part of the reason I started running too.
Our Greatest Talent
I think most people can agree that human’s mental prowess is remarkable. Our ability to reason and understand, combined with our ability to express such thoughts, has allowed us to rise and control the world around us. It’s the reason I can type all this from a tiny computer in a tiny town while you can read it from… well, wherever you are. I assume not here, in any case. Unless you are here, in which case, let’s hang out?
It’s also been said that it was our opposable thumbs that granted us such unparalleled ability to affect our surroundings. True, those helped. But there is one last boon that let us truly conquer.
Ancient man in Africa would chase after animals that were much faster than them. But they didn’t let speed stop them. Other animals would tire quickly, and after chasing them for miles, ancient men would attack and kill their prey.
Many movies make a big deal out of “humans are weak, but they use their minds to succeed”. And true, in the grand scheme of things, humans are weak. Crazy weak. One well-timed asteroid could destroy us all.
But we aren’t weak. Our endurance was like a cheetah’s speed or a elephant’s strength–unmatched. Of course, add in the thumbs and the mind and, well, we’re kind of overpowered. Really, it’s a little unfair how much things are stacked in our favor. I guess that’s why so many people believe we had a little help from someone above.
Anyone Can Do It
So, where does that leave us? Well, if there’s one thing I want to get across, it’s the fact that any of you can run a marathon. I get the exceptions: quadriplegic, geriatric, lazy. But, most people, if they keep running, can get good enough to run a marathon.
It is worth saying that you won’t be able to run a marathon after a week or even a month of training. But in that first week, aim to run two miles. In that first month, aim to run five miles. As long as you work out more than once every three weeks, you should be able to notice the time you’re able to run going up.
A couple of tips:
- Run while listening to something. I prefer podcasts, though music is of course common. Podcasts are better for me since they don’t have that dead time every five minutes and keep me interested. But you do you.
- Don’t mind how tired you get in the first 5 minutes. Even I get tired in the first 5 minutes. And I’m tired after 10. And then 20. And after about 30 minutes, my body just says, “well, I tried to stop you but it looks like you ain’t stoppin’. Whatever.”
- Eat something good a few hours before running. A banana and peanut butter. Bread? I don’t really know what’s good for you, but don’t run on completely empty. And be hydrated too. Obvious, I know, but worth repeating.
- Don’t think about how much distance you have left. You’ll just psych yourself out. Focus on something else, like the aforementioned podcast.
- Find some reason other than running to run. Maybe run with a friend so that you’re spending time together. Or run to catch up on S-town, that amazing podcast you’ve been listening to. It can be hard to convince myself to run when I’m just sitting on a couch, but it’s pretty easy to convince myself to get outside and continue an amazing story.
Hope to see you out running some day! Who knows? Maybe we’ll meet at some finish line in the not-so-distant future.