26.2 miles underfoot

I did it.

6 hours, 14 minutes, and 11 seconds of one foot in front of the other.

I went into the marathon with no expectations whatsoever of what my time would be. They close the actual finish line after 8 hours, so my only desire to make it through while the finish was still open. At the beginning of the year I was training pretty consistently -- then when Mel got pregnant and immediately sick, running ceased altogether for me. I considered dropping the marathon at that point but finally decided it was worthwhile to go ahead with it just for the sake of having something to improve on for next year. I wound up walking the bulk of it, running here and there just to spice things up a little. My guess would be that I probably ran no more than 3 miles tops all told.

Note to self: next year, some training might be nice. As far as my muscles go, I actually felt pretty ok through most of it. Where I got nailed was in not having gotten my feet and my shoes acquainted with each other intimately enough; my feet started to blister after 4 miles.

The marathon was simultaneously so much more and so much less than I expected. One the one hand, there really just isn't a way to prepare yourself for that many consecutive steps. But there was an awful lot of it too where I was just walking, thinking how all I was doing was walking (quickly) and there really wasn't anything that special about it. At those times it felt very much like trying to hurry through the grocery store when you forget one item and want to go back and get it before the cashier gets to your stuff. So overall the experience would be very mundane for long stretches, and then suddenly the moment of what on earth are you doing would strike and I would look up and see just how stinking far away the (fill in the blank: Fremont / St. Johns / Steel) ________ Bridge still looked and wonder why on earth I had been crazy enough to actually pay for this experience.

There truly is something strange that happens inside your head when you take the same routine task and do it over and over again several thousand times in a row without stopping. There were moments where all real consciousness was gone from my head and nothing was left but the rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement over and over. It made me think of assembly line workers who repeat the exact same task in the exact same way all day long -- I have no illusions that their job is enjoyable, but at the same time I imagine they must experience that kind of disappearance of conscious thought far more often than the rest of us. Granted, mostly that's just a mind getting utterly and completely numbed. But I wonder how different that state really is from the trance state sought after by New Agers.

This will definitely not be my last marathon. I can't put my finger on what it is that draws me back to the experience (it's certainly not the feeling in my calves 3 days later!) but there is something that already makes me wish I could go do it again tomorrow.

I figured this was as good a time as any to start experimenting with Picasa's new Web Album feature -- here's a few pics Mel took, two from the 21 mile mark, and two after the finish. Be patient if you click to enlarge the pictures -- the come up with very poor resolution at first (at least on my slow dial-up pipe) but they do resolve eventually.

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