In for the long run

Runners tackle the Motatapu marathon. Photo: ODT
Runners tackle the Motatapu marathon. Photo: ODT

A motivated Liz Breslin tackles the marathon and goes the distance. 

Marathon. A small town in Greece, population 33,000, which is considerably less than the number of participants in its New York running namesake.

According to Google maps it is 43.3km from Athens (Pheidippides obviously took a very slight short-cut), which will take you 47 minutes in current traffic. Or 7 hours 26 minutes to walk.

Marathon is also a city in Florida, a town in Ontario and a state of mind.

It's been on my mind for two reasons. First, volunteering with my students at the recent Challenge Wanaka, listening to so many people's stories, seeing the grit and the pride. The memories that drive them. It's pretty inspiring. Which is just as well.

Because, second, as you're reading this over your eggs bene at some civilised brunch hour on Saturday morning, I will be starting out on the Motatapu off-road marathon.

And, in all likelihood, if you're reading this over a 4 o'clock beer, I will still be running said marathon. And very likely still running while you light the barbie and relax. Or sort of shuffling at that stage. Slowly. Smilingly.

Living in a town with more than its fair share of physical overachievers, for whom a marathon is a warm-up or a weekend jaunt, it's almost embarrassing for me to admit that my usual endurance sport is keeping up the facade of being a pony mum for an entire event, or sitting through a staff meeting.

Or, as my son puts it, far less subtly. "You've got to be kidding me, Mum; I can walk up the driveway faster than you run it.''

But I've not felt so alive for a long time (knees excluded). And the short time (a month) I've had to train has turned me into one of those rock-hard sporting ninjas. Of course.

And so here is my list of eight great things about Going the Distance.

1. You don't have to run a marathon to run a marathon.

Of course, you have to train. A lot. Build up your skills and endurance. But it's a bit like going for a new job that you can't quite do yet - you know you can do it, you just have to take the leap. Too much running is actually bad for your marathon chances, apparently. As is too much water. Don't overdo.

2. Endorphins are amazing.

Endogenous morphine. Hard-core home-grown feel-good neuropeptides. They're fantastic. And they're free! They make landscapes newly interesting. And food taste so good. And isn't it good to be thirsty? And moving. Life is like The Lego Movie song on repeat - Everything is awesome!

3. Drugs are amazing.

When the endorphins wear off. Hooray for painkillers and thick layers of white stingy cream.

4. You don't need a lot of new things to get stuff done.

True, new things are nice. Dedicated apps and fancy training plans can make you feel organised and important. And new trainers make me feel fitter, just looking at them. But you can still put one foot in front of the other in running-out runners. And the people with the shiny new gear, they've all got to take the same trail.

5. What goes up must come down.

The biggest myth I know is that life should be on an even keel. It's OK to have ups and downs. It's necessary. And when you're in it for the long run you can approach them with equanimity or with a whole lot of cuss words but you've still got to get up and over. This is true for physical hills as well as metaphorical humps.

6. Multitasking is an actual thing.

It is possible to eat Marmite sandwiches and run at the same time.

7. You can always take one more step.

My husband says to me sometimes, if things are tricky, "You can do this. You've done marathons. You've done childbirth.'' They are, after all, remarkably similar.

8. This too shall pass.

Not to be confused with Gandalf saying "You shall not pass'', or the dude who repeatedly hits his head against a brick wall because it feels so good when he stops.

It's a Hebrew proverb, I think. And it's very good to repeat with slightly gritted teeth. Pain is temporary. This too shall pass. Painkillers are awesome. This too shall pass. Sugar gel gloop is disgusting but necessary.This too shall pass. I'm enjoying this so much. Really. 42.2km. This, too, shall pass.


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