I am not afraid…
As you near the 25 mile mark the iconic Citgo sign is right in front of you. But you see it through the red haze of pain, fatigue and exhaustion. You’ve been fighting the pace for 2 or 3 miles. You’re on fire and losing altitude.
It’s not Heartbreak Hill or any of the storied hills of Newton that are the hardest hill on this course. It is the small bump over the Mass Pike at mile 25 that crushes a man’s soul and spirit. It brings a fresh hell of protest from your mind and your machine. If the hills didn’t take you out early and you are still racing this climb is a gut punch.
You push down the daemons clawing at your mind, screaming at you to stop. You put the pain aside as you have done in so many training sessions over the past 3 months and push through the red haze. You are willing your knees to rise up to the hill. You are pushing your hips forward and trying not to fight the hill.
You try to relax into the pain as your training has taught you but your legs move like they are trapped in wet cement. Your body hears your commands but something is lost in the translation and your stride is cropped and jerky. Your heart is hammering your blood, thick with effort, into muscles rotten with fatigue.
The green walls of Fenway Park slide by on the right, but you probably won’t see them because your mind has narrowed your focus in an attempt to hang on. All you can see is a dim tunnel of pavement with a seething blur of hysterical crowds on the edges.
People are screaming, maybe even screaming at you. Thousands of people are screaming at you, but you don’t hear them or see them. All you can hear is a dull background roar and the sound of your own heart and ragged breathing as you hang on, focusing your last shred of humanity on keeping the legs turning over and moving forward.
There’s a water stop before Kenmore Square. If you’re still racing you won’t stop to get a drink because the only thing keeping you moving forward is the autonomy of momentum. To stop or even pause here would break that trance of momentum. It’s too late for water or Gatorade. None of that can help you get to the finish line now. The only fuel you have left at your disposal is courage and you dare not pause to test your tenuous hold on it.
You are racing now based on shear muscle memory. Those hours and hours of training in the cold and dark. Those interminable track workouts that brought you to the edge of your sanity every week have given you the ability to invoke this running dream state. .
Your body has exhausted its reserves long ago. Your muscles are junk. Your mind is fogged and numb. Each stride brings the ebb and flow of soul crushing pain. The only thing keeping you moving forward, racing, is the burned in effort of your training.
In Kenmore square there is a sign that says “1 mile” and the crowds are surging at the snow fences on either side, animated and dynamic. You can smell the finish. You search the road up ahead for that underpass that precedes the turn onto Hereford Street as if seeing this is the most important thing in the world. As if the fate of humankind dangles in the balance of seeing where that pack of runners ahead disappears under Mass Ave.
It hurts badly. Each footfall on the old Boston roads rolls a wave of instability and pain up through your core. But, you know the finish is up there, somewhere, just out of site, just out of reach and you will your legs to move like a madman fighting a 100 mile per hour head wind.
It’s only a mile. That’s 4 laps of the track. You push back the veil of red fog to remember the hundreds of 1600 meter repeats you have run in your training and you are not afraid. It’s only 4 laps. Your body knows how to do this. Your body has been programmed for this moment. Your mind has been conditioned for this moment.
Struggling up out of the underpass you see the crowd of runners disappearing to the right around the 90 degree turn onto Hereford Street. The crowds are roaring and pushing in on the fences like a living thing trying to snatch you from the street and eat you. They are pulling you, digesting you, urging you to push, to run to throw yourself at this race.
This race of champions. This race of gods. This worthy race that you have trained so hard for.
Runners stumble to your left and to your right. They collapse in agony from cramps. So close to the finish. They walk. They stagger. They bleed. They push with everything they have, their willpower, their courage the very essence of their existence, all these reserves and more are poured into the battle.
The final moments of this battle draw near as you push up Hereford and make that turn onto Boylston Street. Through the red haze of your vision the finish line is there. It seems so far away. Somewhere is the 26 mile mark, but you don’t see it. You see only that finish line. You focus on it like a dying man grasping at the light.
You tell your body to kick. You tell your body to give everything that is left, to pick up the pace and move towards that beautiful blue and yellow archway. Your body tries to run, to close the race but it has already given all it had. You are running on pure courage now and any incremental speed is dipping into the deficit further.
Your legs try to churn, your heart bashes against your insides trying to move the waste sodden blood and your lungs cough and gasp for purchase in the harbor scented air. The red fog of your vision begins to collapse in from the sides and all you can see at the end of a very long and blurry tunnel is that finish line.
You’ve trained and suffered for this moment. You have gone deep to places that you didn’t know you could and farther than most people will dare to go. You have earned the right to be here in this most holy of places. You are making it worthy with your effort and suffering.
You try to visualize the greats who have suffered here before you with their courage and commitment. Great marathoners. Clarence DeMar, Johnny Kelly, Bill Rodgers, Meb keflezighi, Rosa Mota, Uta Piping, and Joan Benoit. They all passed through here.
They all did the work and suffered for their passion to make to this place. You have done the work and suffered for your passion. You have earned the right to suffer in your courage on this filnal ¼ mile lap down Boylston Street. The Unicorn is in your blood now. You are part of a band of brother and sisters who know the secret thrill and passion and worthy suffering of racing the Boston Marathon.
As you collapse those last few strides across the timing mats and the yellow and blue line in the road slides by you feel the purest of joys. The joy of giving yourself fully in a worthy battle. You are now part of that great history. You are a different person then the person who started that training campaign 3 months ago. You will never be the same.
You are not afraid anymore because you have journeyed through the dark place and have come out forged strong and indestructible.
Are you ready to seize your place in History?
Are you ready to do what others will not?
Are you ready to qualify for the Boston Marathon?
Let me introduce you to the MarathonBQ training plan.
Qualify for Boston Marathon