by Drew Martin
A few years ago I wrote about a do-it-yourself marathon that I ran with my youngest son in a jogger. Yesterday I ran another spontaneous marathon: I started a little before 5am and planned to run about 20 miles but I kept going. I got back around 8am, and during those three hours and ten minutes I covered more than 26.2 miles. But it is not really a marathon is it? A marathon is an event where there is food and medical support, and it is organized and people cheer for you on the side, and there are thousands of other people running next to you. When you are out there by yourself, you are alone in many ways: you have to carry your own food and drinks, and when you get lost you have to navigate back to your course. No one blocks traffic or eggs you on. When people drive by they just see you moving along and probably think you are out for a spin around town.
When I was a teenager I appreciated Alistare Cooke’s musings about traveling across America. He recommended to drive east to west, and to cover most of the driving each day in the morning; that way the sun is not in your eyes but rather it illuminates the road ahead of you. I thought about this yesterday because of how I was running my own marathon. I ran the first half towards the northwest into the hills, and then I looped back towards the southeast so I was able to enjoy a long, slow descent as I watched my environment light up with the eventual rising of the sun. This is a great way to approach a long-distance run because it breaks it up into two distinct sections. The first half is abstract – like you are on a spacewalk in the cold darkness. The most noticeable variables are smells: wet leaves, skunk, and the occasional sputtering, old, truck. In this pre-dawn zone, silence rules, and when you pass roadside deer, they just stop and stare but do not dart off. The second half is when the world comes to life, and the help you might need if you get in trouble later in the run, wakes up, opens stores and chats on phones.