I ran. I ran until my muscles burned and my veins pumped battery acid. Then I ran some more.
--Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Today I ran the Tokyo marathon for the second time. The first time was in 2007, when I had been in Japan for almost a year. I was not ready for it, and had been depressed for several months by the time February 2007 rolled around. But I’m a stubborn sort, and I did it anyway. It took me about 6 hours and 15 minutes from start to finish.
I was in agony for weeks afterwards, and swore I would never run another marathon, that they were crazy things. But last year I started running regularly, and have run most weeks since May last year, sometimes more than once. And I decided to try the Tokyo marathon again. So now it is Sunday night, and I’m at home.
This year was better than 2007 in many ways. Firstly the weather – last time it was cold and rainy, and I ran wearing a disposable raincoat. I ran alone, and I ran fast, then ran out of energy and dragged myself the rest of the way. I ran in a cloud of depression too, as if the actual clouds and rain were not bad enough!
I’d be lying if I said this year’s marathon was a walk in the park, or that this year is when compared to 2007. But it has improved a lot. Today was warm and sunny in Tokyo. Also, I have made some jogging friends and did the marathon with them, at least for the first half, which helped a lot. In the second half I was on my own, and it was tougher going. But I did have a whole city cheering for me.
Many runners wore all kinds of costumes. There were ninjas, samurais, people dressed up as Pikachu or Spiderman. There was even a guy in a full Darth Vader costume, including lightsaber, and his personal stereo system blaring out his own theme music!
And hearing the crowds cheering was really nice. In the second half of the race, when I alternated between running and walking, a good motivator was running along the side of the road high-fiving all the people. Volunteers, kids, men and women, young and old. The shouts and cheers really helped a lot.
I had hoped to finish in around 5 hours, and while my final time was just under five and a half, I’m pretty happy with that. I beat my previous time by around 50 minutes, despite being 4 years older. I’m in pain, and I was in a lot of pain during the race. But that is okay. Life is pain. Much of this pain has no purpose and it is visited on us by things outside of our control.
But today’s pain had a purpose. It took me outside of myself for a while. Like when climbing Mt Fuji, my whole being was focused on one goal, and propelling myself one step at a time towards my destination. The people around me play a role, but in the end it is my strength, my will that makes a difference.