"I guess that my journey was just different"

Marathon Day

It's marathon day. I am standing at the rear of the field, waiting patiently for the race to start. I have not trained for this race, and have therefore promised myself a leisurely stroll in the countryside, empty of urgency, and of an indeterminate length which I consider to be flexible and open to re-adjustment at all times. 'Let's just see how it goes,' I say to myself. To me, everything at the beginning of the race is rather curious and incongruous - the aid stations, the large numbers of athletes in running clothes, the starting line, the number which I am pinning to myself. I'm not paying much attention to these things, as they are all vaguely disturbing and are somewhat spoiling my very pleasant illusion of informality.

So started the day on August 25, 2004 in upstate New York.

Now, before I go any further I should explain to you what I was even doing on that starting line, as you are most likely wondering by this point. The odd and inexplicable thing, even to myself, is that I actually enjoy these marathons alot. Even though I am so painfully slow; even though I am so challenged in the realms of dynamism, speed and discipline, I still love to simply cover distance. Part of me, inexplicably, loves that slow, patient crawl over the miles, and it feeds something inside me in a way that I can't even begin to understand, let alone explain.

So I began my journey cheerfully enough on that morning, even though I was such an unlikely candidate for the job by any usual and measurable criteria. And for nearly 7.5 hours thereafter I mostly just immersed myself in the beauty of the park. Now, if you were able to actually run that marathon, maybe you didn't have time to stop and stare. I did. I stared alot. Actually, I stared alot without stopping, which is just fine when you're travelling at my pace (no speed wobbles here). And so I gazed at the water and the reflections of the sun. I watched the geese and the swans, which seemed to be everywhere. I looked at the deer which grazed right by the side of the track once the faster runners had disappeared from the course. I watched what (if the world's animators are doing their jobs correctly) can only have been a chipmunk when it scampered across the path right in front of me.

So, I guess that my journey was just different. It wasn't to do with speed or targets or pacing. It certainly wasn't to do with the miles melting away under my feet, or even with the joyful action of running itself - as I mostly just had to walk. It was slow and clumsy, inelegant and laborious,   and probably bordering on the pathetic by many people's standards. And yet how can I be remotely negative about that day? In my heart-of-hearts, really I can't. The surroundings were idyllic, I suffered no illness nor significant discomfort, and my whole being ended up deliciously exhausted by the sheer distance, a unique sensation   which only the marathon distance or greater can yield up. And when, after 7 hours and 22 minutes, I finally staggered home, somebody even put a medal around my neck. Yes, it was all very good.

I have been lucky enough to complete, in my very limited way, all three of the Self-Transcendence Marathons which have been held in upstate New York, and I have to say that I really treasure this event. OK, I wish that I were not so painfully slow, and I wish that   I had even an iota of discipline   buried somewhere deep within my being so that I would train more thoroughly for the event. And yet, with all of these difficulties   and incapacities of mine, I still wouldn't miss these marathons for the world. In conclusion, I really   have to send my most sincere thanks to the organisers (who did all the hard work and didn't get to play), and my congratulations to all of the other participants, but particularly to those very few brave   souls who were behind even me   but somehow still managed to finish the race.