(Note: This post originally appeared on the now defunct craigtsoandso.com. Datestamped footnotes with commentary may have been added for my own reflection and amusement.)
I miss it.
It’s been over ten years since I’ve felt it really, but it’s one of those things that’s impossible to forget. If you listen to Radiolab (and you should, it’s an incredibly interesting show) it talks about how your mind can play tricks on you to completely jumble your memories, but this isn’t a memory of a feeling so much as it was a personal event.
Other people besides distance runners or endurance athletes probably experience this, maybe not for the same length of time, but the feeling I’m talking about is a sense of complete focus- where you are completely in tune with your entire body and yet oblivious to all individual stimuli from your body and even externally for the most part. Every muscle, every tendon, every synapse firing in your brain is part of one single completely efficient machine at maximum output. Countless years of evolution resulted in a system that you are for a brief moment using to its full potential. You should feel pain, you should feel exhaustion, but it all melts away thanks to the sheer exhilaration of reaching your absolute apex. I used to call it “the zone” but that seems to cheapen it into some SportsCenter cliché.
This happened to me only a handful of times, not even always in competitive events. I was never the fastest man on our team, but after those particular experiences it didn’t matter. I was able to somehow find the key- by accident or otherwise- to being my absolute best. To stop overthinking what I was doing specifically and just go.
Since that time I’ve taken up running again in fits and starts. I even blogged about it at least once back in my myspace days. I’ve completed road races here and there, even two half marathons. I’m training for my third right now. I am still much, much slower than I used to be. I’ve never reached what I would consider “in shape.” I’ve certainly not approached anything even close to ‘the body as machine’ experience I remember. I may never get there again.
I did, however, take aim at a bucket list entry in signing up for the Chicago marathon. The big one. 26.21. I’ve always said I’ve wanted to do it once, now it’s time to put up or shut up. People who know tell me it’s a whole different animal from 13.1 and I believe them. I’m probably in for a whole lot of pain and suffering. But, if training for it and completing it puts me anywhere closer experiencing what I remember, it’ll be worth it twice over.
2011 is going to be a year of big challenges and changes for me. But, the time for coasting is over, time to dime the amp. Bring it on.
I never did run the Chicago marathon that year, I tore a muscle in my leg a few weeks before the race. I did however go on to just barely complete a full marathon in November 2012. (08/2013)↩