Including training sessions, I think I ran over 50 marathons by now. Maybe more, I didn’t keep count, I just did a short back of the envelope mental calculation. I don’t consider myself a competitive ultra-runner, mostly because I personally know people who ran hundreds of marathons. I know my place, but even if I’m not that competitive, 50 marathons is enough to learn some stuff from it, to derive some patterns and extract a bit of knowledge (that’s something that I always try to be keen on, regardless of the main benefit of the activity, which in this case is obviously health and fitness).
I’m not gonna write about the (in)famous “wall”, that all marathoners are hitting between km 30 and 35. Also, I’m not gonna write about the first 10km, when you try to find the goldilocks zone of your pace.
Instead, I’m going to write about the last two kilometers before the finish.
If the marathon you’re running is an official competition (that is, you’re not running by yourself) this is where spectators are starting to appear. People having runners in the race are usually grouping around this area, hoping to get a good view of the ones they’re supporting. That means you get a lot of cheers and encouragements. Depending on your state, these may sound either uplifting, or annoying as hell. After 40 kilometers of continuous moving, you’re either flying, forgetting all the pain that you went through, or you’re overwhelmed, barely crawling towards the finish line. If you’re flying, the cheers will make you smile and fly even higher, if you’re not, you’re going to get really bitter.
But there’s more to it.
There are things happening deep inside you during that distance. 2km means most of the time you can almost see the finish line. That’s a huge difference. You ran for hours with an elusive finish line in your mind and, all of a sudden, it’s there, in front of you, waiting patiently. You can feel it will end soon. And you can finally let your guard down. It’s a mix of relief, pain, exhilaration and adrenaline rush. You’re not there yet, but you know you’re going to make it.
I find these 2km even more enjoyable than the finish, to be honest. There’s a lot more space in those 2 kilometers, a lot more volume for the sensations, for the emotions to unfold, a lot more to think about.
Whenever I engage in something long term, I try to picture not the finish line, not the actual outcome, but those last 2 kilometers, that space in which the finish line is in sight, I’m not yet done, still pushing, but knowing that I’m going to make it.
It’s an amazing mix of still pushing it, still being in the zone, and yet knowing that nothing can stop me now.