I’ve just signed up for the Kiawah Marathon in December, with the goal of running a Boston qualifying time (3:45, since I’ll be turning 35 soon). It’s been a while since I ran that distance, and in the interim I’ve gotten faster and more comfortable with intensity. It’s still a nerve-wracking idea. I’m planning to make a regular sitting meditation practice part of my training. The course will be flat, maybe windy, and at times barren, without many of the distractions of big-city races. Should be a great place to employ dharana, intense concentration, the keystone of any marathoner’s mental training.
I had a taste of that on Saturday in one of my favorite triathlons, the Buckner Mission Man. Alone for most of the run, I couldn’t do my usual dissociation. In fact, I found I could barely shout to my friends at that level of exertion (my attempt at “Lookin’ good!” came out a feeble, gasping, “Look!”), and after a while I gave up trying. Fast running on trails takes complete presence and awareness in the moment. This step, this one, this one. So much work, but no time to realize how hard it is. To stay in the moment, I didn’t use my watch. Seeing my run split later, I realized why it was so hard! A taste of what could be in December.