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I don’t know. I just started doing this. I’ve never done it before but figured, like a wealthy Wall Street idiot who can afford to pay a sherpa to set up a picnic on the top of Mount Everest: so many people have done it before, why couldn’t I? Is that a way of saying that I thought it would be easy? Maybe.

It was several months ago. I had gotten back into working out, alternating running days with yoga days. My mileage wasn’t that high. Maybe 20 miles per week. No, that’s being generous. If I look back at all the data the companies are constantly collecting on me, I’d realize it was no more than 10. I’m not looking back at that though. To hell with the truth. I was running 20 miles!

I was thinking it’d be great if I felt motivated to run more again. I hadn’t felt motivated since running a half marathon a few years ago. Five years ago, actually. That’s not long, right? I’m still an athlete.

What came next? Was it friends saying they were running Chicago and I should join them? I couldn’t. Chicago was already full. Or did I actually begin to thirst for a race? The Capitol Classic 10k route ran past my house on a weekend when my wife was away. If I’d been in shape (and more prepared), maybe I could’ve run that and satisfied my hunger for a race. But instead I was a spectator, running 3 meager miles after the runners had crossed the finish line in an effort to make up for my failure.

Like any hunger that lingers too long, my eyes got bigger. No, I wouldn’t do a 10k or even another half marathon. I’d do the whole thing!

Looking back, I’m thankful I committed then. Give it another week and I would’ve signed up for the Leadville Trail 100. I know, I’m crazy. My wife has mentioned it.

So I decided to run. First the Toronto Waterfront. Then when the idea of flying—crunched in a tin can for a few hours—right after running sounded more painful. I looked for something closer—to Baltimore. Guess I’ll have to run through those rat-infested streets!

I gave myself a goal. My goal was ambitious. I didn’t stop at “finishing” or “not walking” or even “not stopping.” I gave myself a time goal. I was going to do this in three hours and forty-five minutes, god damnit!

Was I giving myself a marathon pace that was faster than any pace I’d run in over a year? Yes. Was I expecting myself to PR on both halves of the marathon? Yes.

But, fuck it.

Here I am, sweating through the humid mornings, racing the sunrise, failing to get home before the rays beat down on my unprotected, pasty skin. My legs are getting tighter. That’s good, right? My knees have been fine. Mostly. Except that time I stood up to let a friend out of a booth and felt the side of my left knee burn hot embers. Is that bad?

The 15-mile run the next day was slow. My knees never flare up. Not during the run. But at mile 7, my hip felt like it was twisting, like a knob was turning, someone was unlocking it from my body. I stopped. Eight miles from home. I stretched. Drank the rest of my water. Then gingerly kept going.

The remaining miles were like that: every few I would stop, walk a little, search for a water fountain, then start running again. I made it back home. Eventually.

An hour later than I was (unrealistically) hoping.

Maybe that’s how it is to run a marathon. I’ll have to find out, taking every day, one step at a time, one mile at a time, hoping I don’t have to stop, hoping I can at least walk, hoping I can get to the finish line.

And if I don’t finish? Guess it means it’s good I didn’t sign up for the Leadville 100.

Thomas Viehe

Thomas Viehe prefers pop over soda, loo over toilet, fall over autumn. He lives with his wife and dog in a remote part of the country, Washington, D.C.

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