Taking on the Marathon (Part 1)

by have0limits

It is end of July 2010. While procrastinating on a weekend, I am watching the European Championships in marathon taking place in Barcelona. Not really an exciting competition. Two hours of dull watching others running. Never actually watched a full marathon on tv before. I remember thinking “some day I will run my marathon”. I have been telling this to myself for several years already, moving this challenge from year to year and again, like many do. Someday.

Yes, I go for jogging from time to time, but marathon…you need to prepare for this at least a year. Well, maybe 3 months would do, if you are in shape and prepare really intensively, but who would take such a burden?

Suddenly the reporter says: “This year we have the 2500 anniversary of the marathon run”. I think to myself: “2500 anniversary? Bullshit! How can he know?”. But…wait a second. There was this ancient battle of Marathon. I scan through my scattered, holey, incomplete school knowledge and I believe to remember it took place 490 BC. As the legend says: After the battle was won by the Greek, a messenger run from the battlefield to Athens to inform the king about the glorious victory. He arrived, said “we have won!” and fall to death due to exhaustion. So 490 plus 2010 would in fact make 2500.

Isn’t it the best year to run my first marathon? Would there be a better opportunity in my life time? Wouldn’t it be great to run the first marathon on the original course from the town of Marathon to Athens?

But…you need at least 3 months of preparation if you start with the level I am on to manage the time limit. And the marathons take place in spring, summer and early fall, so it’s surely not enough time for the preparation. Let’s check the website of the Athens Classic Marathon. This year the classic marathon takes place on October 31st, in exactly… 3 months! What a good fortune! It is enough time for the shortest preparation program if I start right now.

I feel the wave of excitement and resoluteness like I have never felt before in respect to running a marathon. I find myself thinking: “This time I should really do it”. All the circumstances seem perfect. And I may convince my best friend Jack to take this challenge with me. And we can connect it with an interesting travel to Athens. Yes, this seems the right thing to do now.

I am calling Jack and saying: “We will be running the marathon in Athens this year” and I explain him all the details.

He goes: “Are you crazy? I have run maybe 500 meters in my life altogether”.

I was a little bit surprised. He really looks good, much better than me: six-pack and so on. He has a body of Adonis. I thought he was in a good shape, but apparently running and working out are completely different things.

I remind him of the last challenge I invited him to and he gave up on, later regretting it. Then tell him about the 3 months preparation program, which he could use and manage to run the marathon in spite of his inexperience.

He says: “Alex, you will kill me some day, but I will see what I can do. Let me gather some data”.

Later that day he calls back and informs me there is a stamina test you have to pass in order to physically be able to use the 3 months preparation program. You need to be able to run one hour straight with the speed of 8 min/km or quicker. He promises he will do the test tomorrow in the fitness club and let me know if he passes or not.

Next day I ask him: “And? Did you pass?”

He: “Yeah! But it was a ‘massacre’! I could run maybe 5 minutes with the power of my body and the remaining 55 minutes I run only with the power of my will. I was tired to death!”

I: “So, you passed the test?”

He: “You can say so, but…”

I: “Ok. I will register us for this marathon.”

The very same evening I go to the website of this event and try to find the registration form. It is end of July. The only information I can find is the information dated March 20th saying the registrations are closed and all the starting slots are already allocated. No space for more participants.

In my first reaction I feel surprised and helpless, somehow defeated. Apparently I am not the only person having the great idea of running the 2500 year marathon in the original location.

But the word “impossible” is missing in my dictionary. I know the registration form must be there, but is not linked in the menu. And in fact, after several trials I find it through a URL manipulation.

I register both of us, hoping they will accept this registration despite the registration period being over for 4 months already. This time I count on the greek chaos.

More in the next part of this story…