Yesterday my wife Baiba and I ran the Rio de Janeiro marathon (26 miles/42 kilometers) and we are now officially in the 7-Continents Marathon Club. Interestingly, fewer people (338) have run marathons on all seven continents than have gone into space (499), or reached the top of Mt. Everest (2,249). I’m not sure which of these three groups is crazier. Here’s my story and it’s all about PUSH.
The Rio marathon was a beautiful course along the ocean, but very tough due to heat, humidity, and hills. The important thing was to finish and get into the 7-Continents Club, not to run a fast time, so I just cruised along.
Then at the halfway mark a quick calculation told me I might be able to finish in just under 4 hours (a lot slower than my best time of 2 hours, 43 minutes, but those days are over). Suddenly I had a new goal, but it could only be achieved by maintaining my current pace. Even a second slower per mile and I’d finish in over 4 hours.
No sooner had I set the goal, when along came big hills and windy sections and I was losing 15 to 30 seconds a mile. To make up for it, I had to run faster on the downhills, with the risk of pulling a leg muscle and blowing any chance of making it to the finish line and into the Club.
I just kept pushing and with 6 miles (10km) to go, it looked like an under 4-hour finish was still possible, but not easy, because at that point in a marathon all your energy reserves are gone and you “hit the wall.” It’s why cycling champion Lance Armstrong said running a marathon was “the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
It became a fight between mind and body. My legs kept saying, “This is agony. Slow down you idiot. Who cares if you finish in 3:59 or 4:01?” My mind countered with, “You’ll regret it if your finishing time is 4-something, and if you’d just pushed harder it could have been 3-something.”
My mind won the argument, I threw caution to the wind, pushed as hard as I could, passed hundreds of other runners who were limping or walking, and crossed the finish line in 3:59:56 – 4 seconds under 4 hours. Whew! Then I puked.
Apparently, running coaches used to have a bucket handy during practice and they would tell the runners, “If you don’t puke in the bucket, you haven’t pushed yourself hard enough.” Push is a big key to success at anything in life, including running all seven continents, and I guess I pushed hard enough yesterday.