Embracing a virtual Marathon

Running 42km / 26 mi has its challenges; during the training and the event itself, we make a lot of effort in our personal lives to complete it. Part of the reward is to feel the people's energy beside you, all the runners and the audience, and everyone has a word to say; everyone has a story, something you take to yourself and becomes part of your life forever.

Running a Marathon alone might be more challenging. Without the public cheering up, or the energy of the athletes, or the precise hydration points, the reward is not entirely clear, and therefore the perceived effort is more significant.

At the begging of the year, I received an email invitation from Abbott to run The inaugural AbbottWMM Global Run Club Marathon, a virtual event on a race window, from Saturday, May 1, 2021, to Sunday May 2, 2021. The rules were convenient and straightforward; you have a 48-hour window to run the Marathon to pick the best time of day and weather conditions available to you.

After one year locked down in our homes, with some additional weight, and without being able to train regularly, or even train at all, I didn't have the confidence needed to start the Marathon journey again. At that moment, I decided to decline.

I had already rejected the Chicago Marathon for 2021 and moved it to 2022; I couldn't find any motivation to run a Marathon alone with so little reward.

After a few weeks of receiving the invitation, the fear of running a virtual Marathon alone started to change. At first, I felt threatened because running a Marathon with little time for preparation and the lack of energy from the athletes, and the audience could end on finishing on a terrible time or, even worst, no finishing it all.

But then, I asked myself, how much does it matter the time I finish the Maraton? Why did I start running Marathons in the first place? The answer was simple because of the challenge of running 42k/26mi, because it defied me, physically and mentally.

Now, after finishing 4 Marathons already, I could take this opportunity as another challenge, as a way to build more mental and physical fitness, to create the necessary adaptations to run a Marathon without external rewards, to get all the energy I need from inside.

It remembered me when we were locked down; we had to work alone, without the everyday human connection and adding up supervising our children in school from home. It certainly was a threat, but just like the virtual Marathon, it gave us the chance to become more efficient and build the mental fitness necessary to overcome the situation.

I waited until the last registration day March-15, to finally enrolled myself in the Marathon. I had 45 days to train for a Marathon again, and this time all alone.

It was not an easy journey, but it never is; it is the Marathon experience. It is about making it happen, believe in it, and keep moving forward.

I had my training plan, but I missed many days of training; I had to build the habit again; this is probably the most challenging part, to make the habit again, wake up every day, and just run with the flow, without overthinking it. We tend to overthink everything as part of being human, and sometimes we need to realize that these are just thoughts and get the shoes on and start moving.

Some days were more difficult than others, but step by step, mile by mile, my whole running consciousness was building up again. I was getting more confident as I was accumulating miles, and as the day became closer, I knew, within my heart, I was going to do it.

Finally, the race day arrived; I woke up at 4:00 am, had breakfast, played my favorite Marathon song, and went to my medal wall, and said to myself, "today is not the day I am giving up." I put my shoes on and started running.

It all went well until I reached 32km/20 mi; I was even under the impression I was going to make a new PR, but the Marathon experience is built step by step, one at a time, just like everything we embrace in life, it is easy until we hit a wall.

The last 10km/6 mi hurt a lot, mentally and physically; I have to say I missed the crowd telling me, "you are almost there." Usually, people help you break the wall to continue and finish. This time was different; this time, I had to dig inside and find what's necessary to break that wall step by step.

I finished, stopped my watch, checked the time, and laid down below a coconut tree in front of the beach, and waited for my wife and kid to pick me up.

I was happy, excited because I finished, and this time I got a different reward.

The Marathon experience teaches us that no matter how challenging a situation can be, we can always reframe it as an opportunity; it is our choice. When things get complicated, we can always find anything we need within ourselves. It is there for us.

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