The decision is to run. Instantly, the race begins. Without leaving my chair I begin to train. All my actions are now evaluated according to how they will affect the race.
This kind of preparation is part of the race. These preparations are nice. They are so nice that I ought to live that way all the time.
Race performance is the culmination of training. The race is a sounding board that echoes the effectiveness of preparation. One who has not properly prepared cannot fake his or her way through a marathon. Non-runners and inadequately prepared runners can fake their way through short races, but the distance of the marathon weeds them out. The challenge is real.
If there is a flaw in your training technique, the marathon will find it. If you have an injury of any kind, the marathon will aggravate it. If there is self-doubt in your mind, the marathon will accelerate it.
I am left with the task of arranging my mind and body into a viable form. I must create a program for the next few days that will maximize my potential. I need a mind set that will expunge blockades to efficiency.
I am warned by experienced runners that my training is deficient. "If you want to run a marathon you need to run 25-60 miles per week for at least three months to build a solid foundation, I am told.
"My training will be sufficient," I tell them. I will learn and adopt the Psyche of the race. My mind calls upon spirit. I accept the race. I love the race; I will defend the Psyche of the race against any evil influences -- influences that portend to hinder my performance. The Psyche comes from within me and describes the race.
So I resign from the world and all the responsibilities asked of me; I consider only the one race that I am about to run. I consider every bend in the road and imagine all the problems I will encounter so that I will be as prepared as I can be.
That is the busywork. That is the necessary bullshit that must be done: foundation work.
There is nothing gentle or delicate about pouring a concrete foundation. The foundation must be firm and solid, not beautiful.
From here it would be easy to undermine idea of spiritual training based on the aforementioned metaphor of foundations. Any structure (spirit) built on poor or no foundation is vulnerable to breakdown -- Unless that structure is so geometrically perfect that it is well supported without a foundation: the geodesic dome: mind set.
"Hey mom! Look over there! There's a geodesic dome running the Boston Marathon!"
Don't let anyone kid you, those geodesic domes are heavy. I prefer to shape my dome down into the size of a small, portable sphere. Doing this reduces weight and windage. I ran the first four miles of the race with a sphere in my hand and, when the sphere became more of a burden than an aid, I passed it off to someone who could appreciate it: a small child: a spectator.
Small children are lucky. For them, a small ball is socially acceptable. I live in shame. Children have rights to educational tools such as sphere contemplation and sand castle development.
Anyway, that will be an event that will occur during the race and we are not there yet. Our story line is still back here in training, so let's get to it: Spiritual Training.
Realize that spiritual training has nothing to do with religion. The spirit is the spirit of running. You may call it the god of running if that makes it easier to understand.
Pray to the god of running. Meditate on the race and the way it moves. Meditate to weaken the slow creeping enemy who will gain strength as you lose yours: Yin-Yang transition.
Properly orient the enemy within: the enemy will run the entire race by your side and wait patiently for an opportunity.
I could stop and give in to the enemy, but I prefer to keep running. Stopping is easy and sometimes necessary, but the longer the stop, the more strength the enemy develops.
Negative can neutralize only if joined with positive. -1 + 1 = 0. Negative energy can only be reduced at the expense of positive energy. Hence, equal quantities of free floating negative and positive forces must exist in the system and the runner must learn to deal with the two forces and master their concentrations.
If the negative is suppressed (oppressed) it will fight its way out somehow, probably in some meaningless argument or mood. All forces must maintain power and respect.
Positive-negative power should be equally dispersed. A challenge develops in the maintenance of the balance of power. If positive dominates the runner is likely to become phlegmatic because the evil, which keeps good in check is losing. A phlegmatic positive aspect will soften and become useless in the battle. Left to their own devices, negative will conquer and positive will soften, therefore constructive interaction must be ongoing.
Because the system is put under tremendous stress when forced to do so much work, sensitivity to minor problems is crucial. Like a weak spot on an inflating balloon, a problem that is not tended to in early stages will expand and render the whole system vulnerable.
While running I felt and increasing need for water. The feeling was slight at first, but was building. I took water at the risk of contracting stomach cramps. To drink was the correct choice. I later learned that many people fell to the course because of dehydration. Water-drenched, I pressed on. The system check and sensitivity to needs paid off.
The start of the race: balance, relaxation, agility: Life is the race.
Sphere in hand the first four miles drop quickly. I am running ahead of my self imposed pace schedule and feeling good. I am aware that I am running towards an encounter with the unknown, in unknown territory, as I have never run a race of more than 13.1 miles, and on that occasion I experienced grave difficulty at mile eleven. This race is 26.2, twice the previous maximum. I run secure and confident. My mind frame is sensitive and responsive. I tend to my internal environment and external environment. The changes become harsh. The day is hot and humid.
I would love to sprint. My mind and body confines so much energy that I am near crazy with adrenaline. Meteorite prevention: adjust pace to comfortable stride near the predetermined rate.
I run on and on. Predictably the pressure builds. The balance of power teeters and wobbles like a winding down top. Welcome to unknown territory: Mile 14. The real work begins. The ongoing challenge: preserve the mind set. The mind will keep running after the legs quit.
Fear of failure: I slow down. I want to fall into my lover's arms and cry. I foresee my demise: the fear of failure becomes seeded in my brain, takes root, and grows large by feeding on despair and irresolution.
The fear is a cancer that can not be stopped. It can disease and destroy self- confidence. I must continue. The only way to suppress the fear is to keep the top spinning: keep running. This is not fun anymore.
Mile 17: My mind is a blank. There is no pain, no pleasure, only forward motion. It is possible that I can run this thing.
Mile 21: The line between despair and ecstasy. My tired, watery eyes cannot focus. I cross over the line and back. My mind slips from the ecstasy groove into the skipping chaos of despair and back again. My legs continue mechanically. I am painfully aware of the chaos and my mind rises above the race to evaluate: I can see myself. My body has changed since the start. I am a race-geared machine. The logic has set in well.
The sensation is dreamlike. My body and mind no longer know each other. Internal separation: terror. The sound of the cheering crowd blurs. The stimulation has faded and lost its masturbatory effect. I am numb to the environment. I am losing my erection and my motivation. The crowd surveys me curiously and probably cannot understand what kind of feeling goes with the desperate expression cut into my face.
Mile 23: Muscles scream and tear. Spirit cowers for an instant before the awesome force of the race course. Muscles beg to be released from the self inflicted torture. My legs are expended. The mind endures. The onward drive is relentless. Will power drags the impotent appendages along a brisk three mile walk to the finish.
The last quarter mile sparks a final burst of adrenaline. I sprint to the finish line.
So it's over, eh? Good. I hate the damn race. I hate it because it moves too slowly. I have no desire to run at that pace. The pace is grueling. I want to sprint, but I must save my energy for some anti-climactic finish at which I am so badly injured that even though I am passing people, I am moving far too slowly.
The slow pace is a good warm up and this marathon has been a good warm up for me, but the real pleasure comes at high velocity. The real pleasure is reaching for the sky, riding the crest of a wave. If I can not run the course at top speed, I will run some shorter race where I can. Running at a speed less than maximum is a compromise of ability. I prefer to be a burn out meteor than some enduring turtle.
1985, Harvard Extension