Welcome to a seven-part series on learning how to run a marathon as a minimalist! Marathon training tends to entail doing things to the extreme, pushing yourself to the maximum. So how to reconcile such a project with minimalist outlook? Join me to find out!
Milestone birthdays are more than a number. They are a celebration of the self—the good, the bad, and the ugly. My last birthday party was when I turned sixteen and one of the town’s prized inebriated jocks puked out the window of my friend’s truck.
My fortieth birthday is around the corner and I do not want a party or to scuba dive in sinkholes or sea caves off the coast of Australia. The birthday present to myself has become a more practical, day-to-day adventure. I want to train and run to finish a marathon.
Seven years ago I tasted this goal right after my daughter’s birth. I was lactating, cleaning random baby goop out of my hair, editing manuscripts late into the night while falling asleep at the keyboard, and harboring secrets to run the distance.
In the evening once my baby and toddler were asleep and tucked inside with their daddy, I put on my running shoes and ran the wild Old Topanga Canyon roads, while bats swooped down around my head and coyote packs cackled from the canyon’s depths. There were no streetlights. Nobody saw me. The air was a silky fabric against bare skin. I chased my moon shadow.
Running was freedom, coming back to my body, after growing two humans to term inside. I uncovered a dingy part of myself, the former athlete. I remember testing, by saying out loud, my secret intention to run a marathon to a random grocery store clerk. He was unimpressed and blasé as he looked up the codes for vegetables. Clearly I wanted affirmation and gushing enthusiasm of delight. I wanted external validation, a complete death wish for anyone and particularly women in modern times. Am I sexy enough? Pretty enough? Cool enough? Young enough? Do I have enough social media connections? Outside validation is a horrible game of up keeps.
However, I have grown up, tallied mistakes versus wins, and know what I want this time, and it’s to finish a marathon. Nobody cares about this except me. Coming to this decision I have had to keep a few things in mind:
1. Craft the Heart-Beats-Strongest List. At 5:51 AM one winter day I felt a life scattering going on—too many things, not enough commitment. This internal ruckus led me to create the heart-beats-strongest list, 16 items jotted down in just one minute. Whatever came to mind first stayed and I did not erase anything. I put it away for a week and then revisited it. What in my current life was I focused on but was not on the list? I edited my life. Cut out the nonsense. Focused on my commitments with love.
2. Edit out the Unsolicited Opinionator. Years ago I edited manuscripts at my publishing job and out of nowhere the UPS man stuck his head into my office’s door. “By the way,” he said. “You look better without your glasses.” Just like that: he assigned a random, walk-by opinion. Then he vanished.
Such an anti-compliment might give a shaky gal whiplash and send her straight away to a LASIK eye surgery appointment. If I listened and took to heart the number of people who have commented on my specs or, for that matter, the size of the junk in my trunk I might stop wearing glasses or over cover my lady hump. But I do not.
When I announced to family, friends, and acquaintances that I had decided to run a marathon, the spectrum of mostly negative commentary astounded me. Opinions, judgments, and people’s projections can derail the best of plans. What they did not know was that nobody was going to change my mind no matter what they said. I was doing this for me. Stand strong, even if it is in the team of one.
3. Go Mind F*ck Yourself. Believe in the body-mind-spirit paradigm. Living inside my comfort zone does not benefit the mind. I will not waste away opportunities and become complacent, like the recycled water in the park fountain. When I told my father about the marathon he told me I had always been a great natural athlete but mentally I was never tough enough. This I now know.
The mental fatigue strategies and mantras are in effect to run 26.2 miles nonstop. The mind is as much an erroneous zone as anywhere else and there is a real pleasure principle when I have set my mind on something. During endurance moments I slow dance my mind to an ambient level of quiet, like a soft touch, while adrenaline courses through my veins.
Making the declaration to run the marathon has become like an imaginary friend with a flashlight under a blanket on a rainy night. There is comfort and something childish about believing in your dreams. A secret goal is the jar of stars you keep in your chest and then show the world your light when you lift off your hands.
Also by Tricia: Sweet Silence – a Story of Finding Stillness
Related: First Marathon in 16 Weeks
Photos by Tricia Louvar