Running a marathon is all about the training and preparation before the event. I know. I ran 2 marathons. I was diligent about the training schedule, kept a healthy diet, got 7-8 hrs of sleep each night, ran the slow, easy long runs once a week along with a medium run, Fartlet/ interval runs and a fast, powerful run. This was the training schedule I used to keep for over 4 months, once my base distance had reached 10 kms. Even with this training, there was no guarantee that I would be able to run 42.2kms on race day. My first marathon was a disaster…to be more precise, a disappointment after all that training. At 36km mark, I “hit the wall”. If you don’t know what that means, take it as the literal translation, because that is exactly what it feels like…hitting a bloody wall…while you’re running, I might add. I started vomiting ( sorry for the graphics). I was huddled on the side of the road, sick as a dog, when the race van pulled up and said, “Get in!”. I faintly replied, “Are you kidding? I have 5 more km to go, and you want me to get in the van? Not a chance…”. They reluctantly pulled away, and I hobbled and jogged and walked over the finish line. So much for that training…but on the positive side, I did make it, I learned a lot about pacing and the distance and about myself and what I needed to do. So, taking this knowledge forward, my next marathon was a breeze and I enjoyed it thoroughly…and no problems along the way…and I celebrated my success.
The Camino is also a marathon of sorts. For some, it can be about training. I did train for it. I walked consistently 10kms each day for one and half months before. It can also be about pacing. During the Camino, there were times when I was walking competitively with the people I was walking with, trying to keep up with them for one reason or another, but all the while knowing that it was taxing my legs, body etc. and I should be doing it. I knew I had to be smart about it, that this Camino was an endurance test for myself and I had to get to know what my body, and what my own self was capable of. This was sometimes a humbling experience, but necessary if I was in it for the ‘long haul’. Knock on wood, I completed the Camino with little injury and problems. My routine on the Camino was kept vigilantly over the course of the 800kms, start early, finish early afternoon, eat, shower, wash, write, bed and repeat it all over again the next day. This helped to condition the body and mind to accept the rigours of the new day. Like my first marathon, I thought my training would be enough to carry me through, and I didn’t expect how difficult a challenge it would be. There was a point on the Camino that I thought about stopping, well yes, quitting. Seriously considering it. Saying to myself, “I don’t need this”, “I could fly to the coast and spend the rest of the time at the beach”. Yes, I seriously considered doing this. I really don’t know what changed my mind, but something inside of me would not let me ‘quit’, not at least without giving it all I had.
Today, I felt that I am starting a ‘marathon’ of sorts. I have accumulated now about 5 writing projects, all of which are challenging, exciting but require work, stamina, dedication and commitment and time. All qualities needed for a marathon or a Camino. So, it struck me today that it is helpful for me to think of the next 4 months as a marathon/Camino training and have a more disciplined schedule (not that rigid though!) to carry it through. My mind and thoughts were racing today with adrenalin, which I know won’t sustain any type of marathon run or this work ahead of me. Perhaps, today was short, fast run that I was doing ?:) So….the starting gun has gone and I am now on the road.
I think back to the Camino, admiring the dedication and commitment of pilgrims who were in such pain but keep on walking, or who pushed a baby stroller the whole way even though it was physically tough for one person, or who came with illnesses but through positive spirit pushed forward and taught others the meaning of compassion. But, equally as admirable were those who knew when to stop, knew when to transport their backpack to the next destination so they could continue, knew when to take the bus and knew when to get off the bus. I take inspiration from this. The Camino teaches one to accept yourself, your limitations, your desires, your challenges and your successes.