What goes through an athlete’s mind when he is training or racing a triathlon, marathon or other endurance event?
A poem about my experiences running the Disney Marathon. I wanted to capture the external environment as well as the the thoughts running through my head.
Numbered bodies pack against me,
as we advance towards the starting line.
I bounce up and down in my cramped space,
listening to the nervous buzz around me.
The crowd counts down from ten,
as my adrenaline surges in anticipation.
“You will do this,” I tell myself.
Boom! cracks the cannon signaling start,
and the horde gushes forward.
Near the front, the runners run,
as the laggards only start to walk.
My breathing quickens and heart pumps faster,
as I maneuver to find my pace.
“Stay relaxed,” I tell myself.
Now, two miles done and
my lungs bellow and legs pump rhythmically.
My focus is into my body,
as I monitor my effort, posture, breathing,
heart rate and cadence
and tweak them to be where they need to be.
“Stay focused,” I tell myself.
Now, five miles done and
I smile at the hurting, gasping runners
who started out way too fast.
I smile because I’ve been in their shoes,
before I learned about the race.
It’s all about the pacing.
“Be patient,” I tell myself.
Now, ten miles done and
the first big hill is just ahead.
I relax my shoulders and collapse my stride
to improve my efficiency.
Ascending, my lungs drink deeper
until I crest the top and the welcome relief.
“Almost halfway,” I tell myself.
Now, eighteen miles down,
and time has exponentially slowed.
Sweat stings my chafed, raw skin,
and now will must force my aching legs
to keep moving me forward still.
I check my watch – I’m barely on pace.
“Why I am doing this?” I ask myself.
Now, twenty-four miles done and
I’m physically almost there.
But, I hurt. I hurt. I hurt.
It’s desire that begs me forward,
and for what I hope to find
when I finally, finally cross the finish line.
“Almost there,” I tell myself.
Now, twenty-six miles done
and the pain is so much more.
I make the last turn, picking up the pace,
as waving spectators cheer me on.
All I can do is grimace back
and simply keep moving my legs.
“Finish strong,” I tell myself.
Now, across the finish line
and into the arms of volunteers.
I hear my name announced,
as I check the posted time.
I’ve my achieved goal and
that sweet, yet fleeting feeling of euphoria.
“Now, what’s next?” I ask myself.