Before I went running today, I thought:
Being an athlete or a runner or a marathoner is part of my self concept. Being an athlete comes from my heart, is a core concept which describes a foundational way of living.
Being a marathoner is an external idea with a meaning attached to how others measure me. My BQ (Boston qualification) was not interesting because it was a BQ, that is an external measure. It was interesting in terms of amazement at myself for finishing under 4 hours at the age of 50. But it wasn't elation.
In terms of self concept, it is good for me to ask myself what I expect the marathon to do to myself concept that I want. What do I value about the experience or the label? Personally, I pay attention to who I expect to be impressed, because bragging always feels demeaning to me.
Then, I went running. Perfect day. Foggy, levy was bare dirt, temps around freezing, no wind. I shared my run with the company of wild turkeys, geese and a hawk or two, one runner with a dog wearing saddle bags, two walkers and another runner. Miraculously, someone had plowed the big drift. Wonder whose job that is?
As I got started, my mind wandered back to marathoning and the whys regarding why I run or why I run marathons. I know my first foray into running was at the age of 13 when I already wanted some sort of self transcendence in my life and already regarded long distance running as a method. I have had transcendent moments at the end of races. Most notably I had great moments of elation after a painful marathon I ran at the age of 37; and the trail 50k I did on a hot July day (8.5 hours).
I have had moments of elation in the middle of long training runs where some intuitive idea burst into my mind with such amplitude I raised my arms in triumph. I used to kill for ag(age group) awards. But last year, I went home without even collecting 3 of them; and when I moved, none of my plaques moved with me (they ended up in the garbage).
Still and all, I like marathons for their bench mark value. I like them because I do try to throw my heart over the bar when I'm in the last 6 or so miles. I keep myself in marathon shape all the time; don't see any reason to slack off.
During my run today, I decided on Gu every 45 minutes. At my first Gu gobble (in honor of the turkeys), I realized that with 6 packets and two small water bottles in my fanny pack, and a thermos of hot water stashed along the trail for refills, I could stay out there as long as I wanted. This thought gave me a feeling of smug satisfaction: I can run for as long as I want. And therein lies my heart and soul. I'm far more interested in just plain running than a marathon per se.
I ran nearly 22 miles in 3:51.