You’d think after more than a year of planning for this moment, hitting the register button would prompt at least some sort of thrill. Just a little one; nothing major. At least some small signal to indicate that every cell in my body fully understood what a monumental moment this was.
I filled in my name, my projected time (4:59:59, because, while it will probably take me more than 5 hours, setting a possibly unattainable goal is just one of the things that keeps me feeling young), and method of payment. I winced at the fee of $227, which is more than $8 per mile and a ridiculous amount no sane person would agree to pay in exchange for the torture of pushing their one and only body through such a feat.
Then I sat there, expecting to feel triumphant. Instead–nothing.
Don’t you realize what you just did? I thought to myself. Do you understand how ridiculous this action seemed to you just 16 months ago?
I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t feeling more elated. Sure, all I’d done was promise to do something in November, something that up until the moment I decided I would do it, I hadn’t thought I ever could. I still have to actually train for the thing, which will mean forcing myself through what I’m sure will be excruciating physical agony. But even just signing up should have felt huge.
By the end of the day, I’d forgotten about my disappointment following my big-yet-tiny action. I went to CVS and headed to the rec center to run a few miles, only to find out the rec center was closed for no apparent reason. I wasted a half hour walking from and to the train to discover this, and I made it to my neighborhood past dark so that even though it was finally warm enough, at a balmy 34 degrees, to run outside, I knew I probably shouldn’t. I was in a terrible mood having nothing to do with anything, and it just figured that my plan to keep to my running schedule would be impossible that night. I skulked home from the subway, giving less than friendly looks to everyone who got in my way (which was everyone). I entered my apartment, stared down the empty pizza box sitting on my floor waiting to be brought to the garbage chute, scowled at the dirty dishes anticipating a bath, and steered past the bag of dirty laundry taunting me in the hallway.
Then I put on my running clothes and tied my shoes. I grabbed my keys, gloves, and phone, and walked out into the night. And as soon as I started striding through the crisp, frozen air, I felt better.
It was a short run, and I wasn’t going nearly as fast as I thought I was, but it was the first time I can recall actually feeling good while running. I’ve appreciated the effects of running before. I’ve definitely embraced the fueling and celebrating part through thorough eating. I’ve even felt psychologically healthier after forcing myself to get a run in when I didn’t want to. But as far as I can remember, this was the only time the act of running itself felt less than entirely burdensome.
Was it because I had signed up for the marathon? More than likely, it had to do with the fact that I’ve been relegated to treadmills and mini indoor tracks lately, and the freedom of actually propelling myself forward when my feet hit the pavement was a welcome surprise. Probably it was because breathing in the fresh evening atmosphere that, somewhere in the distance, too faint to recognize with the conscious mind, promised spring some day was invigorating. Practically speaking, it had nothing to do with paying $227 online earlier that afternoon.
Still, it was the feeling I was waiting for, and there’s no way to prove that’s not what triggered this burst of satisfaction while running. So I’m going to unabashedly attribute it to the delayed reaction of every cell in my body finally understanding what a big deal this is.