I ran. Not powerfully. Not trained and toned. Not even consistently. Some days I crawled or hopped, limped or rolled, made animal by the pain. But I kept going. For a medal? No. A circle of bronze, silver or gold motivates me not. Never has. For First Place and a winning time? Twice no. Marathon this may have been, but I competed only with my own demons.
The going was tough. Undulating landscape, sharp stones, weather extremes thrown with casual indifference. Snow up to my rapidly-diminishing waist; hail stones the size of feral rats – and just as nasty; swamp-inducing rains and vicious maces of midday sun, clonking me round the head.
The direction was never certain, the Finishing Line a mere mirage in a desert of fear and anguish. A message I may well have been bearing, though I lacked Pheidippides’ stubborn courage – but, if communication there were, it resembled a morass of mysterious code more than the clipped, ‘We won!’ of Marathon’s ancient instigator.
And, fortunately, I was not required to drop dead upon arriving – though, as I trudged through Wastelands near and far, I often felt death was a very real possibility.
Skies darkened and cleared; suns rose and set; Moons swelled and diminished – and still my feet pounded, pawed and plundered the path, minute pebbles a constant fusillade of shrapnel in my clumsy wake.
Why did I do it? What was the point? Why put myself through such physical, and mental, torment when I could have stayed where I was, never run a yard let alone the full twenty-plus miles.
At first, I will confess, I was running FROM. Not a noble sentiment, but a true one – and something necessary to get out of the way. I took flight, dashed off, took to my heels, shook off the dust – and there was a kind of exultation in that phase. Adrenaline is a drug best taken in one’s right mind, however…
Running TO was the logical next step – but the direction wavered horribly, spun like a room after too much to drink, induced nausea. Besides, chopping up the miles into tiny segments seemed so sad and arid and life-denying; it seemed to go against the grain of my whole Marathon adventure – maddening!
In the end, I just ran BECAUSE! Because it was the next thing to do. Because I knew I would find a destination eventually, even if it were not the one I started with. I knew that my message would evolve, brighten, become clear – and that its unexpected nature would add joy to the blisters and sunburn and frostbite and Trench Foot…
I ran. It hurt. Muscles screamed themselves into little local tantrums. Gut spasmed and threatened to spill its contents on many a stretch of the path. Calluses mated and had families of their own. Clothes wore to evil-smelling shreds and littered the by-ways in noisome clumps. Hair became ever-more reminiscent of a badger’s pelt. No hero, me. I did not rise above it all. I was not able to lose myself in higher-level speculation or meditative states. The torments of body and mind were too strong for that option.
My story is not, was not, uplifting or classical or enchantingly mythological. I worked no magic and most certainly did not win against overwhelming odds. All I can claim is that I kept going, more or less, and that I reached that kind of ending which is merely a gateway to another Marathon!
No. I did not come first. I did not perform well. I did not stop to succour the hungry or the wounded, nor did I save the day – albeit ironically – by my arrival’s essential tragic demise.
I stumbled over the ending, falling straight into a large cowpat – and the only smattering of applause I got turned out to be the hollowed-out baa-coughing of sheep atop the Tor nearby.
But – who cares? I don’t. I made it – unromantically, but truly! I arrived…