Crazy Legs

By Michal Kapral When the Marathon Runs You

Canadian Running - - SEPTEMBER & OCTOBER 2017 -

At the start it was al­ways about the marathon. I ran my first marathon in Toronto, and then it was onto the Bos­ton Marathon. From there, it was all about im­prov­ing my times for the dis­tance. Other race dis­tances? Pshaw! All the shorter races were just marathon prep. Af­ter each 5k, 10k and half-marathon, I plugged my re­sult into a marathon fin­ish-time equiv­a­lent cal­cu­la­tor. Af­ter 10 years, I had raced about 25 marathons, of­ten churn­ing out four or five a year. I de­cided it had been a good run, but that it was time to be a sen­si­ble, nor­mal-ish human be­ing and phase out the gru­elling race dis­tance from my cal­en­dar.

A cou­ple of months later, I some­how found my­self sign­ing up for the Bos­ton Marathon. I told my­self it was only to cover it for this magazine. In Bos­ton, I cruised through Fram­ing­ham, Nat­ick and Welles­ley, buzzed with ex­cite­ment and dread at the top of Heart­break Hill, and felt the fa­mil­iar pain of my old friend bonk, who paid a visit some­where near the Citgo sign, sap­ping all en­ergy from my body. My mind willed my body around the bend onto Here­ford and down the fi­nal stretch un­der that glo­ri­ous fin­ish line arch.

The marathon – there’s no race like it. You can’t set­tle into an easy groove like you can in an ul­tra. You can’t ham­mer it quite like a half­marathon. There’s no way around the need for ex­tra fuel and water to get your glyco­gen-de­pleted legs through the fi­nal kilo­me­tres. There’s no way to cheat the train­ing. If you haven’t put in the long runs, you will face the con­se­quences, prob­a­bly at about 32k, and the pun­ish­ment will be se­vere. I’ve been in that dark place, the 10k of doom. I’ve also fin­ished marathons in a neg­a­tive split, the sec­ond half slightly faster than the first. I’m not ac­tu­ally sure which fin­ish made me hap­pier. Any way you run it, there’s no fin­ish like the marathon fin­ish.

I rode that Bos­ton high and signed up for the Trapline Marathon in Happy Val­ley-Goose Bay, Labrador. How could I turn down the chance? It was a beauty of a race. But af­ter that, I joined the Univer­sity of Toronto Mas­ters Track Club and trained for the 800m. I was sure this would foil any marathon plans, since mid­dle-dis­tance and marathon train­ing do not mix. Yet some­how, I ended up run­ning the Mis­sis­sauga Marathon, the New York City Marathon and then Chicago.

Some­thing about the marathon kept pulling me back. The name it­self con­jures up dra­matic images of an­cient bat­tles. Years ago, I ended up in the town of Marathon, Greece. The bus dropped me off there when I was try­ing to get to Athens. I don’t re­mem­ber why. I think it was a sign.

I’m plan­ning to r un the Sco­tia­bank Toronto Water­front Marathon in Oc­to­ber. And that’ll be it. I swear.

Michal Kapral holds the world record for run­ning a marathon while jug­gling. He claims his next col­umn will ab­so­lutely not be about the marathon.

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