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Monday, March 05, 2007

the mind-body connection

i ran the LA marathon yesterday. it was the first marathon i ran since my ACL surgery in january 2005. (note that i said ran; i walked three marathons later that year just to prove to myself that i was back to normal. but reality quickly set in; not only was i not giving my knee a chance to heal properly, but registering for and traveling to distant marathons while living off unemployment wasn't exactly a smart thing to do.)

after limiting myself to 5K's for almost a year, i gradually built my mileage back up. the moment i was able to run a half marathon without any knee problems, i knew i was ready to train for my next marathon: the 2007 LA marathon, with its new point-to-point course.

so yesterday morning, while i waited at the start line for the marathon to begin, i cued up the music on my new ipod and did a quick system check.

on one hand, my mind kept saying: 26.2 miles? no problem. i've done this before. at least 40 times before. so what if i'm sleep-deprived and really haven't been eating nor hydrating properly. it's never stopped me before...

on the other hand, my body kept saying: am i nuts? it's been almost a year and a half since i last completed a marathon, i haven't trained as well as i should have, and i expect to do WHAT? IN THIS HEAT?!?! (note: the day's forecast was for sunny skies, with highs approaching 80 degrees)

the starting horn sounded, and while randy newman's i love la blasted through the loudspeakers, i started my watch as i crossed the timing mats with the rest of the crowd.

for the first 10 miles of the race, my mind and my body cooperated quite nicely. i was running comfortably, making sure to keep my speed in check even if i was tempted to catch up with friends who were passing me. it will get much warmer today, i kept reminding myself. conserve your energy. stop at every water station and hydrate.

then at around mile 11, my mind said: it's getting hot. and sunny. i'm not liking this at all. at that point, my body responded: see? i told you so...

and just like that, my legs started to cramp up. and my feet started to go numb. i stopped to loosen my shoelaces to restore the blood flow to my rapidly-expanding feet and started to walk. and every time i resumed running, the pain would quickly return. resigned to the fact that i had to give my body a break if i wanted to make it to the finish line, i gave up trying to run and resorted to power walking instead. i was going to get there slowly, but at least i was doing the best i could.

when i reached my running group's cheering station at mile 22, i was about ready to give up. i was tired, frustrated, and overheated. there were only 4.2 miles to go, but at the pace i was going, it was going to take me about an hour to traverse that distance! i knew i had to keep going. i grabbed a handful of cheez-its and pretzels, thanked the crew for their moral support, and continued walking.

as i approached the bridge at mile 23, i spotted the race clock. i was now into my fifth hour. and there was no way i was going to let myself make it to the sixth. in fact, there was no way i was going to allow myself a finishing time that was worse than that of my last marathon, 5:42, which i had walked! (ok, so maybe i had run some of it...)

with the skyline of downtown la looming ahead, i cranked up the volume on my ipod and started to run. and run. and just like that, my mind took over. pausing a few times to give my body a break, i was determined to keep running. i passed a few friends who had passed me earlier and kept going.

i turned the last corner. the finish line was in sight. slowly, my legs started to feel the strain of that last uphill climb. through sheer willpower, i coerced my legs to hold out for just a few more seconds, just until i crossed the timing mats. 5:45! i had missed my goal by three minutes, but i had finished, warm weather and all.

at that point, my mind said: see? i told you so.

and my body said: oh yeah? well, so did i.

so in the spirit of reconciliation -- and restoration -- i treated both my mind and body to denise kaufman's yin yoga class at exhale venice earlier this evening. holding mild stretches for long periods of time gave both my mind and my body a chance to release tension, relax, and reconnect.

after all, i have to let them make peace with each other; there's another marathon i plan to run next month...

4 Comments:

Blogger gigi said...

Wow. You are amazing. Well done!

11:04 PM  
Blogger joni said...

thanks, gigi!

10:34 PM  
Blogger 180/360 said...

Congratulations! That's awesome. I'd like to run one some day...

4:10 PM  
Blogger joni said...

and i'm sure you will!

5:11 PM  

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