In martial arts, or at least the one I used to practice, they say a punch is not thrown but released. It's released as soon as the internal bodily resistances to its power are eliminated. The trick is to know how to shut off the resistances, and when to firm up before and after.
How do you make yourself ready for something to happen? Adrenaline says, let's tense up and pounce. The Tai Chi Kid might say, empty your mind and explode!
On Saturday I got to Central Park just in time to grab my bib and then a high-five from Grete Waitz (now that was some seriously good juju), and we were off!
I started one corral back so I wouldn't run out too fast. Did a fairly leisurely 1/4 mile before settling into target pace. I actually ran faster than target for the first 4 miles, and even zoomed up and down the Harlem Hills - thanks to training all summer in hilly Prospect Park.
Though I was moving well I felt slow. We had gone out to dinner the night before and now I experienced the dark side of every glass of champagne, burgundy, and muscat. I got 4 hours sleep due to some developmental hurdle the baby's going through. It was a comfy 67 degrees, but 97% humidity and a blanket of cloud was kind of a downer. After 4 fast miles I began to slow to a little over target pace.
Finally 45 minutes into the race I gave in and sucked down my caffeinated gel. Oho - there it was, the slow fuse of elation (just as TK has described). I became convinced I could punch my way through to the other side of the jello mold. I gradually sped up again and just reeled in runner after runner with slow acceleration. By the end I was running as fast as at the start, and I had enough to sprint for the last tenth of a mile.
Everything came together for this one, exactly the way it didn't come together in August. I would occasionally catch myself running hunched and crumpled, but focused on my form and brought my spine back up straight. I pumped my way up the hills and flowed back down them. I was disciplined about tangents. I ran with a smile. I had fun and joked with other runners. This is elation and this is why we race.
This is a big boost for my marathon confidence. I came in 25 seconds later than my target, but the race felt great and I managed negative splits at the end. My mind was clear. My legs felt ready for anything.
What I wasn't ready for was the awesome food after the race. The finish line plum was nice, but those gravlaks on a bagel (great NY/Oslo fusion), heart-shaped waffles, and free water were straight from Valhalla. I wished I could stick around and listen to the music (I do love a Hardanger fiddle), but I had to get back home in time to get to the farmer's market and pick up bags of heavy produce, then spend the rest of the day playing charades with the darling baby girl.
Am I ready for a marathon? Who knows? But I'm certainly ready to shut down the resistances and believe in the explosion.