Ah, Thanksgiving. What can we be more thankful for than the gift of hunger itself? The one thing better than the food set before us is our endless desire to consume it. Food may come easy or food may come hard, but the day my appetite's gone I will come to nothing. My hunger and my stamina may be one and the same.
The fall season brought bounty enough to this humble runner. With the aim of beating 5 and 3 in one season, I put together a 4:57 at the Fifth Avenue Mile, and 2:52:44 at the New York City Marathon. I'm running faster than ever, and with less doubt. And this week the skies are bright, the breeze is cold, and the air seems to present no resistance as I run through the park. My skin feels smooth.
Problem is, I have a bad case of the fidgets. The day after the marathon I was already sprinting across avenues to make the light. Within a week my easy runs were nearly at marathon pace. On a lark I did the Prospect Park Turkey Trot and ran one of my fastest races ever.
Maybe it comes down to how I remember the last 6 miles of the marathon: like I couldn't go any faster, but also like I wasn't pushing it. I wasn't held back by my legs or lactate or pain of any kind. I was restrained by a momentary satisfaction. And this drives me crazy.
You have to feel like you've gone all the way. Like hopeless love or heavy drinking, it's not so much a question of suicide as of beating a record. You long to outlast yourself.
So it's more than a capacity for fatigue, a tolerance for pain, or even a reckless charge into the jungles of the self. Stamina is a hunger beyond satisfaction, a hunger for purer hunger, a hunger that feeds its own fire until the fire is the feast.
Why make it easy? I'll entrust my winter endurance training to the ancient martyrs, who smiled at their torturers. To the monkey Hanuman, who crossed an ocean with a leap. To Keith Richards (pictured; QED). To Kafka's hunger artist:
Why stop fasting at this particular moment, after 40 days of it? He had held out for a long time, an illimitably long time, why stop now, when he was in his best fasting form, or rather, not yet quite in his best fasting form? Why should he be cheated of the fame he would get for fasting longer, for being not only the record hunger artist of all time, which presumably he was already, but for beating his own record by a performance beyond human imagination, since he felt that there were no limits to his capacity for fasting?