Paul's Blog

It's hard to believe I'll be running the Boston Marathon (thank you Mike!) on Monday, April 21, 2008. It is, after all, the elite of marathons and I'm not exactly what you'd call an elite marathoner. My Bib Number is 25525. I’ll be in the second (last) wave in the last starting corral—22+. Purists will spit at me.

I'll be the first to admit, I don't like running. Not at all. "So why do I do it," you're thinking (and I know you are thinking that). Because it helps me lose weight and keep it off and that’s important to me.

But you don't run a full marathon (that’s 26.2 miles long) to lose weight.

I must admit I'm not exactly sure why I'll be running in Boston, my third marathon. Perhaps it is the elite-ness of it. Perhaps it is because I love Boston. Perhaps it's the challenge of another personal record (PR). Maybe because it was offered to me and it was too enticing to pass up, like dessert after a too-filling meal, "But monsieur, It's only wafer thin!"

Running a marathon is not for the weak of heart or mind. It is a physical feat, to be sure. Yet it is more about true heart and soul than heart rate monitors and sneaker soles. In fact, running a marathon involves much more than simply running the marathon.

The race itself for me is really the gravy, the icing, the fun part (if running 26.2 miles can be fun). It is all of the days and weeks and months of training leading up to it that are the real test, the real reward. Getting up at 5:30 a.m. on December 12 to run 3 miles. Going out on Christmas day at noon to run 9 miles. Dragging my butt out of bed on Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. to run 16 miles. Waking up early on Sunday, March 30 and driving to the Suffolk Half Marathon more than an hour early to run 7 miles before the actual Half Marathon even starts so I can get my second 20 mile training run in (I missed the start of the race by nearly 4 minutes).

That requires discipline. That requires diligence. That requires patience. That requires sacrifice. And sometimes, that requires peeing on the side of Nicolls Road in broad daylight and hoping you won’t get arrested.

There is discomfort often and sometimes pain. There are blisters and swollen feet and the occasional lost toenail. Yet there is something beautiful about it, too.

Waking up at 5:40 a.m. on December 12. Watching my fiancé sleep, listening to her deep breathing. Dressing quietly, the cat watching, ever curious. Slipping out the front door at 5:57 a.m. into the cool 50-degree darkness, the sun refusing to rise for at least another hour. I am tired. I begin running, almost shuffling along; my brain is still thinking this is a dream; my body plays along. It takes about a mile or two for my own internal fog to lift but it is still dark out. And quiet.

There is no movement in the neighborhood except for the movement of my pumping arms and legs, my dark figure lumbering down Orchard Street, up Woodward, down Fallwood, to the bike path. There is no sound on the street except for the sound of my sneakers hitting the pavement and my breaths punctuating the still morning air. This is when I feel most fulfilled, knowing that I am out here doing what few are willing to do, taking care of myself by inconveniencing myself. Passing quiet house after quiet house. It is peaceful, serene, beautiful.

I complete my brief 3-mile loop and arrive back home at 6:27 a.m., ten minutes before “civil twilight” and a full 40 minutes before the sun will rise. Trish is still breathing deeply.

I say this will be my last marathon. Again.

Beautiful, just beautiful.

PKM head SOS shot

Paul K. McGinniss, PCC RPCC SBL MSHR
Leadership Development & Executive Coach