“But why?” We ask ourselves as we watch the marathoners weaving through the Paris streets and tunnels. Why would these 9,000 plus people go through three months of training (more for some) to finish a run of 42 kilometers in just under or a little over five hours?
As my friends Raul and Joanna Francisco prepared for their milestone of a run, the cheerleaders—that’s me, Reena Francisco and Arlene Vargas—also listened as Raul and Joanna plotted where to meet up, what to bring, how much warm clothes to wear and when to drink, eat a banana and drink a power gel.
I was vicariously preparing for the run and tried to imagine how they were feeling the morning before the run. Nervy. Excited. Anxious. Say the word and it’s probably in the list of mixed emotions one feels in moments like these.
I myself got up early to prepare and then rode the metro like everyone else to meet up at Champs Elysees. Though we were behind the fence, you could feel the excitement and energy of the thousands who were going to run and the families and friends supporting them. Families had placards ready, inspiring messages, and even family unity T-shirts celebrating the Paris Marathon 2015.
It was a sunny day and we walked from the metro to the assembly point. I saw the divisions between those who could run under four hours—mostly Africans and the younger and much more trained runners. Raul, Joanna and a Spanish Filipino Luis de Terry were in the four hour-30minutes group.
Luis finished at foru hours and 17 minutes! The cheerleaders (that’s us) who chased them around Paris only did 11,260 steps or about 9 kilometers for the same five-hour stretch.
And when you see all the people, you ask “Why?” And maybe this is why.
A marathon is a competition with nobody but yourself. And when you do small talk with the other runners you begin to understand why they train so much, why they do it, why they travel so far to just compete. I had a chat with a fellow from Belgium who did the 42-km run in three hours and 17 minutes. He has done nine runs (42-km marathons) in two years. But of course, he is only 30 years old. Why does he do it? “It’s a hobby,” he tells me. Well, he is young and active. “Young legs,” as Raul would say. Young legs are those of runners who have been running only for two years or so.
The streets of Paris can be tough especially for those who have been running on even pavement or modern paved roads, like in Manila. The old streets in Europe are cobblestones, uneven and unpredictable, and gives one a different challenge of how to land (e.g. on what part of your feet) your feet, as you also think about the challenge of the weather, cool and dry at times, then getting cold and muggy at another time. More like a mix of factors which can give a runner more challenges than just the thought of finishing the whole stretch of 42 kilometers.
Training for such a challenge is a test of determination, “stick-to-it-iveness”, and endurance. And maybe it does make one a better person, a better athlete or even just a better and more patient runner. It is a practice for what goes on in one’s life—the unforeseen conditions, the patience to carry on and the courage to even take up such a test of one’s will.
I salute all these 9,000 plus people who took time to train, and prepare for such a test, for such a feat that really only proves to oneself that one can hurdle any challenge in a marathon as in real life. At the marathon, it was a test of one’s guts and one’s preparation. Training, exercise, eating well and carbo-loading three days before the event. Preferably no alcohol or too much caffeine. Will power, and a lot of control.
And if you wish to be more poetic and philosophical about the whole marathon, it is a challenge everyone should take at least once in a lifetime. It is the game of life and how you perform is dependent on your readiness for the unforeseen. For the unexpected. Whether it is just unpredictable weather, or the other conditions, which add to the complexities of life. A marathon is our life, ran many times, in different settings and at different stages in our life.
Raul, Joanna, Luis, Willie Chiongbian, Riza Mantaring, Bong Gonzalez, congratulations to all of you who trained hard and who finished yet another marathon. You are an inspiration to many, especially the youth, whose marathon in life has just begun.
As the French say: “Allez, allez!” Go, go, go. You can do it!
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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium, Centris QC mall and Davao City. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on sustainability, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at email@example.com.