I realize I’m not one to say given my lack of experience, but I think there are two related reasons for doing a marathon.

In my recent, cribbed “marathon perspective” post, Ewen replied:

    Having a big goal on the horizon is one thing I miss about not being a marathoner. Aiming for a 5 or 10k doesn’t quite do it — if you ’stuff up’ you can re-group and run another race in a couple of weeks.

A while back, in a post entitled “Going All In,” I said,

    Putting these two things together, it dawned on me that the point of this whole racing business is to go All In. We put everything on the line, everything that we’ve trained for and all the effort that has been put into that training for the shot of winning the brass ring of reaching the goal. And that can be really scary.

    As I’ve made clear, my elitist view is that the goal of “finishing” is not what we’re talking about. It’s that perhaps artificial running/racing dichotomy. One of the revelations of this blogging business is seeing so many others with this same mind-set. That pretty well applies to all the bloggers I list.

And the risk is clear from what happened to Julie, who I mentioned, at Newport. Something happened, it wasn’t good, she DNFed. But damn if she didn’t dust herself off and invest in another large stack of chips, doing miles and miles at varying pace, and is shortly to sit down at the table and say, “Deal ‘em.” And she’ll be going “All In” again in December at Cal. International. She’s like one of those guys in old movies, wildcatters perhaps (like in 1940′s “Boon Town” with Gable, Tracy, Colbert (not Steven), and Lamarr (not Hedley)), who are forever losing and remaking their fortunes.

Lets hope they get the memo that theres a race coming through

Pulaski Bridge: Let's hope they get the memo that there's a race coming through

That’s true of many other bloggers I’ve met virtually, i.e., via their blogs. Everyone tapering down for the Big Race. (As for me, I’m starting New York; the issue is the last bridge I will cross. Pulaski (the half)? 59th (16+)? It will not be the Willis Avenue.)

This all-or-nothing aspect is part of the race’s attractions. It provides a focus for six-months’ work. As Ewen notes, you can have a shorter race, I’d say even a half-marathon, as your “focus” race, but it’s not the same. You miss the talk of maxing out on mileage, every muscle-fiber being tired, tapering. The pageantry of the big-city race. At this level of commitment, we’re not in it for the pat on the back from outsiders, much as we relish it.

In the end more than anything you miss the sense you get from the majesty of it. Indeed, in my workouts today their impact, their helping me build for NY 2010 is itself lurking, however distantly.

A second thing about the marathon. It differs in kind not just degree from other distances. It’s special because you must train to meet that demon that lurks somewhere out past mile 20, waiting as you approach the Madison Avenue Bridge. I’m sure Kipling would have included a line or two on the subject had he done one.

Now does this mean marathons are the alpha and omega of racing? Nah. I like the idea of working half, maybe more, in-the-moment and the rest in building an account for the next marathon. Spring, not for marathoning but for enjoying shorter stuff. Training for shorter stuff. The opposite of a judicious application of effort. The hated being weighed down by legs made heavy and lungs made painful by a different sort of demon, one that makes every stride difficult because I’m pushing as hard as I can and not because, as in the later stages of a marathon, I’m pushing simply to keep moving (an endeavor about which, as my marathon photos reveal, I have briefly failed).

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