I ran my third Marathon today. I ran another one this year after a great experience a year ago at the same event. A year ago, I was as well prepared as I could have been, and even ended up finishinig with a little gas left in my tank. My legs were tired to be sure, but I had enough left to accelerate through the finish line, and finish well ahead of where I expected to be. What a difference a year makes.
This year, I was well prepared-ish. I had run plenty, but hadn’t been able to get the long training runs in like I had in past years. The longest training run that I did complete was just 14 miles. I am learning, the hard way, that this might not cut it.
As much as I omitted the longer training sessions, and hadn’t really prepared my legs for 26.2 miles, that wasnt the main problem. The biggest, most obvious, most glaring mistake I made this year was in the nutrition department. I thought I had prepared well enough. I thought I had a good plan, but I didn’t. I thought that rather than going with the tried and true plans presented by experts, experienced runners, and people who understand exercise physiology, I would go with the Colby plan instead.
My brilliant plan consisted of nutrition powder mixes that I had been using on my not so long training runs. My foolproof plan consisted of said powder mixes of which I had neglected to even read the ingredients on the label. My innovative plan was a disaster. Lets just say we could probably rename it the “original marathon nutrition plan”. It would probably be the most accurate considering that the dude that supposedly ran the original marathon died after he “finished”.
After feeling great for about 18, or 19 miles, I suddenly realized upon gazing at my internal energy gas tank, that it was completely empty. Not like almost empty, or dinging that little warning light that reminds us to refuel soon empty, but sputtering, and spattering, and metal grinding, and engine stopping empty. I was toast.
That was no bueno. I was 7 or 8 miles short of the finish line, with only a few more water stations between where I was, and the promised land. I was in trouble. I was hoping for one of those stations to have some of those sugary goo things, or chews, or pizza, or even cooked vegetables, I was that empty. But, as luck would have it, none of the next few did. It was water, gatorade, or some tasty advil.
I was in survival mode. My legs felt more like the rusty hinges on the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz than something that would carry me the next several miles. The reason? I really was out of gas. The powder mixes that were my main source of energy had exactly 0 calories each. Even though I had mixed 3 of them over the race, if you do the math, that’s 0 calories in, and about 3500 calories out during that almost 4 hour run. No wonder I felt so awesome.
With only about 2 and half miles left, I did run past some people handing out little honey sticks, that I promptly grabbed, and voraciously tried to suck out the 4 drops of honey. I think I may have aspirated some in my lungs I was in such a hurry. I also stole a piece of banana bread from one of the volunteer tables that was off limits. But, at that point, I was more like gollum devouring a raw fish after 7 days without food, than an actual runner.
Even with the honey, and the bread, my tank was beyond empty, it was on negative empty, if there is such a thing. It would take more than some honey drops and a stolen piece of bread to get me back to normal. The last 8 miles had been the definition of enduring to the end.
But, apparently, this is just the way that I learn best. The hard way. I had learned that nutrition was important, I had even worried about it, and planned it out meticulously in the past, but not today. I had taken it for granted. I had relied upon my own planning, and didn’t give enough thought or attention to it. In my prideful mind, I had thought, “Ive done this before, no big deal” even though, before, I had taken much better care in being really prepared by being well nourished.
As with all of the things I learn, there are parallels, and types, and comparisons that cover all aspects of my life. Truth is truth, and principles are principles. Being well nourished during a race is essential to helping me endure for the entire duration. This is as true for my physical body as it is for my spiritual side.
In the Book of Mormon we learn about the real race we are all running, and how we need help finishing. This real race consists of all of us winding our way back home to God. This race begins with our committment to run! That comittment to run is our baptism. What follows that committment is a life full of hills, long stretches without water, and others seemingly more expert at running than we are. But, the instructions on how to finish this more important race, are right at our fingertips….
“And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.”
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.”
-2 Nephi 31:20
No matter our race, we need nutrition and nourishment. Whether it be enduring a marathon, or in real life. In a physical race, we need food, or energy to keep us going. In our spiritual races, we need spiritual energy that comes from beign nourished by the word of God, and feasting upon them.
We can’t always wait until our tank is empty before we even start to think about refilling it. The effect of neglecting physical or spiritual nutrition is the same. We run out of gas. We simply cannot expect to finish the way we want to, in either race, unless we stop thinking that our own plan is best. We have to give up thinking that our own plan is foolproof, or that any success we have had in the past was because of our own strength. The simple truth of the matter is that we will always finish best when we rely solely on the One true Expert- the “Author and Finisher of our faith”