Instantaneously everything felt different. My first few hundred yards felt exciting and affirming. It was all a new experience. I could sense a transcending surge of energy, joy, and calmness all around me.
It’s 6:30 in the morning. Sunday, July 23, 2017. I’ve just started the 40th San Francisco Marathon run. Embarcadero street, right under the Bay Bridge. Brisk, clear sky, cool air. A countless number of runners and a cheering crowd. Loud music. Felt like a massive rock concert.
My first marathon; new to the experience of long distance running. I had started running during the Christmas of 2016 and loved it! I had registered for the SF Marathon back in February, but had not been able to maintain steady practice and endurance training in preparation for the marathon. Family vacation, international travel, long work hours, and hurting my ankle and knee early in the summer. I was only able to run a couple of times every two weeks. My longest run ever was 4.5 miles. And now…a 26.2 mile stretch of road ahead of me. Was it even possible?
I went for a short run the day before the race, a sort of fitness check. In the days leading up to the event, I felt aching and soreness. But today…somehow…a perfect bill of health! My body had healed itself.
The night before I could not sleep. I was feeling a strong, pulsating energy building up in my body and soul. I was fueling up! By the time I woke up at 4:15am on Sunday, I felt ready, mobilized, and deeply strong, ready to pounce! I was serene, breathing deeply, with a steady and calm heart rate, and no discomfort anywhere. Right from the start I felt that this would be an extraordinary day. As if the whole universe knew that too. A sense of wisdom of how things would unfold. And feeling a profound sense of gratitude and love!
“Train the mind, and body will follow.” —Stephen Curry
My steps from the beginning felt light, rhythmic, steady, and effortless. I sensed a continuous flow that lasted hours. I was in the zone. The pavement felt soft and bouncy. Somehow…my body knew what to do; I was just going for the ride! Running on the balls of my feet vs. my heels for almost 90% of the distance (I had always difficulty running that way). Rhythmic breathing. Knowing when to accelerate and when to slow down to avoid repetitive muscle fatigue. Keeping my heart rate stable and steady. I had not trained for these, yet my body was wiser than I was.
By the time I reached Marina Green I began to cry. From joy, gratitude, love. And a sense that I would finish the marathon!
Continually asking myself: Am I hurt…no. Am I sore…no. Could I continue…YES!
Interesting fact: there were six micro climates during the run. The cool air of a San Francisco morning. The windy and foggy Golden Gate bridge (my favorite), the wet and drizzling Presidio, the stale air of west San Francisco with its endless hills, the humidity of the Golden Gate Park (the hardest part of the run), and the hot, punishing sun of mid-day San Francisco when finishing the race.
The marathon miles completed signs…14, 15, 16…looked so motivating. They helped sustain my momentum. In fact, looking at my run data afterwards showed than I had ran with a steady pace throughout without any fancy digital devices. Somehow my body knew!
The last three miles were the hardest. By then I was depleted. Minimal energy, and fading fast.
Am I hurt…no. Am I sore…YES. Could I continue…YES! Push on, you’re almost there!
I will never forget the moment that I crossed the finish line. I could hardly notice the smiling faces and the cheering crowd. I took my medal, said thank you a number of times, smiled, a few fist bumps, grabbed a couple of water bottles, turned right to the grassy area. I tried to kneel for stretches but crashed face down. I was smiling…drenched in sweat. Filled with joy, love, and gratitude. I turned on my back, looked at the vast blue sky above me, and whispered “I love you!” Could hear moaning from other runners all around me. (That was funny; it felt like a war zone hospital ward!)
Am I hurt…No. Am I sore…YES!. And I FINISHED!
“It always seems impossible until it is done.” —Nelson Mandela
A few days have passed. Almost every night I wake up, go to my desk and look at my marathon medal. It all feels so unreal to me. Did it really happen!? Something profound has changed in me. The lesson that I learned is that limitations and capabilities are all about mindset, grit, and passion.
I told a colleague at work that I don’t want to play small anymore. I have seen what’s possible, and what awesome felt like, and I want more of it. That’s the essence of our existence.
My next life journey has just began…
Ardeshir Mehran, Northern California, August 2017