“I walk a lonely road
The only road that I have ever known.
Don’t know where it goes
But it’s home to me and I walk alone”

– “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day

***

In 490 BC, the Greeks won a battle against invading Persia in the city Marathon, after which Pheidippides was sent to proclaim the good news of victory.  This poor man had just fought a war, but somehow had it in him to run about 26.2 miles to say, “We won!”  Right after mission accomplished, he collapsed and died, perhaps unsurprisingly.  One wonders why he didn’t run a bit slowly or why the Greek army didn’t provide him with a horse or something.  However, we still say, “Wow what a boss,” and remember his death by repeating what he did, which we call the marathon.

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Before the race

I ran the LA Marathon in 2009 because I figured I need to do this while I’m young.  After nearly dying that time, I thought I’d never run the marathon again.  Five years later, my friend Elfego and I decided we still wanted to be young so we signed up for another marathon.  And there seemed no better place to run a marathon than Death Valley, since it sounds like an apt place to die.

Long-distance running can be a lonely activity.  For me, running has always been about winning against myself, rather than against others.  When you’re on a 20-mile practice run, there’s an overabundance of alone time.

That’s why I was excited to run the marathon with Elfego. He’s normally a lot faster than I am, but he hadn’t been able to train very much.  Then since he was going to die, I was planning on running slowly with him and encourage one another towards the finish line.  I had perfect plans for a heart-warming blog post about our beautiful broship.  Except that didn’t happen.  My friend conveniently hurt his knee the day before the race.  I was going to run a lonely road after all.

***

For the first 13.1 miles, I ran very well.  I ran it in 2 hours, and felt like it was the best 13 miles I’ve ever run, despite the ridiculously hard headwind.  The endless desert scenery was beautiful and soothing to the soul.  It was paradise.

For the last 13.1 miles, everything was hell.  I slowed down to a weak jog, and walked a lot.  The same scenery was now an endless stretch of hopeless desert apt for a silent death.  I got a little taste of why this place is called Death Valley.

On the lonely road, only you turn paradise to hell, even when nothing has changed.  Therefore, you cannot blame your shortcomings on others; it is here that you have no option but to face yourself as you are.  Moreover, just as no one else could carry the Ring for Frodo, no one else can take away your lot.  Sometimes in life a man has to walk the lonely road.  It may feel impossibly difficult (like how I felt on mile 18) but you can do it only because no one else can do it for you.

***

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After the race

At any rate, I set a personal record and finished first in my division (Male 20-24)… except that would be a misrepresentation of facts.  My time was 4:51:18, which was barely 32 seconds faster than my 2009 LA Marathon time.  Also, my division had 2 people…  So I didn’t run as well as I expected (I thought I was going to get ~4 hrs 30 min), despite having trained a lot more than I did back in 2009.  I think maybe I ran the first half too hard, or maybe I overtrained.  Maybe it’s related to how I felt gassy throughout the race (although I’m not sure if that actually propelled me forward or not).  However, I’m just glad to be done running for now.  I now dub myself old and will run no more marathons.

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But then again, that’s what I said last time.

Simeon Koh

 

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