A couple days have passed since I ran more than three hours along the Elbe river. Most pain has receded from my legs. My thigh muscles aren't so tight anymore, and my pathetic hobbling has markedly improved. I'd call it limping now. From the safe distance of a few days, the race doesn't look so bad.
There is a theory according to which the greater the suffering is, the sweeter the memories will be. I wholeheartedly subscribe to this. Heroism is rarely in the moment. Most often, it's in the stories told and retold years later, with sweet nostalgia in the eyes of the one looking back. The cold becomes more biting, the pain unbearable, the effort superhuman. Rain becomes diluvial and the sun scorching like a furnace.
I have a repertoire of such stories. Be it mountain biking through icy mud in St. George or road racing through sheets of rain in the Vercors, be it summer hiking in arctic Romania or snowbirding in a thumb-numbing blizzard, none of this was fun while I did it. All of it was misery and pain, and it's what stories are made of. A few months from now, I will look back on the marathon in much the same way.
At this moment, though, I'm looking forward. Not only have I missed my goal on Sunday by less than three minutes, I'm also not good for age by the same margin and thus ineligible for direct entry into next year's London Marathon. To change this, to erase the shame, I might just go back to Dresden where a city marathon will take place in October.
On the other hand, shouldn't I set my sight on other challenges now that the marathon has been conquered? So thought my sister when she gave me a recorder and a beginner's guide, suitably scientifically written for me. She put music in front of me as the ultimate difficulty. Ten minutes a day and I should be fine, she said, but I'm afraid here's something I'll fail at. I promise to try, though – until my neighbors knock my door in.