A narcissistic voyage to another side of Patrik (post half-marathon thoughts)

amsterdam marathon

I recently pushed my body to a place it had never been before. Ever since I’ve been wondering what finishing my first ever half-marathon, as I did in Amsterdam in late October, really meant to me. Before the event I was forced to spend quite a bit of time running and learning to notice the shifts in my body. One day running seemed easy, other times I wanted to quit after only a few minutes. Sometimes the reasons were clear: not drinking enough water or having a few drinks the day before, other times I couldn’t figure it out.

During the race I eventually moved into some kind of machinelike state which I managed to stay in throughout. When I passed 15k I was in unchartered territory, a distance I had never crossed before. I was intrigued to find my body continuing, almost becoming nervous when I occasionally got stuck behind slower runners. My body was determined to keep the rhythm. I passed the dense crowds outside the Rijksmuseum and increased my speed. I couldn’t decide if the goose bumps on my arms came from my body’s reaction to running this far, or because of the cheers and the facts that I was running through my old home town high fiving children and thinking that my body was kind to me this day, that it had the lightness and eagerness I had hoped for.

The race finished at the Olympic stadium. When I entered through the large gate on the side I was greeted by the crowd and terrible dance music (which felt appropriate). I sprinted as fast as I could, feeling like an animal chasing after a pray, until I crashed into an exhausted pile of people after the finish. A speaker pleaded for everyone to move away from the finish line, but there we were, broken men and women. It was a curious feeling to try and read my body’s reaction.

Many people have told me I should be proud; that it’s an impressive achievement, although the fact that a friend of mine (not pictured) completed a full marathon just before effectively dampened such feelings. While I do feel some sense of achievement, I don’t feel proud. And I probably wouldn’t have even if I did the full distance. What has instead stayed with me is the experience of exploring a place in myself where I had never been. Despite my dislike for the expression “inward journey”, that is what it felt like more than anything.

I slowly walked out of the stadium on painful legs. The only place I could take in was right there, my tired body blocked my mind from traveling anywhere else, it was fully occupied with trying to keep my body functioning. Later, after some nutrition and a beer, I slowly walked to my friend’s place, passing the last runners in the race. People lining the course urged them on with applauds and cheers and I almost started crying when I saw it. I couldn’t understand why, but somehow I became extremely emotionally invested in the crowd’s support and last runners fighting to finish the race.

A few minutes later I found myself laughing on my own, for no particular reason, as if my tiredness was some sort of comedic experience. And I thought I’d really gone mad this time as I walked around in southern Amsterdam laughing and crying on my own. The emotional waves eventually subsided, and in their place came painful muscles that made me walk like an old man, which I expected more than the emotional rollercoaster that came before.

Despite my inability to feel proud, I cherished the strange combination of physical and mental fatigue the run brought out. A narcissistic voyage into another side of Patrik.

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