Nobody wants to pay for Netflix, but we all want access to it. After several years of casually passing the Netflix puck back and forth, my brother and I devised a final solution for who would foot the bill that year: a race. Last year we both did a half-marathon with moderate difficulty. This year, we decided to challenge ourselves to a full marathon.
This involved much more training, but we both entered the race in good spirits. What follows is the emotional rollercoaster I went through during that race and what I learned from it. In keeping with the theme of this blog, I will elaborate on how habits and mindset made it possible for me to complete this marathon.
Like all good hero’s journeys, this story is divided into three parts:
- Part I: Preparation
- Part II: The First half
- Part III: Second half
Part I: Preparation
My Longevity Society subscribers would be proud of the amount of research I put into ensuring I had the appropriate habits for the race. A knee injury had prevented me from starting my training earlier, but it healed just in time to give me three months to train.
P.s. you can join this longevity society by signing up for my monthly newsletter below. It’s free and comes with access to some special perks like guided meditations and a habit tracking guide.
Forgetting about the goal allowed me to focus full-heartedly on completing the run for that week. As these ranged all the way up to 30 km, it took some motivation to get them done consistently. The support of my girlfriend and a long list of books to read kept me going.
In the buildup to the race, my Sundays became routine; I would wake up, meditate, eat breakfast and run before it got hot. Developing this morning routine allowed me to minimize the odds of not running, kept me on track for the eventual marathon and avoided the more imminent threat of afternoon heat.
Everything worked out perfectly until one month before the race when my brother decided to push the marathon forward a week and ruin my training schedule. With some difficulty, I could reconsider how I would train and forget which weekend I would run on, only to be reminded the Thursday before the race.
My motivation diminished from the time of my longest training run as my confidence that I could finish the marathon grew. The day before the race, this illusion faded when my throat felt a bit itchy. I knew – this was not going to go well.
Part II: The First half
I woke up on the morning of the race, and my fear materialized – I had a sore throat. Even worse than the sore throat was waiting for the race to start. To account for our time difference, I would only start running at one in the afternoon.
I made the best of having the morning to prepare by eating a hearty breakfast and a light lunch. By the time it was 1 o’clock, I had drunk two cups of coffee and eaten what I imagined would carry me through the race.
The race started slowly. My brother and I talked on the phone as we ran slower than usual, easing into our marathon – at this point, my only hindrance was my sore throat. The conversation with my brother ended as I approached the first quarter of my first lap – we would not speak again until after the race.
My girlfriend’s village forms an almost perfect ten-kilometre lap, so my plan for the marathon was to do that lap four times. As I approached the end of my first lap, I called her, and she started biking alongside me with refreshments and snacks – this marathon thing was not going to be so bad.
She left me to visit her sister as my watch told me I had completed my 15th kilometre, and my plan started to fall apart. As I made my way back to her house, I found myself climbing what felt like an endless hill that connected her village to her sisters and decided that I needed to change my route.
I extended my loop back to her house, picking up some water as my watch ticked for the 22nd time. The water was needed, but I didn’t want to carry the bottle, so I ran around her block, taking large gulps before continuing my journey. That water hit me like a brick; at first, it energized me, then almost immediately made my legs feel like they were made of lead.
Part III: Second half
At kilometre 28, I decided to walk the final 14 kilometres. I was baffled; my longest training run had been a 30k with a faster pace and no food or water. Meanwhile, I was running in relative luxury during my marathon, with food, water and a slower pace.
When my girlfriend caught up with me at kilometre 29 and saw my miserable state, she was surprised but supportive; she would do the rest with me. It would take double the time to finish, but I didn’t care – I was done.
She rode beside me on her bike as I walked, gradually getting slower and feeling sorrier for myself. I had begun this journey wondering if I would run the marathon in under four hours; now, I wondered if I would finish it. I had forgotten about the race against my brother. My mind was now the enemy.
The kilometres crawled by, each one taking longer than the last. I was eating and drinking through everything the magical bike basket contained, but nothing seemed to help – I just kept feeling worse. I eventually bottomed out with a single kilometre taking me almost 13 minutes to complete, more than double my average pace. Then, something strange began to happen.
As I entered the final quarter, I thought of my brother and was sure I would lose. I had no idea how far he was; all I knew was where I was and that he hadn’t finished yet – I still had a chance. So long as I didn’t receive notice that he had finished, there was still hope that I could win.
This was when I started taking back control of my mind; my mental habits finally paid off. My mind had been callused, as David Goggins would say. It was now a mental race: me vs. me. All the articles I read warned me that a marathon does not start until the fourth quarter. Once I got to that quarter, I solidified my resolve to finish.
With much pain and a little grunting, I started running again at kilometre 32. Walking was talking too long, and the pain difference between walking and running was negligible. I knew the route I was on and would run to the next village, which according to my dazzled calculations, was the distance remaining in this eternal torment.
I made a grave error in my calculations. When I reached my endpoint, I still had 4 kilometres to go. I was running my loop backward and what I thought was 7 kilometres was actually 3. To make it 7 kilometres, I would have to go back over the hill to the next village – and that was not going to happen.
My girlfriend urged me to continue, telling me I could still run, to which I responded:
“I know I can, but I don’t want.”
I then took the bike and walked back to her village the way we came to avoid the hill. Walking the bike added complexity to my walk, but I didn’t mind because it meant I could ride it as soon as the distance had been covered.
My headphones died, I had to push a bike and to top it off, it started raining on my last kilometre. I carried on walking with short sprints of slow running until finally reaching kilometre 42.3. I stopped the clock, got on the bike and enjoyed the smooth ride home.
It would be another half hour before I finally heard back from my brother. His struggle turned out to be about as epic as mine, having encountered his own obstacles along the way. In the end, I completed my first marathon in 5 hours and 34 minutes. I aim to finish it under five hours for our sibling rivalry race next year.
Though many people did not see the event as an “official Marathon” because it was only my brother and me, it felt genuine. The continental difference did not matter; we started simultaneously and ran the same distance. Running 42.2 km sucks whether or not you are surrounded by people.
It may even be more difficult because you cannot derive motivation from the crowd and are forced to fight solo against your thoughts. We both completed our marathon, and two weeks on, I am still lethargic and slow but craving more. Most importantly, I have earned another year of guiltlessly mooching Netflix from my older brother, which makes me happy.
Would sibling rivalry motivate you to run? How do you think we can help our siblings be their best selves? Leave your answers in the comments below.