Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Marathon training

It might be too early to start summarizing 2012, but regardless of the few weeks left, 2012 will always be the year I took my exercising to a whole other level. 2011 was significant because it was ther year it all started. I stared to exercise, I started to loose weight and I started a healthier way of life. But 2012 will be there year I ran my first 10 km race, I finished my first triathlon, I ran my first half-marathon and hopefully I will also be able to add finishing my first marathon to the list.

Because that's were I am right now. I'm training for a my first marathon. It felt like such a good idea when I signed up and it still felt like an ok idea after I finished my half-marathon, even though training for it was a very humbling experience. It's been about 5 weeks since then and I've been training for my marathon as best as I can. For every week that passes, my self-doubt grows. Will I really be able to do this? How will I be able to keep myself motivated? Can my legs carry me all the way? Why do I feel that I have to do it? 

From the get-go, I've had three goals for the marathon:

1 Finish the race...
2 ... without permanent injuries...
3 ... and hopefully without hating running forever.

These three goals might not seem all that ambitious, and when I decided on these goals I did it, in part, to bring the expectations down and the pressure off. But after last weekend's long run, these goals have not just turned realistic but truly challenging.

First of all, if you've ever wondered, let me tell you that training for a half-marathon and training for a full maraton is two different realities all together. I'm not quite sure where the magic line is drawn, but somewhere between mile 13 (21 km) and 20 (32 km) things start to hurt, wear down and weaken. This became blatantly obvious after my last run.

Last Sunday I ran 20 miles (32 km) which will be the longest run I will do before the marathon. I will not break it down mile by mile but the first 12 miles felt fine, the next 5 miles were bearable, the following two miles had me huffing, puffing and cussing out loud and the final mile almost made me cry. I'm pretty sure I would have cried if I had the energy to produce tears.

When I finally came home, I was in so much pain. My muscles were screaming at me and I had difficulties talking in full sentences. And all of a sudden, an uneasy feeling washed over me. Nausea! Time to run (hobble) to the porcelain thrown. I had run myself sick. I know it's not unheard of, but it sure was a first for me. Never had I exerted myself to were I had to throw-up.

A sobering thought followed this incident. What if I will not be able to finish the race? I only did 20 miles, I have another 6 miles to go. How do I feel about the fact that my body might actually have limitations? I haven't given up on my goals, but for the first time I'm faced with the possibility of not being able to reach them. I guess I will know within three weeks from now.

To end things on a positive note. The distance of a half-marathon is not even remotely intimidating anymore. I'm also happy to report that my cardiovascular system is handling all of this just fine. And regardless of the upcoming marathon, I've taken huge steps towards a fitter and stronger me.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Presidential Election 2012

Today is Election day! The United States Presidential Election, that is. So many thoughts, and so little power. I hope all the people out there, with the ability to vote, will do their democratic duty and cast their vote today. Regardless of political conviction, it is better to have a conviction than not to care at all.

In January 1999, I started a chapter of my life, which would come to dominate majority of my formative years. I joined a political party and became politically involved. Over the next four years, my heart, mind and soul would be occupied by ideology, philosophy, debates and political campaigns. This all took place in Sweden, and without explaining the political heritage of Sweden in details, it is enough to know that Sweden is firmly rooted in social democracy. But I was not. The party I represented was the Moderate Party, and I labelled myself a libertarian. I detested taxes, demanded a smaller government and valued the individual before the masses. Ayn Rand was my hero and many of my friends back then would have been proud members of the Tea Party today.

As any idealistic, passionate young person, I pursued politics with unfazed conviction and I set out to change the world for the better. The reason why I left my political engagements in Sweden was to move to England to study International Studies with Political Science. I fought my way through three years of constant battles which at times turned ugly enough for a professor to tell me flat out that I deserved to die.

What was I fighting for? If you would boil it down, I was fighting for freedom. Freedom for each individual to make the decisions they want, about their own lives.

When it was decided my husband and I were moving to the US, one of my biggest curiosities was to see and feel how it would be to live in a nation, sharing Sweden's feelings about democracy, but in all other respects, its polar opposite. As a young political activist, my friends and I had always held the US very high. It was as close to the ideal as any currently existing country. We would follow every US presidential election and we would always hope for the Republicans to win, cause we didn't like taxes either.

Little did I know how much I was about to change.

Don't get me wrong. Philosophically, I'm still a libertarian. But does that make me a republican? Hardly! I still think taxes in Sweden are too high, but does it mean that the mere existence of taxes is wrong? Was taxes even the issue that got me politically involved? Absolutely not! My first public debate was about same-sex couples right to be approved as adoptive parents.

In the end of the day, freedom is still something worth fighting for. My political background in Sweden was mostly about financial freedom, because we had very little. The only reason why it took president over social freedoms was because Sweden is one of the most socially free countries in the world. But moving to the US has made me re-discover where my heart is actually at. You can give me as much financial freedom as you want, but as long as I'm not free to decide over my own body or who I want to marry, it would not be worth much. I will always choose social freedom before financial freedom.

It is with part anticipation and part dread I will follow this Presidential Election. The power is in the hands of Americans, I can only stand by and watch. Unlike my younger self, I'm hoping to see less finance and more humanity.