The London Marathon is less than a week away. It's time for marathoners to fall quiet. Talking drains reserves of adrenalin. Instead they let their limbs grow heavy with glycogen, and breathe temperately.
Runners become peculiarly, obsessively reflexive at this time of year. They think about details far too much. It's been a funny season. I should not be confident. My left ankle hurts, my shinsplints keep threatening to return. I've run nowhere near enough miles. Yet I've had the fastest long run of my career (faster than I used to run 20-mile races a couple of years ago), and the best yasso800s session I've ever run: but perhaps those were based on so much rest time between training runs. But whatever happens now is beyond significant adjustment (at least upwards), and I will no doubt learn some lessons about my body on Sunday. And I would would venture that everyone -- everyone who is not injured outright, and out of the running -- is in the same place. Everyone is judging and judging, and measuring and measuring.
And everyone who's been through this before is trying to suppress the excitement. Thinking too much about it will use up the reserves that will be needed on Sunday: reserves of energy and stoicism and fortitude (and perhaps a lot less talent). But it's hard to shut it out altogether: it's a looming figure waiting at the end of the week. Sometimes you catch a sight of him out of the corner of an eye.
But I am looking forward to it. Not in the way I sometimes do -- when I just want it to be Sunday, so I can get on with it and run, when the anticipation overwhelms, and I want to know how it will go. But I'm looking forward to the physical experience itself. I'm remembering that hard passage, which begins after about 18 miles, when you don't know what's going to happen (and it has the potential to be catastrophic). Other races don't have this quality: they have periods when you feel you may have to slow down, but not when you your spirit may break; not the passage empty of voices, uncharted and without form. Over this morning's generous bowl of porridge and dried fruit I can sense that shadow looming, and the thing I most look forward to is also that which I most fear: that wild, unpopulated darkness that lies before the finish line.