For English teacher Paul Dunlap, running marathons is a great way to release stress and finish off the day. “After a busy day of facilitating discussions, thinking about big literary—and life!—issues and reading papers, running is a great way to release stress and pent-up energy,” Dunlap said. “The physical exertion is so different than what I do for a living that it is a great complement to my work. I love the feeling of reteaching myself how to breathe effectively with each run. Running is the purest way of being present and in your body. I love the feeling of knowing my strengths and limitations and trying to push past them.”
Though marathons can be exhausting, the build-up to the start of each race is filled with excitement and suspense. “The moments leading up to the starting gun; there is so much positive anticipation,” Dunlap said. “It’s usually cold, so everyone is rubbing their arms and hopping up and down. Someone sings the national anthem, which never sounds so amazing, the announcer counts down in the mic, and then the gun goes off, but you can’t run yet. There are so many runners, you walk with an exaggerated running stance across the start line and hit your watch and go.” After running a whole marathon, all runners feel fatigued but accomplished for completing such a difficult activity. “Chugging water or chocolate milk, sitting down telling yourself you did something harder before noon than most people will do all day [is one of my favorite moments],” Dunlap said.
With such high-intensity running on the day of a marathon, Dunlap adheres to a practice regimen to help him train for the big day. “The event is so challenging that, even on days when I don’t want to train, the thought of getting to the marathon date undertrained is more terrifying than just lacing up my shoes and hitting the trail or street,” Dunlap said. Because training for a marathon is so exhausting and challenging, Dunlap trains with his high school friend who continues to motivate him through the rough moments. “He and I kept each other on track with our training, and we celebrated the accomplishment together,” he said.
Ever since Dunlap completed his first marathon, he has run eight more full marathons and approximately 30 half-marathons. With lots of experience in running and training, Dunlap has advice to give to people who are afraid of the intense activity: “This may sound sick, but it is supposed to be fun,” he said. “If it’s not, examine what you’re doing and why, You can challenge yourself while being kind to yourself. Start small. If you haven’t run in a while, start with a walk-run. Build up to a mile, then two, then a 5k, then 10k, then a half-marathon. If that hasn’t slaked your thirst for self-inflicted suffering, find a good training plan, tell a few people you trust, sign up and do it!”