The Suspension of Disbelief

In theatre, the cast, director and crew can only succeed in their mission to take the audience on the desired journey if they can suspend their disbelief for the duration of the play.

The terminology is deliberate, because it specifically doesn’t ask the audience to BELIEVE, as the production is obviously a fictional recreation. The invitation is to enter a mental space where any critical analysis of the practical realities in front of you are voluntarily suspended. These are not people acting. That is not a painted bit of MDF…

Some theatre

Some theatre

To successfully enter this space and thoroughly engage in the production, the audience members will ideally be un-distracted – by discomfort, personal troubles or other external concerns – and be practiced and willing to participate in this way. They need to have a sufficiently open mind.

I am, of course, talking about marathon running.

On Sunday I will attempt to suspend my disbelief for three hours. I don’t entirely BELIEVE I can run a sub-three hour marathon. A critical analysis of the facts at hand – training regime, current injury status (if knee complaints during taper can be reliably ignored), and paces achieved – suggest it is not entirely impossible. But savvy pundits with access to the data would consider it far from a safe bet.

For any savvy pundits, data is shared below – actual versus plan – the volume is low due to being based on the FIRST program, which assumes a lot of cross-training is happening (in this case, average 200kms per week cycling and  4-5kms swimming). You’ll notice my intervals were rarely up to pace (excuse: always late Monday nights after 45kms commuting on bike), my short and mid tempos were often too slow (excuse: I’m not very fast), but my long tempo and long runs were consistently faster than required. I won’t go into it fruther, as this was supposed to be about theatre, wasn’t it?

So in the lead up to the race I have vacillated between following two strategies: ‘Get A Result’ – conservative pacing to more safely meet my original goal of sub-3h10m, or; ‘It Must Start With A Two’ – do or die pacing to shoot for the sub-three with a high risk of complete failure.

I’m leaning towards the latter, mainly because I feel my mind is sufficiently at peace right now, such that I might be able to suspend my disbelief long enough to get it done. That mental space, where I can ignore some of the realities around me – the distance left to go, the stronger runners, the pain in my legs – and focus on breathing well and holding my posture together, while at the same time ignoring my breathing and keeping everything as loose as possible, that’s what might just enable a dream to become a reality.

“Quite often I have a compelling sense of how a role should be played. And I’m proved—equally as often—quite wrong.” -HAROLD PINTER, The Paris Review, fall 1966


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