Today I completed my 18th marathon. I am done for quite a while, to be honest. This marathon was like two different races for me. The first half I was strong, and felt well prepared. The second half my digestive system went on protest (and that is all I will say about that). Because of this, the second half was an hour longer than the first half. At mile 17, I honestly wondered if I would be able to finish. I have never dropped out of a race, and I didn’t want today to be the first.
While I was in Birmingham to run my last marathon, I was able to visit with a dear friend whom I had not seen since my days in Chicago. This girl is also a runner. Actually, she’s a phenomenal runner. I am comfortable with my abilities as a runner, so it’s not that I feel like I’m not good enough, but seriously she could probably walk at the pace I’m running.
We were discussing my marathon strategy and goals, which was mainly to run steady, feel comfortable, and not injure myself. Oh, and to finish. Yes, it is required to finish. During this discussion, she made the comment that as a runner you have to respect the marathon distance. It is as much of a mental game as it is physical. You can’t simply power through the whole race. The plan is to start slow, stay steady, and finish strong.
That plan doesn’t always work though. What if it’s hilly, and you weren’t able to train on hills. What if it is unseasonably hot, and your body isn’t acclimated? What if the course is a double loop and it messes with your head? What if your body reacts in a way that you can’t function? You have to prepare to the best of your ability, and respect the things that are out of your control. Just as in life.
There is so much to learn about life from running a marathon.
Respect Your Journey
Some trials in life are sprints. These you can simply power through. Put your head down, breath heavy, and get it done. It’s painful, but over quickly. And there is a great sense of exhilaration at the end. And a gratefulness that you can walk the rest of the way.
Some trials in life are marathons. Heck, some are Ultras. The trial has no end in sight. Its a double, triple, or quadruple loop. Every time you go around, all you can think is, “Crap! I’m gonna have to do all of this all over again!” Some trials have unexpected hills that you simply were not prepared for. You didn’t know the hill was going to be that difficult or that long. And when you get to top and have to go back downhill, you can breathe easier, but now your knees ache. And the race doesn’t stop. Oh no, you many miles left to go.
So what do you do? Focus on what your initial goal was. Was it to finish, crawling if it needs to be? Was it to finish with at least a smile on your face? Was it to finish with a sprint? Each of these goals are worthy. If you finish crawling, it shows that you have an incredible amount of determination. You have made a commitment to finish, and you will honor that promise. If you finish smiling, it shows that no matter how difficult things are, you are able to focus on the good and be uplifting to others. If you finish sprinting, it shows that you have prepared well and seized the challenge you have to face.
Thankfully, I was able to finish my race today. My time was shot, so I decided to enjoy the beautiful morning and be thankful for the opportunity to be in nature and meet new people. Another runner was having the same troubles as myself and feeling quite defeated. It was an unlikely connection we had, and I took the moment to provide encouragement for her.
The only bad race is the one not entered. Life is meant to be lived. All of the hills and all of the heat. It is all part of the journey. Respect it.