On November 10, I became a marathoner. I ran 26 miles, 385 yards at once (well, I did stop and walk for 60 seconds at the 24-mile mark). It took me three hours and 14 minutes. For the past week and a half I've sat down many times, placed my hands on the keys to my MacBook Pro, only to find myself lost for words. How can words possibly describe how fantastic, how beautiful, and how majestic the marathon is? I don't think they can.
However, I would like to share a few lessons that I learned while becoming a marathoner. They say that the marathon is a metaphor for life... I couldn't agree more.
Me, the happy finisher!
Finishing requires consistent effort. Don't quit.
Sometimes you'll find yourself on the threshold of accomplishing the nearly impossible and a desire to quit that burns deep within your mind and soul. Don't quit, don't look backward, just keep moving forward. For me, this happened somewhere around mile 24. Within a matter of steps I went from feeling as if I was on top of the world to feeling as if my world was coming to an end. The desire to stop and quit was overwhelming. However, I held on. I made the conscious decision to keep my head forward, and gave myself 60 seconds to walk. I would not let my legs stop. Every step forward was a step closer to my goal.
Enjoy the view and savor the moments.
There was a portion of the Richmond Marathon from miles nine through 11 where we were running down a curving country road following the James River. The leaves on the trees were bright oranges and yellows, and there was a fresh crispness to the air. For a few minutes I forgot I was running a race and I just took in the experience of running through such beautiful scenery. Despite the fact that these moments were not the most heroic or mentally/physically taxing moments, I will remember them and savor them.
If you are running uphill, soon you will find yourself going downhill (and vice versa).
When you run downhill, your strides become longer and you pick up speed, all while using less energy. Alternatively, when you run uphill, your stride shortens, your pace slows, and your muscles and body become rapidly fatigued. If your life is currently going uphill, dig deep and power through it, soon enough you'll be going downhill. And if you're headed downhill, relax for a moment and enjoy it... It won't last forever. The good news is, you have an endless set of rolling hills in front of you. Sometimes you'll be going up, and sometimes you'll be going down.
Assign meaning to pain, it's only temporary.
In a marathon, you will endure physical pain at some point during the race. Assign meaning to the pain and remember what you have overcome to get to this point. Think of others who are less fortunate than you. Know deep down that your pain is temporary and there are others that have struggles much harder than your own. Dig deep and the pain will fade, and you will feel stronger for having overcome it.
There are more good people out there than you think, and you should always say "thank you."
From the people who volunteer hours of their weekend to hand out water, to those who stand on a street corner cheering our names and ringing cowbells, or stand at the finish line waiting to put medals around our necks and wrap us in warm thermal blankets. All of these people come out to support marathoners without personally gaining anything. They were there just for us, and without their support many of us would never reach the finish line. Because of this, I make it a habit to say "thank you" to everybody who passes me a cup of water, and at least a smile and a head nod to everybody who shouts words of encouragement to me along the course.
"If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
This is one of those African proverbs that has been passed around forever, and it couldn't be more accurate. From miles six 'til 20 I wanted to go fast, and I ran alone, clocking off miles at a speedy pace. At mile 20 I tucked in to a group of about 10 runners being paced to a 3:15 finish. During those final six miles, no words were spoken, we were just surrounded by the heavy breathing and footfalls of each other. When my body had no more energy to give, I found myself being powered forward by this small pack of runners. Without them, I never would have finished strongly, and probably would have taken an extra 10 minutes to finish.
Fuel your body properly, and listen to it.
Nutrition, hydration and sleep matter. We only get one life, so take care of your body and it will take care of you for the long haul.
The moment I became a marathoner!
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