Last week I completed the Marine Corp Marathon. Even though it was the 15th marathon I’ve participated in, it felt more like my first. Due to several precautionary cardiac procedures I needed over the past three years, I hadn’t done a full marathon since early 2015. I had valve replacement surgery in late 2015 then struggled through a few half marathons. Late in 2018, I was fitted for an ICD to manage a low heart rate and potential ventricular tachycardia. Amazingly, after getting the ICD, my running and overall endurance vastly improved. I ran my best 5K since I was in my 40’s (I’m 54) and I ran two half marathons that were much better than those I’ve run over the past few years. So, it seemed like the right time to return to my favorite distance: 26.2 miles
Re-entering marathon world had the same inspiring effect it had on me when I did my first one back in 2008. And as so often happens with running, I experienced wonderful learning that translates not just to running, but to so many other domains of life:
There is true joy in being a beginner: Perhaps the most exciting thing about a first marathon is that question on the table: Can I do this? While it can be hard getting to the starting line – indeed, it takes motivation and discipline – the bigger question is: Will I get to the finish line? That mystery is unsolvable with the exception of one source: You.
You never have to look far for inspiration: Since I work in the nonprofit field, every day I am newly inspired by the creativity, resourcefulness and generosity of the people I meet. It’s pretty similar when you’re on a marathon course – front, middle or back of the pack. You encounter people that inspire you whether it’s due to their sheer will, courage or physical capability.
We are as powerful, strong and iron-willed as we believe we are: When training for these events, I’m consistently amazed at how our mind works. If you tell yourself today is the day for a 15 mile run, your body and mind responds with the strength and will to run 15. But if you’re pulling back and tell yourself it’s 5 miles today, both mind and body will act in accordance and question itself once you go beyond that 5. If I was a neurologist I’d have more to say about this. I’m not so I’ll just leave it there…
Trust your intuition: When I was at my best with running marathons, I consistently culminated training with a 20 or even 22 mile run. That worked for me. To train for Marine Corp, I used an app which had me train to a 15 mile max long run. Something in me kept saying “No, go 20” but I didn’t listen. Sure enough 16 miles in, I was toast and only managed to eke out another few miles of running. Not the apps fault. I should have gone with my intuition.
Never, never, never give up. What Winston Churchill said so many years ago still holds today. I’ve spared you the longer narrative of what made this race particularly challenging. I even considered making this my first DNF (did not finish) race. I didn’t and I’m so grateful for that. Never, ever, ever give up. It’s just that simple.