Thursday, June 6, 2013

Life is a marathon, not a sprint

If you’ve ever trained for and completed a marathon, you understand how much dedication, consistency and patience it takes to accomplish that goal.  Getting up in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday to go meet the running group, slogging through mile after mile, increasing the mileage week after week, and cherishing the few “rest” weeks where you get to do 10 miles instead of 18—What a relief!  During the week, no matter how busy you are, you find time either by getting up earlier than usual to get in your miles before work, or going out to the gym or outside in the dark to run at night.  Regardless of how tired you are, you do the mileage that the training program/book/website  says you’re supposed to do—or at least a close approximation thereof.  You know you need to either do the mileage that day, or you’ll have to make it up later, so may as well go ahead and do it.   You may even become obsessive about how much you sleep, whether or not you carbo-load, what gels or gu’s you take with you on a run, how much Gatorade or water you drink…  All because you know you need to have put in the miles and prepared your body to be out there for 26.2 miles.  You’ve tried out different things that either worked or didn’t work so that you don’t get to race day and try a new gel that makes you hurl. 

Then on race day, you hit a wall, or several walls along the way.  Each time you’re faced with continuing on or quitting.  At mile 8, say you start to feel like you’re wiping out.  But it’s only mile 8, you can’t quit now, so you take a gu or gel or Gatorade to keep you going.  And you keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Then again, at mile 20, coming up a big hill, you hit another wall!  This time you seriously consider quitting.  But you can’t quit—you have to finish.  It’s only 6 more miles.  So you keep going.  At mile 22, you think, “I don’t think I can pick up my feet anymore.”  And then you think, “well if you think that way, then you won’t be able to—so stop psyching yourself out! And just try!”  So you keep picking up your feet.  Even if every step hurts, and it seems like you’ll never get to the finish line, you keep picking up your feet.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You have to hold onto that hope that eventually you get there.  And then, … you do!  And it’s done!  You’ve just run a marathon!  You’ve got a new medal around your neck, probably an aluminum blanket thrown around your shoulders and you don’t think you can walk another step to get to your ride home.  But of course, you do.. what choice do you have. 

This is what life is like.  There’s very little instant gratification.  And sometimes, there are very few things that you can control in life.  And just when you think things are great, something bad happens.  That’s the way life is.  But do you give up?  No.  You keep putting one foot in front of the other.  For all of the people who’s industries have disappeared or morphed into something new, and they’re having to recreate their careers and find new sources of income, it may feel like things will never get better.  For the husband and wife who are going through a divorce, it may feel like things will never be stable again, or they’ll never find love again.  For the kids whose parents just got divorced and they’re shuttling back and forth between two homes, it may feel like they will never have a “real” home.  There are births, there are deaths, there are lost jobs and gained jobs.  There are marriages and divorces.  There are wars and at times there is peace.  But most of that you have no control over.  You can set up a few things that you know will make your life easier—like managing your eating and sleeping, doing the work you have or using your time productively towards whatever goal you’re reaching for.  But the gratification may not come right away.  It may not come for some time.  And you have to tolerate the frustration of waiting for something good to happen, or something to finally “work out.”  And until it does, you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other—even if every step hurts.  Keep picking your feet up, even when you don’t think you can.  Keep the things that you can control under control—stay focused on the goal.  And no matter how frustrated or hopeless you feel, just keep plodding along.  Eventually, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually, you will get where you want to go.