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Life Lessons from Marathoning

by David DeFord

Learning from life
We grow when we learn from our experiences in life. Reviewing and reflecting on our experiences can help us improve.

Many years ago I started a fitness program. I walked a few miles each day. Then I started jogging. I began to enter 5K and 10K races. I greatly enjoyed the energy of the crowd of runners.

As I mingled with this new crowd, I heard their tales of marathon running. I became fascinated with their stories of commitment, endurance and triumph.

The decision to run a marathon (26.2 miles) should not be made without some serious soul searching. This is no ordinary commitment. The huge commitment to daily training and preparation requires more than ordinary effort.

Commitment to run
Marathon training requires one to give every ounce of energy he possesses. It requires the person to press past intense fatigue and nagging pain to follow the training regimen.

I had to decide if I was merely interested in finishing the marathon or truly committed to it. An interested runner, when faced with morning rain showers will decide whether to run that morning or not. A committed runner will decide whether to wear rain gear or not.

There is a huge difference between the thought processes of a jogger and that of one training for a marathon.

In our lives we must decide if we are merely interested or fully committed to our marriages, our families, our goals, and our dreams. When continuing becomes very difficult and discouraging, will we press forward? When we hurt, or when we can’t go another step, will we tread on?

Commitment to our dreams sometimes requires that kind of dedication. There is a difference between one interested in achieving their dreams and one committed to them.

I chose to run the marathon in Houston that year. I set no time goal except to finish the 26.2 miles under the 5 hour limit for official finishers. Those who finish within the time limit receive a finisher t-shirt and a crystal mug.

Those incentives, while not materially significant, represented the triumph of self. They became objects to visualize when the difficulty of putting one step in front of the other increased.

On race day thousands of supporters lined the course, cheering encouragement, holding signs like, “See you at the finish”, “You can do it”, and “You are my heros.” Rock and roll bands played rousing music; the American Legion lined a quarter-mile section of the course with fluttering American flags. All designed to encourage the runners to achieve their goals.

Not only am I not a fast runner, but I also don’t look that comfortable either. At around mile 18, I turned to look at a lady running behind me and told her, “I just had to look at you for a moment, everyone yells to you that you’re looking good, and they keep asking me if I’m alright.”

We all need encouragement. We should surround ourselves with those who push us toward our dreams. We must lessen our exposure to those who would discourage our continuing. We must read books that provide inspiration.

Seek encouragement.

Run your own race
The last six miles were so tough. I hurt. I was tired physically and mentally. My emotions and my body couldn’t carry me further. Only my resolve could get me to the finish line.

I kept track of my time throughout the race. I became aware in the last three miles that I was in danger of not beating the five hour limit. I pressed and pushed myself. I focused on that finisher t-shirt. I thought of that crystal mug. I reminded myself that I had several people committed to donate to charity considerable sums of money if I finished. How could I not finish?

Finally, I started hearing the crowd at the finish line. I turned the corner and saw the balloons and banners of the end. As I crossed the finished line, I saw the clock display 4:58! I was an official finisher!

I received my finisher shirt and crystal mug. Each represented an accomplishment. But I gained much more.

I learned the value of commitment. I learned the value of encouragement and symbols of achievement. I learned that we must run our own race and not compare ourselves to others. For some, a 4:58 marathon would represent a disappointing defeat. For me, it was a tremendous victory!

Above all, I learned that if I could accomplish something this hard, what could stop me from accomplishing anything in my life that I choose.

Related Quotes

"The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give." Howard Cosell

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat." Theodore Roosevelt

"Desire is the key to motivation, but it's the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal - a commitment to excellence - that will enable you to attain the success you seek." Mario Andretti

"Personal development is your springboard to personal excellence. Ongoing, continuous, non-stop personal development literally assures you that there is no limit to what you can accomplish." Brian Tracy

"I can promise you that the challenges you'll meet on the road to success are far less difficult to deal with than the struggles and the disappointments that come from being average." Jim Rohn

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