I ran my ninth marathon on March 17. I had run this one two times before and was eager to better my past times, and experiences.
Actually, I hadn’t had a good marathon in about eight years and was pretty frustrated.
I told people that my goal was to feel strong at the end. I kind of set that up as the definition of success.
No suffering = Success
No struggle = Goal achieved
Eliud Kipchoge is one of the greatest marathoners of all time. He set a new world record last year in Berlin – 2:01:39 – more than twice as fast as my pace. He says this about the marathon – “Marathon is life.” What he means is that the marathon is a metaphor for the struggles of life. It is rare that someone will run a marathon without struggle, feeling great the whole 26.2.
I had a great day on March 17. God was gracious to give me good weather and my best time in 8 years. But I didn’t feel good the whole time. In fact, my legs didn’t feel very fresh at all.
Thankfully I was running with a friend and my desire to encourage him helped me as well. Usually miles 15-19 can be a mental wasteland where negative thoughts start to overwhelm. I was determined to not let that happen so every once in a while I told my friend we were doing awesome no matter how I actually felt.
Around mile 19 my friend had to stop for the bathroom and he told me to go on if I felt good. And I did feel good! The next 3-4 miles were very good and I found myself praising God out loud.
But after mile 22 it really started to get real. I wanted to be done! I had to keep digging deep to find positive energy whatever my legs were telling me. The last stretch was all uphill and I didn’t feel particularly strong. I usually try to sprint across any finish line, but getting across was good enough. I finished!
Reflecting back on the race, I understood more what Kipchoge was talking about. Life doesn’t feel good all the time. It can be pretty terrible actually. But feeling strong all the time can’t be the measure of success in this life. And feeling strong the whole 26.2 can’t be the marathon’s definition of success either. The measure of success in life and in the marathon is how you face the adversity.