Over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, while many flocked to the streets to enjoy the parades and then to the bars to enjoy a fresh pint of Guinness, I ran my first marathon. I crossed the finish line after four hours, 23 minutes and 12 seconds of beating up my body. I can’t tell you how I finished. I can tell you it hurt a lot, it wasn’t fun and I admittedly felt sick for a day from what I think was slight dehydration. I can also tell you, that I’ll likely do it again.
The day of the race— and the little bit of time that has passed since— has taught me two important lessons.
Marathon running is absolutely crazy. Unless you are some kind of elite athlete like the guy who won the race a full two hours ahead of me, it’s not a good workout. I’m not even sure our bodies are made to go through that abuse. Most importantly, there are plenty of good ways to spend four to five hours of your day other than running.
Those of you that have run 5K’s, 10K’s and even half marathons have probably finished feeling good, assuming you trained well. It probably took a couple of hours and you left feeling tired, but fulfilled after a good long workout. During the race, I felt very much the same way, as I passed the half marathon mark after two hours of running. Then I kept going for another 13.1 miles. As I kept going mile after mile, fatigue and pain set in more strongly. It went from fun-run to serious work. Soon I realized, there was only one reason to keep going: bragging rights.
The first lesson I learned was that the only good reason to run a marathon is to say that you have run a marathon.
I finished, collected my medal and post-race paraphernalia, stretched out and posed for a picture with a smile. I had finished in the time I had targeted and more importantly had bragging rights (see lesson 1). I had plenty to smile about.
Then over the next few days, I saw the likes, comments and messages stream in over Facebook. Never before had a post about an event or achievement in my life garnered such a huge response from my friends and family. Everyone was proud and excited to hear what had happened and how it had happened. Many commented specifically on how much of an inspiration I had been to them.
The second lesson was that running a marathon can really move and inspire others. The second lesson challenges the first lesson because it implies that maybe there is a good reason to run this thing after all: inspiring others.
We all have our marathons to run in life. They are the long races that push us beyond our limits and call us to do the things that other people cannot or will not do. I believe we should seek out these opportunities. When we finish marathons, whether they are literally 26.2 miles of running or the equivalent in some other arena of life, we get to say that we did. By saying we finished, we inspire others to do the same.
The author Marianne Williamson wrote in her book, A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. You playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”