Why do busy people, who haven’t done much exercise in years, decide to train for a 26 mile trek? Most are over the age of 40, have families and careers, and don’t need to add something to their “to do” list. On the positive side, I guess this isn’t the worst mid life crisis one can experience.
As they report in to me, hundreds every week, the transformation stories are amazing. Those who used to avoid walking around the block, talk about “only running 7 miles” on a short long run weekend. Former smokers discover a powerful reason to quit. Many who suffered through a bad work environment, find the courage to resign and pursue a much better job.
Pushing back the barriers of endurance, mile by mile, delivers a unique and powerful sense of genuine accomplishment. Many famous and wealthy people (top politicians, media personalities, scientists, CEOs, etc.) have told me that finishing the marathon has been the most satisfying achievement in their life.
Why does this journey deliver more than it promises? Part of the answer may connect us directly to our roots. Ancient ancestors had to keep two feet moving, thousands of miles a year, to survive. During a million years of evolution, before our forebears invented tools, a series of psychological enhancements rewarded those who “went the distance” each day.
Many experts believe that running was the first form of human transportation on two feet. Others note that many of the human traits of cooperation, teambuilding and trust evolved during these migrations. When we cover a longer distance than in the recent past, mind, body and spirit come together to push us forward when we don’t feel we can continue.
Above all, marathon training forces us to do it ourselves. You won’t get the satisfaction by having a friend wear your bib number as you watch on the streets. There are no shoes or equipment that will run for you. The series of unexpected challenges require you to find resources that you didn’t know were there.
So as you grapple with the right run-walk ratio to use, or the appropriate pace for the day, know that it is always better to be conservative. Whatever you save during the early part of a long run or walk will be available later. When you have not used up your physical resources, the mind and spirit respond better also.
Most who take on the challenge of a marathon, and cross the finish line, develop the same type of toughness, discipline, and inner strength that I saw in my teammates on the Olympic team.
I salute your journey!