“Why am I doing this!? I could stop right now, call an Uber, and no one would care. My life would still go on tomorrow as normal.”
This was the head game being played at mile 19. Honestly, they were fair questions to be asked because even though I had just run 18 miles, I still had another 8 to go! You know what the craziest part of the marathon is? Running a marathon! I just willingly and freely agreed to run 26.2 miles. (I need to re-evaluate my definition of “fun.”) No one threatened the life of my wife or children to do it. There wasn’t a big payout at the end of a race (rather, I paid them to run the race). Completing a marathon added no practical value to my life. But, it didn’t matter, this was never about pragmatism. This was about learning what it takes to set seemingly unattainable goals and then doing the work it takes to go accomplish them.
In no uncertain terms, running a marathon was the most incredible physical feat that I have ever experienced. The closest comp that I could equate to the experience was completing my doctorate. As crazy as that sounds, running the marathon meant as much to me as earning my PhD.
Let me explain why. Running a marathon is the ultimate mark of a runner. I was the captain of my cross country team in high school and even though I have not been the most dedicated runner since then, running has always been part of my life. I ran the occasional 5k to benefit a charity and always had a pair of running shoes in the closet, but I never consistently put the miles in because life happened. I got married young, had kids, worked on degrees, and got my professional endeavors off the ground. Who has time to run 15 miles when you’re changing diapers and studying for licensure exams?
Just like that, over 20 years passed by and the whole time, the longing for running a marathon never faded. I’d watch the marathon on the Olympics. Dreamt about what it would take to run that distance. Whenever I met someone who had run a marathon, I would ask them about their experience, training, hitting the wall, etc. Like talking to someone who completed the Appalachian Trail or the Camino, I just wanted to know what it was like to do that incredible test of endurance.
But even more than being a childhood dream, completing this race was a sign of how far my life has come over the past couple of years. If you follow me, you’ll know that the theme of hope cuts across everything I do: from the podcast to my lectures, and writing. Understanding and teaching hope has become a life mission of mine. Why? Because I know how easy it is to lose hope and how scary it feels when it is gone. I want to help others navigate their doubts and questions that arise in the midst of suffering. When I ran my first 10k last April, I posted on Facebook and Instagram about it and said that it was a mark of health. Running that 10k was a sign that I was finally over the hurdle of recent burnout and back to a place of health and stability in life. Running the marathon was the next level of that same thought. I am well past the dysfunction of my recent past and have now moved forward to accomplishing crazy goals. Which just feels amazing.
There is so much churning inside my head. Writing is the best way to clear up my thoughts and help me make sense of it all. So, for the next few weeks, I will be writing about the various experiences of the marathon: the training, the conversations with God during the running, the race itself, and the afterglow. If running is not your thing, have no fear! Please follow along because these posts are not so much about running as much as the lessons one learns when pursuing big goals in life.