After running my first marathon on Novemeber 1, 2015, I met Jerry Doherty. I met him at a social gathering in a crowd of many. Runners seem to find each other and talk about running! Jerry is a marathoner and wrote this “truth” about his experience. He summarizes the marathon experience beautifully. Please read……….
There’s something mystical about events like a marathon. Seemingly simple – just run 26.2 miles – yet few people ever attempt them, and fewer still complete them. I had wanted to run a marathon since I started competing in junior high cross-country, but didn’t want it bad enough to make the time to train. When I took a job in Washington, DC, and found myself North of I-10 for the first time in my adult life, I was forced to make drastic changes in the way I spent my leisure time, and I seized the opportunity to train for and run my marathon. The experience taught me many lessons. Here’s what I think:
A marathon is a truth-teller. It’s different from other athletic contests. A wild basketball shot might still go in. A batter’s half-swing might still produce an extra-base hit. A referee’s call might decide a football game. A bad golf shot might still produce a good bounce. But a marathon is completely honest; there’s no cheating fate, no shortcuts, and no luck. You get what you earn. A marathon is pure individual competition and the opponent is yourself. It’s not natural for a human being to run 26.2 miles. To do it you have to beat your natural mental and physical tendencies to surrender and quit. In spite of other runners or spectators, a marathon is a lonely event; it’s just you and the course. To succeed you must learn to put negative thoughts out of your mind, not just during the race but also in the weeks and months before. This is a good practice for life, but easier said than done.
I define a successful marathon as having three parts: 1) Finishing, 2) Avoiding injury, and 3) Being able to carry on with life the next day. In order to successfully complete a marathon – to achieve all three facets – you have to be prepared. You have to ready yourself both physically and mentally. You have to set the goal months in advance and make a commitment to having training as a priority in your life. You must have the resolve to devise a training plan and the determination to stick to it. You reap only what you sew.
You need to make an honest assessment of yourself. You need to know how your body reacts to adverse conditions; high humidity, rain, cold, exhaustion, hunger. You need to be adept and comfortable with your tools; how your shoes and socks fit after twenty miles, how to get splits on your watch in the dark, how to carry food and water, and whether or not you can eat and drink while running, or must walk or stop. You need to know how to pace yourself during a frenzied start with hundreds of people who want to go faster or slower than you do. You need to know what clothing you can wear for several hours without chaffing. Each is a crucial element that you need to know before race day. You need to have practiced until they are automatic.
You need to have mental discipline. Discipline to do that morning training run even when you’re too sleepy and don’t feel like it. Discipline to go one more mile even though you’re too tired. To push through one more interval even though you don’t want to. You need the discipline to stick to your training plan, to stress your muscles and your mind a little more each day so they heal and come back stronger for the next workout. You need the discipline to lead yourself to do what you have to do, like it or not.
You need to be adaptable. No matter how well you plan, some things will change. Perhaps an injury will take two weeks out of your training schedule. Or the crowded start will put you ten minutes behind your intended pace. These obstacles can be overcome if you have the mental toughness necessary, if you know yourself and trust in your abilities.
A successful marathon does not begin on race day at the starting line. At that point, you should know you have already done all the real work. You have achieved peak conditioning and acquired the most admirable qualities: commitment, honesty, discipline, adaptability. All that’s left to do is run the course and pick up the certificate. A marathon is a good example of the well-known quote: It’s the journey, not the destination. You can learn a lot from running a marathon. It’s hard work and it hurts, but it also feels very good. I encourage everyone to find and try their truth-teller.