By this time tomorrow, I’ll be done running my second marathon. God willing! A few months ago, in the middle of running recreationally during the summer, I decided to turn my running into training and set my sights on my second marathon. I’ll be running the BayState Marathon in Lowell, MA tomorrow. It’s pretty exciting, as I didn’t think I’d do another one. But honestly, once you do one, you start to think you can do another one if you’re running and you’re feeling good. My biggest goal is just to finish healthy.
Marathons are a beast all their own but they share many characteristics with other goals. The idea of running a marathon when you first start out running just a few miles seems insane. You think you’ll never be able to run more than 5 miles but then after a few weeks, you add on one or two miles to a once-per-week long run and slowly but surely, over time, it doesn’t seem so crazy. I never thought I’d be running a marathon once, let alone twice, but I can say that the thing that’s had the biggest impact is consistency. When you think about it, this really is the biggest thing when you’re trying anything new. Your body and mind aren’t used to the new thing and over time, you keep coming back to it and slowly but surely, it starts to feel more ingrained. You don’t have to think as much when you do it. You feel more competent when you do it. You’re smarter about it; you’ve learned more about the academic side of whatever it is you’re doing.
Certainly yoga is like this too. In all my work with students, when they first start yoga, they often comment on how different it feels to have their shoulders relaxing, to take deep breaths, move their body into alignment. New things feel different and it’s more a matter of taking the time to let yourself feel that.
Training for a marathon is an investment of time and physical energy. But then again, so is looking for a new job, starting a new relationship, raising a child, starting a new academic or training program. Anything that really means something requires an investment of time and energy. It’s just part of the deal. But that’s what makes it all the more sweet; when you’re done you can look back and remember the path you’ve traveled and all the blood, sweat and tears you’ve poured into the goal.
The other interesting thing, for me at least, around running a marathon, is the idea that I don’t want to be too attached to having any particular outcome. It’s great to have a goal for your finish time but for me, it’s more about finishing healthy. In anything we try, it’s hard not to set goals. Goals are great; but when they get in the way of being present, when they get in the way of you making shifts that are more in line with how you’re really feeling, they can become boulders in your path. We’ve all heard of people running through extreme pain, or doing any sport through pain. Once we disconnect from our body, we’re surely headed for injury.
We often look outside ourselves for inspiration. But we can be an inspiration to ourselves if we just commit to something meaningful. This could be any idea; eating healthy, yoga, running a road race of any length, learning a new skill. I’m certainly inspired by my commitment but I’m also completely inspired by the idea of being surrounded tomorrow morning by hundreds of other runners who made the same commitment I did. You too can find this. You’ll find it in any yoga class, in any meeting where people meet around a common goal. Look for inspiration in your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers, your friends and family. But most of all, look deep inside yourself. Sit still and listen to your heart. What do you want to achieve? What do you think is out of reach that with a little hard work and commitment, you will be able to conquer?