Life is a Marathon. Not a sprint!
You’ve probably heard this many times, but how many times have you actually taken time to think through what it means. Last month I had the opportunity to understand this. As life would have it I had to learn it while running the half marathon in Limassol, Cyprus. Although I dint manage to run the Marathon, the half marathon was good enough to teach me a few simple things about how our lives are similar to running a marathon.
Slow and Steady wins the race
Remember the age old fable about the tortoise and the hare which you heard from your grandparents or your parents. Guess what. Its true even today. You might be wondering in this age where there is so much of talk about speed, how on earth is this valid today? I’m still an amateur marathoner but there’s one thing every professional athlete will tell you about running a marathon. It is pointless in sprinting at the start as you will most likely tire yourself, develop a cramp or hit the wall sooner and not finish your race. While winning is something everyone likes, most marathoners race against themselves and are trying to win against themselves and FINISH the race by improving on their own timings. To do this you have to run at a steady pace. The steady pace is different for everyone depending on your level of fitness and your training.
In life too you have to learn to run at a steady pace. Most people today are running at a maddening pace and when you look around, you will find that no one has the time for anything. One one hand everyone says they are toiling away to have a life. However when you look closely they hardly manage to exist let alone living. We are stuck in this pursuit of achieving and accumulating things that we forget to enjoy simple moments in our life. We are running at a pace that we are tiring ourselves out both physically, mentally and emotionally. As a result we finish our race much earlier than other. Not because we went over the finishing line, but because we didn’t make it till there. Physical illness, mental stress, emotional distress are all things which have become common day terms. Its like we are eager to sprint towards our own grave!. Its time for us to think about how we can slow down and steady our pace in our lives. What are the things that really matter and how can we make sure we enjoy this gift called life to our fullest
Slow down but don’t stop
Another thing which I learnt during my training is that its best to slow down rather than stop and start again. When you are running long distances and you are into a rhythm, your body adjusts itself to the pace. Your heart starts pumping blood at a steady rate and you are moving forward continuously. What I found is that if I stopped mid way because I was tiring out, then it was extremely difficult to start again as the body started cooling down and the muscles started stiffening. From here it would take a HUGE effort to pick yourself up again and try and finish the race. During my race I saw a couple running and the wife stopped because she couldn’t take it anymore, Through the course I saw the husband trying to get her to run, once almost putting her arm around his shoulders. They eventually finished the race but I’m sure it took a lot out of them. They managed to complete the race because they had each other which I call running with a companion (See below)
This is very true in our life as well. You’ve probably noticed that when you start something and then stop it after a while, it’s extremely difficult to start it again. Whether this is a diet, an exercise plan, a new idea, bringing about personal change or anything else. You start something because you get motivated by something you read, heard or watched. You build up the momentum and work hard towards it. After a while other things take priority, the motivation has disappeared and then you slowly come to a stop. Later when you try to go back, you find it difficult and if you do, you realise you have to start all over again or as a minimum you have now fallen a few steps behind. Just like running a marathon,in life slow down if you must but DON’T STOP.
Marathon is a test of your endurance. It’s your endurance that will take you across more than your speed or stamina. While training, I realised that once I got into a steady pace and my body got into a rhythm, I felt I could keep running forever. I felt that I had the stamina to keep running longer. However as the run progressed, I felt my legs starting to cramp and my body was starting to almost fall apart after the 17km mark. This is one of the reasons we need to refuel our body during the marathon. Our body is 60 % water and drinking water regularly makes the body functioning optimally. While drinking water at regular intervals during your race will certainly go a long way in keeping you hydrated, to prevent cramping late in the race you may need to replace some of the electrolytes you lose through sweat. The easiest way to do so is by taking some form of sports drink, which will contain a mix of electrolytes in the form of sodium chloride and potassium, as well as simple sugars that will help keep the muscles fueled.
Similarly in life we need to refuel from time to time to keep ourselves going. The refueling basically helps us stay motivated and helps us carry along with what we are trying to achieve. The motivation could come from anything you do. What’s important is for you to recognize what is it that motivates you and keep feeding yourself that from time to time. For example if it’s a group of friends which keep you going, then make sure you meet them at regular intervals. It could be reading books, watching motivational videos, listening to your heroes or anything else. The key is to identify it and then refuel regularly and constantly.
Run with a companion
This time I ran with a friend of mine and I can tell you that finishing the half marathon was much easier than finishing the 10K last year. We ran together and were chatting through the run and I didn’t realise how easily we sailed through the race. Apart from helping you stay focussed, a companion also provides support to overcome the obstacles during the race.
Similarly in life, its good to have a companion who stands by you, and walks with you providing you the support at times when you feel like giving up. This companion could be your spouse, your partner a friend, a mentor or anyone else.
Enjoy the journey.
We finished the race in 2 hours 23 min. It’s may not be a record breaking timing, but for me it’s great because I beat my personal best during training of 2 hrs 34 min. More importantly we enjoyed the run. It was a perfect day alongside the sea, running with more than 10,000 other runners in one of the most breathtaking coastal routes . The spirit of the run and the people cheering us along the way made the run so much more easy. From time to time we had group of people cheering us on and others who were offering us water and sports drinks as refreshments.
Our life journeys are all going to end in the same destination. Unlike a marathon, we may not be around to enjoy our life’s final destination. So it makes sense that we relish every moment of this journey and spend our time living rather than just mere existing. As someone once said “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take. Rather its measured based on the moments which take our breaths away”. Make every moment a moment to celebrate, enjoy and live.
Here’s a small video of my run at the Limassol Marathon..