For a short time, I was going to title this blog 26.2. Why 26.2? It’s simple, that’s the distance of a marathon.
I run marathons.
I’m not fast. I don’t ever win. If I finish in the top 20% of all runners in a given race, I am thrilled. Lately, as I get get older, I am becoming happy to finish in the top 50% of all runners.
I keep track of these things. I think it’s something many runners do. In our never ending quest to do better and be stronger (and faster), we keep track of our races and finishes. I shouldn’t have checked my records. My memory of my performances was better than the actual results. (Now I’m discouraged.)
I have completed 19 marathons. I am proud of that fact. At one time, I was pretty fast. About a decade ago, I finished the Chicago Marathon in 3:25:16. That’s my P.R. I owned Chicago that day. (I’m forcing myself to look back on the good.)
To the point I made above that I am becoming happy to finish in the top 50%, well, it seems that’s not entirely true. I haven’t even finished in the top 50% in my last five marathons dating back to 2010 and a nice race in Hartford, Connecticut. That could be discouraging, but it’s not. It’s who I am as a runner right now (and maybe forever…).
Each marathon tells a story. Each marathon has with it its own struggles and battles. More though, each marathon, has with it the simple fact that, at the end, I crossed the finish line and completed a race that is long, and hard, and daunting.
I have come to realize (maybe I’m forced to realize this because I am slow) that it’s not just about competing in races, it’s more about completing them.
There is a great quote that inspires me each day. It reads
“There are days when I don’t know if I can run a marathon. There is a lifetime knowing I have.”
All this to say that the thought of running 26.2 miles scares me, intimidates me, and inspires me. I see that number a lot (by design). I have it as a sticker on my car. It’s posted in my garage. My wife framed my marathon medals as a gift to me. Those are hanging near my treadmill. I can’t escape the number – and I can’t escape the desire to run another long race.
But, I can’t just go out and run a marathon. I have to train for it. That training takes months. There are short runs and speed work, but the most important parts of marathon training are the long runs. The nights before my scheduled long runs, especially the 20-milers, are mixed with excitement, dread, fear, and anticipation as I consider the thought of running outside (or on my treadmill) for four hours or more.
In order to cover the distance of a marathon, one needs to practice running those long miles. One’s body, and one’s mind, has to get used to covering long distances.
The long run has become part of who I am.
As such, the number 26.2 means a great deal to me. It is a constant reminder that I have within me the power to overcome a great physical and mental challenge. It’s also a reminder that no achievement comes without hard work.
Every run humbles me. Every run reminds me that I need to get stronger and work harder. I don’t think I’ve ever had an easy run – of any distance. It’s hard work, but it’s good work.
Through my marathons I have raised a good amount of money for numerous charities. That’s inspiring as well. The number 26.2 is a reminder that we can use the talents we have to help others.
Also, every marathon humbles me because in each race there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who give their time to help the runners. The spectators always make me feel like I am some sort of champion. And then there are the people that happily hand cups of Gatorade and water to every runner. Talk about giving of one’s self! Hour after hour they encourage and support – and provide needed sustenance to the weary “travelers” on their own epic journeys. And then there are the race directors, the police, the first aid attendants, chiropractors, medics, and so many others.
No one runs a marathon alone. We are carried over the miles by the generosity of spirit and action from others.
In short, the number 26.2 remind me, every day, to be my best self. It reminds me that I have to work hard at every task. It reminds me to stay positive, even in the most difficult or challenging of times. 26.2 reminds me to always give part of myself to help others.
For all these reasons, I considered using that number as the title of this blog. But, in the end, I realized that while the number may inspire me, it doesn’t inspire everyone.
For example, my wife things that running 26.2 miles is crazy. (She’s not wrong.) The number would not inspire her. Other things, though, do.
It’s really not about a number, more, it’s about finding a way to find, discover, and cultivate our best selves. It’s about finding those ways that we can bring renewed energy to everything we do.
I once worked with a custodian who said, “My father taught me to be the very best at whatever I do.” It’s not about the jobs we have, it’s about what we do with our jobs. It’s about finding ways to give every task our best – even the things we dislike doing.
And, of course, we don’t always succeed in this or in anything. I know that I fail…a lot.
But, when we try our best, and we give our best, we help to make our life and the lives of those around us just a little bit better. When we all do this, we, in turn, make the whole world, a lot bit better.
The number 26.2 reminds me of all of this. It inspires me.
What inspires you?