Seven Life Lessons I Learned From Running Marathons. By Jarek Pachocki, OMI
There is a line in the “Spirit of the Marathon” movie that captured it all: “When you cross that finish line, no matter how slow or fast, it will change your life forever” -Dick Beardsley (an American long-distance runner best known for his close finish with Alberto Salazar in the 1982 Boston Marathon). There is no doubt that your life won’t be the same after finishing a marathon; and here are some lessons I have learned from it:
1. Enjoy Every Moment of Your Life
42.2 km is a long distance and every kilometer brings something unique to the experience. The excitement of first kilometers, the challenging thoughts that run through your head when you reach the late 20s, the sore painful 30s, the joyful (but so long…) last 500 meters, and feeling of accomplishment and relief after crossing the finish line – all of this makes it an unforgettable experience. And you don’t want to miss any of it. The key to embracing the race is to embrace every kilometer of it with pain or joy; because when you pass it, you won’t be back there any more. Our life is a journey taken one day at a time. You certainly don’t want to miss it – since you cannot relive a particular day or particular moment. So be present and intentional in the way you live your life!
2. You Gotta Have Friends
To be honest, I’m usually a “lone ranger” while I’m running… It gives me time to workout many things in my mind, refocus in life and face and deal with my own challenges and demons. However, the experience of participating in the STWM Digital Champions this year has given me an appreciation of having “running buddies”. Digital Champions is a group of runners who share their journey towards the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon through social media and other means of the digital world. On a number of occasions we have had an opportunity to meet the person hiding behind the picture profile. Friendly chats, sharing stories, goals and aspirations, truly gave me a better understanding that we are all on a common journey. Not only in training for a marathon, but also in the best social network on the market, namely “real life”! And you need friends in real life to share the journey, to encourage and support each other. So appreciate the friends you have in life! They are a real gift.
3. Everybody Is Equal
When you put your bib on, there is a number on it and your first name (thanks for this Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon!). There are no titles, educational accomplishments, income, family background, political preferences or beliefs, or your sexual orientation… No, because we all stand on this start line facing a challenge of 42.2km ahead of us. We are in it together! Unfortunately in life we sometimes “label” people because of everything else that doesn’t appear on our race bib. Appreciate the differences, celebrate the diversity on this common journey of life!
4. Every Uphill Has a Downhill
There is no doubt that hills come as a challenge in any race; especially when your body has gone through dozens of kilometers already. I say this mantra as I climb every hill: “Remember, every uphill has a downhill”. A painful climb will always be rewarded by a “relaxing” downhill somewhere. One day I saw a page on my desktop Runner’s World calendar that said: “Don’t expect everyday to be better than the last. Some days will be slower than others, and some days might even hurt a bit more. But as long as you’re on the road, it’s a good day.” Keep going!
5. No Pain No Gain
I have to confess that my biggest weakness in training for a marathon is lack of LSD (Long Slow Distance) runs. I could start counting my excuses here, but the bottom line is that they are long, exhausting, boring and often painful. The marathon is a long 42.2km and you cannot count only on multiple 10k runs, you have to embrace the pain in order to gain. And just like in life, setting good intentions, giving your best effort, overcoming failures and struggles, and making an intentional effort to work on relationships will help you live your best life! Because there is no gain without pain.
6. Living With Purpose
They say running is 80% mental effort and 20% physical effort…and they are right! So far, every marathon I’ve done, around the third quarter of the distance a question pops out in my mind, “Why am I doing this?” That’s the moment when you “make it or break it”. And just like in life, the sense of purpose will help you to accomplish the goal you’ve set up for yourself. A positive answer to this WHY question brings meaning to what you do… running a marathon, taking on particular responsibility, making commitments, building and sustaining relationships, simply living your life to the fullest.
7. Legacy of the Finish Line
There is that overwhelming feeling when you cross the finish line of accomplishment and relief at the same time. You’ve just done something that many people are not able (or not willing) to do. You’re a marathoner! Then the reflection follows, “How did I do?” “Was I happy with the race?” “Would I do it again?”
Believe it or not, there will be a day when each one of us will cross that final finish line of our life… Don’t wait till then! Ask the questions now, “How am I doing?” “Am I happy in life?” “What’s important in my life?” “How can I change?”