The marathon. A grueling race that spans across 26.2 long, and often times lonely, miles. This physical feat dates back to 490 B.C., when a Grecian man by the name of Pheidippides was asked to run from the battlefields of Marathon to Athens, Greece to announce Greece’s victory over the Persians. And ‘run’ he did.
Since that day, the marathon has become one of the ultimate challenges that runners all across the globe set their sights on. And of all marathons, the (arguably) most coveted of them all is the Boston Marathon.
Having been a runner my entire life, it was hard to contain my joy when I qualified for the Boston Marathon that I knew would get me into the race. I eagerly sat at my computer on sign up day, refreshing my browser until it was finally the precise time that I was allowed to apply to register. And from the moment I received my acceptance, my long journey to the Boston Marathon finish line began. A journey that lasted over eight months, requiring intense training, dedication, and a whole lot of ice packs. And while at times it seemed overly long and my motivation wavered, this experience taught me many lessons – and they are so much bigger than running.
Goal chasing takes time
So you have a goal, right? And it’s probably pretty great, otherwise you wouldn’t have set it in the first place. Whether your goal is a personal or a professional one, or if your Mother doesn’t at all agree with it, your ambitions are ALWAYS worth chasing after. But all too often we want results right away. We all want to be faster. To be stronger. To make more money. To reach a larger audience. But goals take time. Be patient with yourself. Even when the “finish line” is beginning to appear to be farther in the distance and completion seems impossible, keep your eye on the prize.
Take it Day by Day
Reflecting back on my eight months of training, I see many Sunday nights of reviewing my often times daunting, workout schedule for the upcoming week. How could I possibly run 75 miles this week? Those mile splits were impossible to hit, so why even try? You see, when looking at the big picture, many of our daily tasks do appear daunting, or unfeasible. But when broken down into smaller, “bite size” pieces, suddenly what lies before you doesn’t seem so impractical afterall. While you may never run a marathon, or need to pace yourself through a 15 mile workout at a 6:30 min/mile pace, you WILL encounter something that scares you – a challenge that you must take head on in order to cross your ultimate “finish line.” So I challenge you to pour that glass from half empty, to half full, and to take it day by day. Puzzle piece your goal together until the big picture lies right before you.
Not Everyone Will Get to the Finish Line
Just like you, everyone’s goals begin to seem unattainable. And you know what? Some will give up, and make new, slightly easier goals. But “you” are different. The strength it takes to achieve all that you desire is within you, and has been along. Every 5 a.m. workout. Every 6 p.m. strength training session. Every long night at the office. Every effort, every sacrifice, will be worth it.
The Journey May Not Always Go According to Plan
About a month ago I started to experience some pain in my hamstrings. A feeling I was not unfamiliar with, as this nagging pain and I are old friends from my years of competing collegiately at UW Oshkosh in both Cross Country and Track. As you can imagine, the resurfacing of my injuries caused a whirlwind of worry and doubt. Would I be able to hit the the pace I wanted? What if I couldn’t finish the race? Was I wasting my time? Had all of my hard work and long hours been for nothing?
Turning a blind eye to all of my worries and uncertainties, I continued onward and adapted. I cross trained. I rested. I took care of myself. But never once did I decide to give up, and end my pursuit of the finish line at the end of Boylston Street. In your life, you too will experience “bumps in the roads.” Some will be small. And some will be a large speed bump that you somehow missed the five mph speed limit sign for – jostling you around and taking you completely and utterly by surprise. But what you do in these moments defines you, and ultimately makes you stronger.
Staying Strong in the Face of Adversity and Challenges, Pays Off With the Greatest Reward
So there it was. Race day. The weather forecast called for pouring rain, colder than average temperatures, and steady winds of up to 30-40 mph. As my alarm woke me before the sun, I laid in bed thinking about these conditions. I was ready for it. Sure, they were less than ideal, but months worth of winter training in Wisconsin had prepared me for this. I could do it. I took a deep breath, laced up my shoes, and began my trek to the start line.
In the first few miles of my race, I felt liberated. I had done it. I was here. Despite the “impossible” early morning workouts, injuries, and horrible weather conditions, I was here – and I was running with nearly 30,000 of the most accomplished runners in the world.
I took each stride with gratitude. I was near completing my goal. The first 13 miles of the race went just as I had hoped. I was right on pace, hitting a pace of about 6:44 min/mile. Perfect. Then suddenly… Speed bump. My hamstrings began to hurt, spasm, and lock up – but I continued onward. My goal was almost in sight! Just 13 miles stood between me and that finish line. Two more miles went by, and I could feel my body slowing. My legs began to ache. My stride began to become taxed and altered by my very apparent limp. But still, I continued onward.
I would be lying to you if I said that the 11 miles that followed got easier, and that I was so filled with a “runner’s high” that I still hit a personal best marathon time. I wish I could provide you with rainbows and a fairytale ending, but that not my reality – and it may not be your reality either. Goal chasing is hard. It has speed bumps, and it has obstacles. In the final stretch you may want to give up, but it is in these moments, that the greatest growth happens.
My ending goes a little more like this: I did it. While ultimately my race didn’t go according to plan, I gave everything I had to accomplish what I had set out to do. I made a promise to myself, and I had kept it despite everything I had endured. The feeling that this accomplishment left me with was more rewarding than if I had a perfect day, because it showed my strength, dedication, and fortitude. I was proud of myself.
Just like me, you too have made a promise to yourself. And to give anything but your very best would be cheating no one other than yourself. My final thoughts that I hope to leave with you with are best summed up in this quote by internationally recognized endurance athlete, Dean Karnazes: “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.”
This article was written by Hannah Kuenzi. Hannah is a Digital Marketing Account Specialist with Stellar Blue Technologies. In addition to her personal love for running, her professional passions include content creation and analytics.