The Metaphor of the Marathon

Oprah Winfrey, during her marathon running phase, proclaimed in her typically resounding manor, “Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.”

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From someone who’s not really known for her running, these words are true for every runner, no matter how fast or far they can run. And for those who, just 10 days ago, crossed that finish line outside Victoria Park, every training run you did, every massage, every physio visit, every dessert skipped, every core session, every recovery day, they all combined to make it the rewarding experience that it (hopefully) was.

But what other finish lines are there in your life that require similar, or even greater, levels of dedication, perseverance, and sacrifice?

For you, is it your career, finances, weight loss, relationships, studies, parenting, or other sports that loom large before you? Whatever your finish line might be, here are some practical lessons learnt from running that should help you toward that goal:

The Hardest Thing is Starting

I’m not sure whether it was because I had been up since 3am but I swear the announcer at the start of the Auckland Marathon repeated about 100 times “Congratulations on making it to the start line.” But he’s right, just getting to the start line or strapping on your trainers or entering the gym is often harder than the workout or race itself.

Cleaning, for me, is the classic example. The thought of it repulses me and ekes away at my sanity for weeks or months (don’t look at the state of my car!). But once I start cleaning I find the mountain is already mostly climbed. And sometimes I actually find I enjoy the experience … only sometimes.

What’s something that you can apply that same “just get to the start line” attitude today?

Sometimes Life Gives You Shin Splints

Even the best runners in the world get injured. In fact 80 per cent of runners get injured each year. It’s kinda par for the course being a runner.

Obviously there are many things we can do to prevent it happening (sensible mileage, targeted training, good form, icing, massage etc) but sometimes life throws us curve balls and injuries just happen. And so we need to alter our training, reassess our goals, and deal with the disappointment of having those goals changed.

Has something in your life metaphorically pulled you up with a torn hammy lately? If so, how can you go about reassessing your goals around that thing and how can you adjust your life habits to overcome it?

It’s Up To You

If you want to run a marathon, no amount of money or help from anyone else can take away the fact that you yourself need to run or walk the 42,195 metres. There’s no escaping it.

However, in life we can personally benefit in many ways from things we never actually did ourselves. We can get rich, famous, powerful, and even better looking if we know the right people and compel them in the right ways. But nothing is more rewarding, or more foundationally human, than starting something yourself and seeing it through to the finish, knowing that you gave it your all.

Find something like that today.

One Step at a Time

It’s an obvious statement, but running a marathon is a simple equation of putting one step in front of the other. Easy. However, it’s the doing it approximately 40,000 times in a row that is the clincher.

Everything in life can be broken down to these same much smaller equations. A degree is essentially just learning and understanding one thing after another. It might mean you need to learn a thousand or so of those things (and also understand how they relate to each other) but just focus on that one thing in front of you, learn it and move on to the next. One foot in front of the other. Easy.

Happy running.

This article is an entry by Hayden Shearman on his training blog at Stuff.co.nz (published 13 November 2013). 

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