After observing the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. a couple of weekends ago, I think I’m starting to get marathons. I’ve never understood what all the hubbub was about and why seemingly sane people would subject themselves to such punishment. But as I observed thousands of grim faced runners trot the streets of our nation’s capitol I came to realize marathons have little to do with running. This is an immense relief as I think running is an agonizing and exhausting effort in futility.
For me, marathons are about setting a goal that stretches the limits of ability, preparing and sweating in isolation and then drawing courage from the cheers of the community of bystanders to do the seemingly impossible. It’s about proving something…mostly to one’s self.
I suspect the average time it takes to run the 26 plus miles would go up if it were run sans supporters yelling encouragement. I also suspect that many would lose heart along the way and just drop out abandoning their dream if they ran alone and no one told them they could do it or handed them a cup of water.
There’s a bigger point here. Life is a marathon and everyone is running their race. Every race is different. For some just making it through the day without breaking down is an immensely daunting task. Others may be energized by getting that next patent or promotion or slick new iwhatever. Regardless, courage leaks. Everyone deals with doubt and discouragement at some point along their marathon of life.
Last post I told about a dozen or so college age girls who pounded their drums and danced and yelled encouragement to the runners. They maintained their intensity and energy even though the steady stream of runners had dwindled to one lone woman who had long ago given up on jogging. Her gait was more a shuffle than even a walk as she approached mile 20. Remarkably, it seemed as if she drew courage and energy from the drumming girls and she even picked up her pace to almost a walk.
The scene on 14th Street SW in Washington D.C. left me with two questions. First, who am I cheering on? Who are the people I need to siphon courage to through a thoughtful word, card, email, phone call, text, etc? The second question seems a little self serving but it is critical. Who cheers me on? I tend to isolate and run alone when facing adversity. Stupid.
I’m starting to be more intentional about this community thing. I realize I need others cheering for me if I’m going to finish this thing with a sprint not a shuffle. David, Bryan and Shawn don’t look like much but every Wednesday afternoon we meet, share our stories and give each other courage to run on. It’s becoming an increasingly valuable time of my week. I need it.
I’m starting to get why people run marathons…and it’s not so much about running.