The Marathon Culture

Last week my friend was fortunate to spend her Sunday racing around the five boroughs of New York, supporting and cheering on her husband as he ran in the New York City marathon.  This is not the first time her husband has successfully completed this 26 mile run.  Each time, he trains and prepares and is very focused for a few months prior to the event, and deservedly is rewarded with tremendous satisfaction as he reaches the finish line.  Another friend has been sharing with me her latest goal- to run in the upcoming Tel Aviv night run.  This is her first time, and she beams as she tells me about meeting certain goals in order to be in shape and complete the run.

I am so impressed.  In theory I would love to run a marathon.  I can imagine myself training, running a few miles, rain or shine, uphill or flat, feeling the endorphins surge as I attain that illusive state that runners speak about, when you move past your comfort zone and fatigue level, and are on such a high that you just keep going and going.

But that’s just in theory.  In reality, I don’t like running.  Never have, probably never will.  Don’t even really want to become a runner- I’ve got other aspirations on my list, and running (for me) just doesn’t cut it.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the marathon culture, and what it says about life. I know that the best way to move forward is to set goals for ourselves.  We need to be clear about where we want to go.  Then we figure out what will help us get there.  We don’t start off biting more than we can chew.  We start with smaller, baby steps and work our way up, with practice and endurance and a lot of sweat.  We can try to do it in a way that feels like it’s pushing us, just past our comfort zone, but not too much that it’s overwhelming and we’re going to drop out. We know that there will be challenges and discomfort, but we accept those bumps as part of the process and we get through them.

We need to be kind to ourselves as we run- give ourselves the pep talks and encouragement that motivate and help us stay the course.  We want to find and cultivate our resources that will help us tap into our determination to stick with the program.  It helps to figure out what works for us along the way- music to motivate, the right snacks and meals for fuel, sleep and self-care, friends cheering us on, not doing the running for us, but there as we run, feeling our pride and feeling proud.

All this is what helps us reach the finish line.  What an accomplishment, to push oneself in this way, and successfully make it.  And ultimately, isn’t that the greatest source of fulfillment- to believe in one’s ability to reach that finish line, despite obstacles and rough patches, and to know, in a very deep way, that one can choose to do it all again.  Ultimately, the choice is ours- to run, or walk, or swim or skip or dance- because in the end, after all, life’s really not a race, and we each get to choose our own finish line.

About the Author
Lisa is a psychotherapist who practices in Jerusalem and Chashmonaim. She specializes in depression, anxiety, abuse, adjustment and relationship issues, and enjoys helping people find meaning in their lives.
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