Miles to go before I sleep.
Today, one of my classmates at Stanford asked me about the marathon I ran last year.
How do you keep going?
He was asking about the miles when it gets hard - the teens.
Before I ran my first marathon, the longest I had ever run was 11 miles. Not the best idea.
But how do you keep going?
I could discuss running tactics to avoid injury or inspirational strategies like running with a pace group and an immensely encouraging and inspirational pacer, but instead - let’s ask the real question.
When the run quiets and all you hear is your footfalls and all you can think about is the miles you still have to run to finish - when it hurts, and when the end isn’t in sight, and when the run seems infinite:
How do you keep going?
1) I try to think about Why?
Why am I running? Why am I doing this? Why am I here? If I can answer that, then I’m doing okay. Because it’s easy to let that slip away if you let it. Don’t.
The way that question is framed feels wrong: have to run… They are, instead, miles that I still GET to run. And while that may sound like self-help mumbo-jumbo, consider this: Were I to be disabled, it would be much harder to run. Were I to be less able, this would be much harder. Were I to not be able to feed myself, this would be much harder. And had I died on the operating table in 1994, I wouldn’t be here.
Lastly, I want to think about the larger metaphor. What does running mean to me. Is it about the everlasting struggle between man and nature or man and himself? Is it about setting a challenge and treating it like the rag-doll pinata I know it always could be? Or is it about respecting and honoring the fact that I have been given many gifts that allow me to be here, running - that had I been born 50 years earlier, my childhood asthma may have killed me? And that in the future, civilization allows, supports, and encourages me to get back out there.
4) Love. Beauty.
It is a love for the journey and the adventure. It is a love of new horizons.
John Muir said The mountains are calling and I must go.*
I couldn’t agree more. To quote Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar: Man was born on Earth. He was never meant to die here.
And the most beautiful thing for me is that these beliefs aren’t terribly lofty or out there in space. They are as real as the computer I’m writing this on. These ideas mean something to me because the world means something to me.
These past few years have been about getting outside of myself, growing and maturing into a better, stronger, kinder version of myself. Getting outside of my own head into a space where I can appreciate the kindness in others and in doing so, believe in myself as well - just a little bit more.
There is a confidence that lies in the marathon. A deep and abiding confidence that transmutes into courage in the most subtle and yet immutable of ways.
The confidence that says I may not finish in the time that I wanted. I may have over or under trained.
But I’m here. And it’s in the hardest moments that I want to step outside of myself and simply rejoice in the fact that I am here. On this run.
And that I have the God-given gift to grow. To be more today than I was yesterday.
Descartes said I think, therefore I am. Cogito Ergo Sum.
I think, therefore I am more.