I’m getting ready to do something I haven’t done before. Run a marathon. I’ve done a half marathon before and the experience changed my life. So I thought it was time to embark on a journey to connect with the world and people around me in new and exciting ways.
Why am I running a marathon? Well, for starters, the challenge fits nicely with my 3 words journey this year. Throughout 2014 I’ve set out to do and work on things related to those three words – pushing, stretching and growing myself – and running 26.2 miles to put my mind, body and spirit to the test is right in line with what my 3 words are all about. Endurance and long-distance running
allows me to do all those things and I’m excited to see what I will discover.
Running For A Reason
But I’m not just doing it for myself. If there’s ever a chance to use running as a way to help others, I’m all in. And same goes for running the Chicago Marathon. This year I’ll be part of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) PowerTeam. My aunt has been battling MM for several years and it’s an honor to be able to support her and others and make my miles matter to help a worthy cause. If you’d like to donate to the cause you can visit my donation page. Thanks for helping out and spreading the word.
And the other cool thing is that I won’t be running this race alone. Yep, It’s a family affair and I’m pumped to be running with my brother Joe who ran his first marathon last year. He’s been sharing some marathon wisdom with me already and I’m looking forward to a little brotherly bonding and competition out on the road.
Training Body and Mind: Great Running Reads
As I mentioned before, running is a natural part of my life and an important element of my creative process. Running is one of the ways of how I cope with life’s challenges. When I run I think through things. I escape. I find balance. I find clarity. I find out who I am. And I love to learn why other runners run and what their experiences are like too.
That said, in preparation for the marathon, I’ve been soaking up a bunch of running books and one of my recent favorite reads has been diving into and soaking up George Sheehan’s 1978 classic book Running & Being. I don’t know why I hadn’t read this book before but I’m happy that I’ve found it now. Running and Being is a beautiful journey through the mind and heart of a runner who’s wrestling with life, searching for meaning and pursuing the spiritual truth of why runners run. If you’re a runner and you haven’t read this before I highly suggest you check it out. Heck, even if you’re not a runner, it’s hard to read this book and not want to laced up up your shoes and head out on the road.
The book is packed with passages that have deepened my love and appreciation for running. Several passages have stuck in my mind while I go on my road runs. One passage that has really stood out to me was when Sheehan says he wasn’t sure “if he was a writer who loves to run or a runner who loves to write.” I can totally identify with that because running plays such a major role in my daily creative and writing flow. I can say too that I run to write and write to run in my own way. He also deftly articulates how during the running experience “sweat is like a baptism” and “pain is like sanctification.” I love those ideas, and as I’ve been training and building my base miles, I’ve been meditating on what those thoughts mean to me and what the race experience will teach me about life.
Another book that I’ve enjoyed is Marshall Ulrich’s Running On Empty. This book chronicles his journey to run across the United States and other endurance adventures. What I’ve enjoyed the most is that it also explores his experiences struggling to balance his love for running with the other relationships in his life. He shares how he not only pushed through and overcame the physical pain but he also shares the emotional and psychological pain he endured.
Whether I agree with or complete understand his reasons, I do appreciate Ulrich’s honesty and vulnerability in sharing the emotions he felt because, as other long-distance runners can agree, running (especially training for a marathon) can take time away from family. It’s extremely valuable to hear how another runner who’s also a father and husband, has worked through the struggle sharing both how he succeeded and failed.
To wrap up this post I want to share one passage that Ulrich quotes that has really resonated with me:
“All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.” – James Thurber.
That quote stops me dead in my tracks and forces me to think about why I’m running this marathon.
Yes, of course, I’m running to stay healthy but there’s more to it. Yes, I find immense joy and pleasure when I’m charging down the road and flying through the woods and hopping over logs and rocks on the trail. But I know that for me running is very much a ongoing journey of meditation and discovery that impacts all areas of my life. There’s a lot of teaching myself discipline too. I believe that the joy of running is that much sweeter when you’ve successfully taught yourself discipline and learned how to control and grow your mind and body.
So then I’ve been asking myself…
What things in my life are inspiring and driving me to run? What do I enjoy the most about running? What fears and anxieties am I running from? What goals and accomplishments am I running to? What things in my life do I need to put behind me? What things should I be running to instead of worrying about the past? If I didn’t run how would my life be different?
My Three Reasons
For me, what I know is that right now I run and am running this marathon for three reasons:
1. To challenge myself to grow mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. And to see what this race and running will reveal about who I am in all those areas, and all the while having fun soaking in and embracing both the pleasure and the pain.
2. For my aunt and to support and raise awareness for all those that have been impacted by Multiple Myeloma.
3. To build relationships with others, especially with my brother. I want to do something together that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives.
These three reasons make up the mental foundation that helps to keep me grounded and focused when my mind wants to wander and focus on the pain and consider stopping or quitting. Yes, running is a joy and pure fun, but I know that there are days when it’s not fun and it’s just pure discipline and hard work and I’m using these three reasons as reminders both to get me on the road and keeping me running.
During my training I’ve had several runs already during which my mind was flopping all over the place and my body didn’t feel good, but I struggled through the run and that battle to build mental toughness was a great lesson to learn and I know there are going to be moments during the marathon where I’m going to be challenged mentally and physically; and so too in life. And the beautiful thing is that my running experiences are powerful moments that I can transfer to other areas of my life, such as what it’s like to launch and run an internal social media program at Walgreens.
That’s all for now. I’ll be sharing more about my training experience as the summer roles on and I’d love to hear what your experiences are like too.
If you’d like to donate to the support my MMRF fundraising efforts, you can visit my donation page. Thanks for helping out and spreading the word.
Good luck to all my fellow Chicago marathon runners!