By Lisa Sugarman
So I’m sitting here in the car, on the way home from Maine, and as I’m typing, (no, I’m not driving), I’m subtly feeling my legs and joints stiffening as they scream tiny little obscenities at me in the form of muscle spasms.
Why is my body so pissed at me? Well, that’s because I decided to run another marathon with Dave and all my running buddies. And since it was against my body’s better judgment in the first place, it’s letting me know now, after the fact, how annoyed it is at me. See, I rarely listen to the voices in my head or the aches in my legs that warn me that running 26.2 miles is about 20 miles longer than anyone should really be running at one time. But as I’ve said many times before, I’m not known for my smarts.
Why I’m even talking about this marathon to begin with is because I figured out some interesting things during the inordinate and painful amount of time I just spent running up the Maine coast. Things that I thought maybe you could benefit from learning too.
Now maybe it’s because this marathon was such a rough one (given the 80 degree temperatures and all), that I really found myself forced to contemplate why exactly it is that I do this to myself. Why any of us willingly puts ourselves into challenging situations for that matter.
And what I realized is that I do it because it’s a pretty indisputable way of proving to myself that I can do whatever I set my mind to if I’m willing to work hard enough to make it happen. And also, that if I surround myself with people who bring out the best in me, there’s really nothing I can’t do.
Because I know that for anyone who doesn’t run regularly, the idea of running 26.2 miles consecutively, one after another, after another, after another, and then a dozen more, and some more after that, isn’t exactly most peoples’ idea of the perfect day. But what’s hard to explain, unless you do it for yourself, is how pulverizing your body running endless miles in all kinds of crazy conditions is actually a beautiful thing. Maybe not the actual act of running those miles, but definitely the euphoria that comes with the accomplishment—euphoria that usually settles in after the hallucinations stop.
But here’s the kicker, at least for me…when you do it with some of your favorite people who would literally run through fire for you (and your friends who run Spartan races with you often do), you can almost always accomplish what seems like the impossible when you’re surrounded by solid people.
See, the funny thing is, painful as it was running up and down every single hill between Kennebunk and Biddeford, Maine, I wouldn’t give a single miserable second of it back. I actually treasure them all. And I treasure them because they’re priceless. And they’re priceless because they reveal the true grit of a person and usually the character of the people around you.
You see, I think anyone who does this kind of thing to themselves on a regular basis would agree that, regardless of how tough the journey is, the trip is always worth it in the end. And that’s usually because, as the saying goes, “Pain is temporary but pride is forever.” Plus, when you’ve got other people around you who are just as nuts as you are, there’s comfort in that.
That’s why, when my group of running friends put the idea out there to run this godforsaken marathon four months ago, every single one of us gave the thumbs up without any hesitation. Because although making that kind of a commitment ultimately involves about 400 miles worth of training runs, countless aches, injuries, and painfully early mornings, the ironic thing is that once you get a taste of pushing past your limits, most people are usually hooked. And even though I guess that makes the majority of us ever so slightly masochistic, it’s something we all have in common.
Which brings me to my real true point here. And that point is that, for most of us out there slogging away during these seemingly endless races, there are usually amazingly supportive and inspirational people out there doing it, too. And if you’re lucky, like me, you get to call some of them your close friends. And even if you’re one of the ones out there toeing the line all by yourself, doing all your training runs in the dark, alone, with nothing but a headlamp to guide your way, you’re still not alone. Because at some point along the way, even if it’s only on race day, you’ve got good people around you supporting you and carrying you through. And even though we all have to run own run on our own, we can do it much easier when we have the support of good people moving us forward.
Because I’ve learned pretty irrefutably, that if you surround yourself with good people any journey is possible. And this marathon running that I do is only one small example of the kind of marathon we all run every day in our own lives. My kind of marathon just happens to involve running. Others involve just getting out of bed every morning and making it through the day. While others involve raising kids or doing our jobs or working on our relationships.
See, what I find so interesting is that although many of us set similar types of goals (like finishing a race, or finding happiness, or achieving success, or embracing our mistakes), we all have distinctly different types of marathons we run to get there, with vastly different challenges.
So what I’m really saying, if you haven’t realized it yet, is that if you can find the strength to push beyond whatever painful situation you’re in and you can use the strength and support of others around you, the pride you’ll feel in pushing through and getting to the other side will last forever. And that alone is always worth the trip.
Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItisWhatitisColumn. She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on Amazon.com and at Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.