Running has always been a huge part of my life, but a marathon was never part of the agenda.
In fact, 3 miles around my neighborhood was enough to produce a good sweat for me.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Coming back from an adventure-packed Europe trip in August, I moved back in with my parents for a month. That's when reality hit me.
I felt like a zombie selling my time on Earth - just going through the motions.
I thrived in environments of chaos and hustle and now, it was the opposite.
So the story gets pretty predictable from here.
I was looking for a challenge and laced up for a 3-miler one day.
Then changed my mind and made it a goal to run 10.
I didn't make it. Got to 9 and walked the rest - but the momentum was huge.
It fueled my curiosity with a "what if?"
What if I can run a full marathon?
So I said fuck it.
I'm going to run a full marathon.
The rules were simple.
1. I drive myself out to a location to run.
2. I run two more miles than the previous week.
However, I was naive.
On average, people train 6-8 months. I was a fool to think that 8 weeks would be enough.
Granted, I worked my ass off.
2-3 days of running (with Mondays being long runs).
2-3 days of swimming.
5 days of lifting.
5-7 days of stretching.
Still, the course kicked my ass.
Goal: Break 4 hours
18 miles was the most I've ever unofficially done.
That's how far I got with training. Pretty unsuccessful to be blunt.
But standing in the crowd at the start line, I felt so excited.
Maybe cause I was preoccupied with visualizing the attention that would come after finishing.
Once the race started, I immediately entered flow state.
Time felt like it was on 2x speed.
I destroyed mile 15 in 7 minutes and 53 seconds - my fastest yet.
Breaking 3.5 hours was easily within reach and it sounded way too good to be true.
Funny enough at mile 20, everything went to shit.
The pain was unlike anything I've ever experienced.
My quads and hamstrings gave me the big middle finger.
My knee joints were on fire and my muscles were fatigued
To top it off, my AirPods were dead
With 6 more miles to go, every next step was me giving my all not to cramp.
I had to punch my legs a few times to get them to keep moving - just like banging an old TV to make it turn on.
I was checked out.
My mind was already sitting at the finish line munching on all the complimentary cliff bars.
Each water stop was a red flag.
I couldn't stop craving every sip of those electrolyte infused drinks.
Sooner rather than later, I crossed the line in 4 hours and 4 minutes.
For starters, that's a really good time. I was definitely happy. There was no doubt that the feeling of accomplishment was insanely rewarding.
Yet, the competitiveness in me refused to believe that was how it ended.
What had once started as a "what if?" had become an "if only."
The Marathon Continues
Reflecting back, here's a couple fundamental lessons I revisited.
1. Life is like a bow and arrow
My marathon run was quite literally the tortoise and the hare tale.
I was the hare who got way too cocky.
I can't recall how many times I told myself, don't run too fast - you have to pace yourself.
Needless to say, I lost patience; carried away by the adrenaline.
Lately, I feel like life's been the same way.
I try to juggle between a billion projects and eventually I burn out - getting me nowhere.
It's tricky to find the right medium between chaos and order, but there's always a reset button for everyone.
Ironically for me, it was running that helped me to slow down
It was what kept me sane.
Every completed run was a small win that replenished my motivation meter.
So when people say that life is like a roller coaster, I think it's more like a bow and arrow.
Sometimes you just gotta take a step back, to propel forward.
2. Identity > Outcome
Over summer, I read a book called Atomic Habits. It walks you through step by step on how to create and sustain good habits.
There was one particular rule that stood out to me:
Identity Based Habits > Outcome Based Habits
If people can't identify who they want to become, it's hard to reach the outcome that they desire.
It's why so many people can't quit nicotine.
They focus too much on not taking another puff, rather than changing their beliefs to someone who identifies as a non-smoker.
Here's an easier way to describe it.
who you want to become > what you want to achieve
[identity] > [outcome]
If your behavior isn't congruent with your identity, then chances are, your habits won't last.
Looking back on my training, I was so focused on the outcome of completing a marathon. I wasn't being attentive enough as to who I wanted to become.
This allowed me to slack at times. I was giving myself excuses, saying that I'd be fine on the day of the big run.
But in the end, it was never about how much distance I learned to cover.
It was about how it shaped my character; how it improved self-discipline.
So what now?
Well, I was 4 minutes away from the sub 4 hour club. That's pretty unsatisfying.
So I'm gonna run it again.
Except this time, I'll be running because it's become a part of who I am, not just for the sake of breaking 4.
The marathon continues.