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Lessons Learned from Crossing the Finish Line

This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to experience running my first marathon. I say “opportunity” because it has been a goal of mine for years and I am finally at a place in my life mentally, physically and spiritually for me to be able and willing to take on this plight. Prior to the run, I was overcome with fear; that little voice in my head was telling me “I can’t do this”, but I decided to push past that voice, which is something I would have been unable to do in the past. I would have succumbed to those thoughts, and be paralyzed into stagnancy once again. Removing my dreams and ambitions from my thoughts and replacing them with justifiable excuses - but this time felt different. There had been a viable shift.

Early on, I decided to take in the experience, instead of being blinded by my own expectations of pace etc. It’s such a silly thing we do to ourselves, focusing our attention on these made up expectations instead of taking the joy of the present moment. I wanted to remind myself what a privilege it was to partake in, because it truly is a privilege… “I GET to” not “I HAVE to”.

As I continued running, I became an observer to my surroundings, taking in the experience of each individual runner, in their varying states of joy, pain, accomplishment and suffering. There were people of all ages, sexes, running experience, injuries and so on. In this process, I thought, “why?” Why would myself or any of these thousands of individuals ‘want’ to sign up for a marathon? Yes of course, the obvious answer would be to overcome a challenge and grow etc, but as I continued on the run, I began seeing a new perspective.

You see, in an event like a marathon, there is a different method at work. The traditional competitive atmosphere is replaced by ‘you vs you’ (other than the elite runners). This creates a completely different environment. Instead of feeling joy as you speed by your fellow competitor, I witnessed people stopping to check in on their ‘competitor’ as they slowed down or cramped up. It was a mutual understanding of the challenging obstacle we had voluntarily placed ourselves in and thus an undeniable sense of empathy, understanding and ultimately community. During the final 10 kilometers I watched as people struggled with their own body’s capacity, exhaustion and their inner critics, and at the same time saw how a stranger’s encouraging words brought energy back into their body and allowed them to continue on. 

I viewed this event as a simulation of life. We all experience pain, difficulties and self-doubt. We have that inner voice saying “just quit”, but we also have the innate capacity to overcome them…to reach the finish line (whatever that looks like to you), and feel joy. It brought perspective into our abilities to truly see our oneness in everyone. No matter what pace, age, conditioning level, sex etc, we can all see ourselves in them as they trudge on their own path, overcoming their fears, doubts and pushing their own believed thresholds. We can cheer them on, in mutual awe and respect. And witnessing those same people cross the finish line was a powerful moment. In just an instance, fear and pain was replaced by boundless joy - the “I did it” moment. 

I crossed that finish line, with a time that was much higher than my own expectations, but in doing so I gained invaluable insight into the community around me and the power of staying present. To experience the moment and not just ‘do’ it. To stay calm and willing when things are hard, because we know the joy in the finish line right around the corner. Because we know that we have worked hard for that moment, and it is in our reach if we are willing to push past our discomfort and believe. And as we burst across the finish line we are liberated from the prison of self-doubt and limitations that has held us captive.

"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength." Marcus Aurelius

The Way

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