A few days ago, I ran a marathon with my buddy; 27 miles in 5 and a half hours.
It was a euphoric, harrowing, and agonizing experience. Here are the major lessons I took from that run:
• The mind plays tricks on us. At no point was I tired in terms of cardio or stamina. At mile 20, however, my legs stopped working. For those last 7 miles, it was 100% mental. My buddy was trotting ahead of me for pretty much the entire remaining 20%. I counted 7 times I opened my mouth to ask him if we could stop. Each time, I was convinced I had to take a break, held my tongue, and realized that what I thought was necessary was merely a mind trick. That’s when I realized that when we tell ourselves we simply have to eat this thing, have to avoid that thing, have to give in to this thing…it’s all a lie of the mind.
• You can do so much more than you think would be possible. I would never have run 27 miles on my own. Ever. I wasn’t prepared. I was in pain. I don’t like running…All it took was for a friend to invite me and to force me to keep up with him. If I were alone, I would’ve stopped constantly. I would’ve walked the rest of the way when the pain set in. Toward the end, when things got quiet, I was hoping for words of encouragement. The military man that he is; he just looked back, laughed and told me to keep running. Frustrating as this was in the moment, it was exactly what I needed.
• When you’re certain there’s no end in sight, there is. My logical, pragmatic brain knew that at the end of the run, there was my buddy’s car. In it, a cooler of two ice-cold Coors Lights, waiting to be chugged. There was something to look forward to, aside from the sheer euphoria of finishing the marathon. Despite all this, during those last few miles, I was convinced that the pain would last forever. The was no car. There was no beer. We would just keep running. On and on…forever in pain. Again, mind games.
To sum up these insights:
• Be aware that the mind will always bias us toward comfort. Don’t listen to the lies it tells you when you are uncomfortable, fighting, or working.
• Your comfort zone is not only a shitty place to be; it’s so much less than what you can actually do. Pursue things you don’t think you can do. It’s the most rewarding thing you can ever experience. Surround yourself with people who will push you out of your comfort zone for your own good.
• “Nothing very very good or very very bad ever lasts for very very long.” Take this as you will. I take it as the simple fact that life is a constant push and pull, give and take, certainty and uncertainty. Endure the downs and appreciate the ups. It’s the only option. Whatever end of the spectrum you’re experiencing; it won’t last forever. When you’re in absolute misery, just know that somewhere, off in the distance, there’s a cooler with two Coors Lights waiting for you.