I once had the opportunity to go to the finish line of the Dallas White Rock Marathon. It is typically a dry, warm, southwestern climate in Dallas, Texas. On this day, however, it was cold, wet and drizzling non-stop for over 24-hours. These were the epitome of bad running conditions outside something extreme like a tornado or a blizzard.
After people train for months to run this kind of race, rain or shine, they go run. As I was standing behind an 7-foot tall chain link fence that separated the spectators from the athletes, I was able to get a good view of runners coming into the home stretch. They came in all shapes, sizes and ages. Most people crossed the finish line looking pretty rough. They had dried up spit on their faces and were often hobbling after cramping the last couple of miles. Then there were others who bounced across home like they had just run around the block and were ready to go for another round!
I was dumbfounded as I realized one by one, the level of dedication and commitment that it takes to start and finish a marathon. As I watched the runners, I thought of the qualities that each of the runners shared.
- Dedication and commitment. Each runner has to train for months with a deep commitment to running for several hours at a time a few times a week. It's not like you wake up at 10 in the morning and go for a jog. These trainees get up at 5:30 AM and run for 3-4 hours by the time they finish their training. Other days they run for a few hours after work and are supposed to even run in between of their own accord.
- Discipline. the runners have to train even if they don't feel like it and even if they'd rather be out at happy hour with friends. This also means going home early on Fridays so they can be up before sunrise on Saturdays. Discipline follows the dedication and commitment to make a great runner.
- A long-term vision. A marathon runner has to have a vision for the end in mind when beginning because the training process takes many months. You have to keep the vision in mind while building stamina and making choices to enhance your running skills over your other desires.
- Willingness to endure pain and discomfort. After talking to a few runners after the race, I learned that many of them couldn't feel their hands for most of the run because of the cold, damp weather. In addition to mild hypothermia, they often endured leg cramps and kept running with cramping.
- Love of a challenge. People don't sign up for marathons just for fun, or at least most don't. A marathon runner has to love a demanding challenge and the thrill of accomplishing the goal.
- Integrity. Finally a marathoner has to have impeccable integrity to run a good race with quality sportsmanship. A person who goes to the effort to prepare for the race also likely runs a fair race as well.
I gained a new level of respect for running athletes that day. I confess that up to that point, I thought marathon runners were a little nuts! It was a concept I couldn't fully wrap my head around. I love the inspiration I feel through seeing others realizing their dreams and success. I wish you the same joy as you meet your challenges and hopefully apply the lessons of a marathon runner to your life. You can!