I am proud to say that on May 25th I completed my third Los Angeles Marathon with a time of 5 hours 23 minutes. Not my best time, and not particularly impressive for serious runners, but for me it was an accomplishment. I can tell you, running 26.2 miles is the most difficult, painful thing I've ever done, and it doesn't seem to get any easier year after year.
So the obvious question is... why the hell do I do it?
Well, let me answer that question like this: The most common response I get from people when I tell them I've run a marathon is, "Oh, I could never do that." And the thing I always say is, "Yes you could."
You know how I know? Because I thought the same thing. I was never a runner - still don't feel like one. I had friends in high school who ran Cross Country and I remember thinking how foreign and out of reach that was for me. Then, four years ago, a friend of mine ran the marathon - a friend who I didn't think was in particularly better shape than I, who wasn't really a runner, but who just decided to do it.
"Well damn," I thought, "if he can do it, I should be able to do it"
So I decided I would, too. And really, that's the thing. Making the decision.
There is nothing more powerful than knowing you can't do something and doing it anyway. There are so many things in life that I cannot control, but deciding to run is completely up to me.
You know how they say it is all mental? Wow, is that true. The process of running a marathon is a titanic struggle between two warring factions in my mind. There is the army I brought with me - the guy who set out to do this, who has a goal, and is full of optimism. Then there is the opposing side, the guy who creeps in along the way who, for the love of God, just wants to STOP!
"Just stop running!" he says.
"But, I've got to do this. I want to get a better time!" my side responds.
"I don't care! No one cares! Why do YOU care? It doesn't matter!"
"But I'll care tomorrow. I'll feel terrible."
"You feel terrible NOW. Every step hurts! Why would you do this to yourself? Just make the pain stop!"
And it goes on like this for miles. Sometimes my side wins and I keep running hard. And sometimes the other side wins, and I slow down (which is why I didn't achieve my under 5 hour goal). But the process of that mental battle is absolutely empowering. I've learned so much about myself. And despite the pain, it is an experience I return to because my army gets a little stronger each time. Even better, I have the chance to bring that same army to bear in other areas of my life, to know that all I have to do is keep going forward and I'll win the war.
So there you go. My sappy inspiration for the day. I do it because I didn't think I could. I cannot recommend enough doing something you think is impossible. It doesn't have to be running (I also cut red meat out of my diet years ago, something that with my love of steak and burgers I thought I wouldn't be able to do, either). If you do, I'd love to hear about it. I can sure use the inspiration for my army, too.
And if all else fails, at least rent the documentary Man on Wire. That dude REALLY does the impossible.