AT ONE TIME, THE THOUGHT OF RUNNING A MARATHON (26.2 miles) was between intimidating and horrific
to me. Although I'm a regular runner (5-6 miles a stretch), running a marathon was a vague and distant plan,
somewhere along the lines of writing that great American novel. One day last July, that all changed.
I enrolled in a benefit race for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, scheduled in Bermuda on January
14, 2001. The race administers provided training and other resources to help participants prepare. Training began
in late August.
The training schedule called for five runs a week and two days of rest. Two elements comprise
preparation for a mara-thon: physical training and mental commitment. As the training progressed the runs grew
longer and more challenging. I quickly learned, however, that like most things in life, the difficulty and the
pain endured during the course of a run bear a direct relationship to the sense of fulfillment and achievement felt
at its conclusion.
The early training was quite simple - not so as the mileage began to increase. I discovered a
new strength as I learned to ignore the pain. My mental conviction reached new levels as 12 mile runs became
"short." My friends began to inquire as to my mental health when I'd go to bed at sunset some Friday nights
preparing for my 14-mile runs Saturday morning.
The mounting mileage began to take a physical toll my body. During my first 14-mile run, I began
to feel the effects of hip bursitis. I soon realized that my setbacks were routine - simply one more factor that
increased my mental toughness and made the experience all the richer.
As the days grew colder and the race date nearer, I entered the second and most crucial part of
training, maintaining my momentum while running with temperatures in the teens and wind chills even lower. Again,
my mental strength was tested, but I pressed on, furthering my mounting sense of accomplishment. Seemingly before
I knew it, I was on the plane headed for Bermuda.
The marathon began in a blur. As I ran along the Bermuda ocean front, a wind blew in my face,
and there were more hills than I anticipated. Around mile seven my knee began to hurt intensely. My mind almost
gave way to despair, and I faced the thought of not finishing the race for which I had trained so hard for the past
five months. I called upon the power of prayer, a practice to which most marathon runners become very accustomed.
I ran through the pain, and as if by magic, it disappeared.
I maintained a good clip, averaging about 8:40 miles for the first 19 miles. Then I hit
"the wall." My pace slowed as my legs began to stiffen and I began to suffer from the early stages of dehydration.
I moved slowly through the water stops and consumed several Power Gels to maintain strength. My body hurt, my legs
cramped, my mouth was dry, but still I ran.
During the last three miles I could not take a step without pain, as my legs cramped and the
blisters on my feet grew raw. Still, I ran - powered by pure adrenaline and determination. I learned that the
human body can be pushed far beyond the limits we assume. The body has an incredible capacity for pain, but it
pales in comparison to the strength of a well-conditioned mind. Although my body begged to stop, my mind pushed
me forward. As I crossed the finish line, I was exhausted far beyond anything I had ever experienced, yet a sense
of elation energized me. I felt an unparalleled sense of success. Through- out my life I played team sports and
competed in numerous events, but nothing could compare with the feeling of crossing that finish line.
I learned a great deal about myself during my marathon experience - not only about my physical
capabilities, but that the lessons I learned could be applied to other areas of my life, both professional and
personal. These lessons are: that it takes mental, as well as physical strength to achieve one's goals, that it is
crucial to have a plan - and to work that plan - when trying to reach a certain life-goal, and that setting goals
and pushing yourself to reach them, brings the greatest amount of personal satisfaction one can achieve.