As I’m sure you understand on some level – based on the amount of time I’ve disappeared for in recent months, and returning to the house a huffing, sweaty mass – I just completed a marathon.
It was my second one – and a much more enjoyable and positive experience than my 2013 debut: I set out with an achievable goal time and stuck to the plan, finishing the Melbourne Marathon in 3 hours, 28 minutes.
I improved my 2013 time by 11 minutes but more than that, I paced things pretty much perfectly. That is, I felt comfortable throughout – some running folk might say too comfortable in the first half. But after feeling light-headed and so jelly-legged I had to walk several times late in the 2013 run – mostly due to inexperience and a lack of mileage – I feared the wall like you fear the ‘scary doll’ from the movie Child’s Play.
So many simply forget the first rule of the marathon: Respect the Distance. When you’re so fit and refreshed after all the training and a few weeks tapering, it’s so easy to get caught up in the buzz at the starting line: taking off like a wild animal let loose from the cage and rolling with that “running-on-air” feeling in the first 10 kilometres. But the marathon is a different beast; it’s a distance that’s likely anything from six to 15 kilometers longer than you’ve done in training, and that alone can throw up all manner of not-so-fun variables.
Experienced runners preach that a marathon doesn’t really start until 30 kilometres – and they’re spot on. But so many don’t get this, at least on their first attempt; it’s why water stations in the latter stages often resemble the scene of a car crash.
So I took it conservatively; I paid due reverence to the distance. No, I didn’t negative split – I hit halfway in just under 1:43, and clocked a tick over 1:45 for the back half – but I did gain almost 300 places after halfway to finish in the top 1000.
This first rule of the marathon – respect the distance – can be applied to life in general.
This rule of respecting the distance can, too, be applied to life in general. Being mindful of the bigger picture. Doing the background work to get where you want to be. It’s a tiresome cliché but it bears repeating in this context: Rome wasn’t built in a day. There are so many young adults in the generation ahead of you that want everything NOW – that instant gratification aligned with modern monstrosities like Twenty20 cricket – sans the hard work. Then they get bored and want the next thing. It’s like doing the same-paced tempo run, day after day, week after week, without ever actually achieving anything, or being in the moment.
Then there are people who don’t incorporate one of life’s necessities – balance – into their day-to-day. They put all their energy into one compartment of life – in many cases, their work – and burn out. Which is when the cruels of mental health can seep in. Yes, you need to work hard at school, put some thought into the area of work you’d like to start your career in – note I said ‘start’, as you’ll in all likelihood change direction a few times – but don’t let one goal put everything else in the shade.
You also need to devote time to friends, family, recreational passions and the simplicity of downtime, which needn’t equate to anything more than finding a quiet spot, alone, and gathering your thoughts. I’m certainly no expert on the latter, but running helps iron out my kinks, it gives me “me-time”, and, along with good music, growing The Dad Website, spending time with people I care about and raising you three, fills the gaps left over from ‘work’.
Be patient. You’ll enjoy the achievement – whatever it is – more when it eventually comes. And have some faith in fate. It often speaks volumes.
And if the running bug ever bites hard enough that a marathon calls, you know where to come for advice.