You don't have to tear through 26.2 miles to be able to apply some of running's great lessons to your everyday life.
Of course, more than 50,000 people will be running 26.2 miles this Sunday in the New York City Marathon. Some will battle with the crude, critical voices in their heads, telling them they're not good enough to cross the finish line. Others will deal with the physical challenges that come with treading imperfect concrete streets for several consecutive hours. Most will learn something about themselves and about life.
At times, we all have to lace up our sneakers to brave the daunting literal or figurative miles ahead of us. Below, find nine takeaways from running that might help you go the distance a little more comfortably:
1. You are stronger than you think you are.
The body and the mind are capable of some incredible things, be it 26-plus miles or something entirely unrelated, like the end of a 26-year relationship. If you think about the hardest thing you've ever gone through, take an extra minute to remember you actually did get through it. That's huge.
2. If you don't fuel the right way, you're going to hit the wall.
What runners call "hitting the wall" refers to the depletion of important nutrients and chemicals when the body and muscles are fatigued to extreme. It happens when you don't properly train or eat. In the bigger scheme of life, anyone can hit the wall if they don't appropriately fuel: Practice that extra hour, study for a day longer and get some sleep, for goodness sake. If you want to succeed, self-care is key.
3. Failure is 100 percent probable if you aren't willing to try.
Wayne Gretzky said it best: "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take." If you don't sign up for the marathon, you will absolutely not complete it. Fear of failure is one of the more dangerous phobias out there: It might be the only fear that guarantees a roadblock to success in all facets of your life. (Fear of clowns might just mean you'll have to skip out on a few birthday parties.)
4. What goes up must come down.
Hills, man. They can make your legs feel like lead and materialize as haunting voices that are trying to convince you to give up. But if you're able to power through them, you'll be rewarded with the liberating experience of soaring downhill, weightlessly. You'll know that the climb was worth it once you catch your breath at the top.
5. It's about the journey, not the destination.
Yes, the finish line can feel really F-ing good. Especially when you know there's a waffle-filled brunch to follow. But as much as you might want to check something off your to-do list, the process is really important. It'll teach you how to do better next time, what mistakes to avoid in the future and that, again, you can tread through the tough stuff. Don't forget to smell the daintily-planted roses while you're running First Avenue; if you speed through it all, you might not even notice they were planted.
6. If this were easy, everyone would be doing it.
The fact that you're taking on this challenge is part of what makes you strong.
7. We all have something in common.
All 50,000 runners in the New York City Marathon share some desire to run. The reasons for signing up differ from person to person: One runner may be trying to run all 26.2 miles in two hours, while another might take it slower, allowing himself to feel like each mile he conquers reflects the cancer he beat. The point is that our humanity puts us all on the same wavelength, and that's crucial to remember before we let a stranger become an enemy over something trite.
8. Age is just a freaking number.
Faruja Singh ran his last marathon at 101 years old. And you're going to let a couple of crow's feet stop you from doing something great? As if.
Inhale, exhale. It's what gives you life.