As I've said before on this blog, I champion running as my preferred form of exercise mainly because our bodies are designed to do it. It requires no apparatus of any kind. No special court/field/pitch/stadium/pool/etc. No balls, bats, racquets, flags, discs, poles, hoops, gloves, weights, or any other objects are needed. If we did not become so dependent on shoes so early in life, we would not even need those. In fact, for most of human existence, we didn't. Running simply requires speeding up the normal motion of walking until you become airborne. Then, you are running.
Beyond that, running a marathon is a test of Will vs Physiology. The motion of running is normal. Running 26.2 miles as fast as possible is NOT normal. Weird things happen to your body when you run this far especially when trying to cover that distance in as little time as possible. Any fast runner can line up and blast out a fast 100 meters. But, even the fastest runners would not be able to run 26.2 miles without some endurance training. And, this is where marathoning and life intersect.
Success in life and marathoning comes with learning how to handle adversity and change. Marathon training will bring pain, injury,and loneliness along with joy, comfort, and a sense of accomplishment. This life offers much the same. Becoming a better runner, much like the Christian life, hinges on this: consistency over time. There will be periods of great health and poor health, personal records and disappointments, sunny weather and brutal climates. But, as James 1:2-3 tells us, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." We can do this because God is constant and unchanging (consistency over time). We attempt to mimic that constancy by taking heart in who God is, what Christ has done, and what he is doing/will do. Our individual acts and flaws will cause us to stray and doubt at times, but with each setback or shortfall, the race continues and we keeping running even when it would seem easier or feel better to stop. But, we do not stop because that would keep us from the ultimate goal.
Marathoning, like the Christian life, is mostly about learning how to deal with good and bad--that is, how to deal with life. Marathoning makes us acutely aware of the joy and pain of this life. One takes on the long months of training knowing that there will be an investment of time and pain. One toes the Boston Marathon race starting line accepting the reality that to reach the ultimate goal, whether it be winning the race (Robert Cheruyiot, Kenya, 2.07.46) setting a personal best (me, 3.06.04), or simply finishing the race, there must be a fierce trial with pain in order to achieve the prize. Reaching the ultimate goal has little to do with machismo or toughness and a lot more to do with acceptance of reality and a willingness to participate in that reality.
This is not to say that everyone should run marathons, of course, but that if you are going to run 26.2, there are some very real requirements and sacrifices: time, comfort, sweat, pain. This is true for most things in life, marathoning just happens to be the one that has been teaching me of late. But, these things not only bring joy, but teach us to realize the joy not only in what is gained from these sacrifices, but in the sacrifices themselves. To be sure, the joy of short-term accomplishments like finishing a marathon (or whatever your particular goal might be) is wonderful, and I am relishing it. But, the pain, the shortfalls, the letdowns--these are great teachers and motivators to continue to press onward and finish the race.