5 Things Running a Half-Marathon Taught Me About Life
On February 5th, I did the impossible, the inconceivable, the extraordinary. I completed my first half-marathon race. Until a few months ago, never have I ran more than 3 miles in my life. Running this 13.1-mile race with over 15,000 people at Huntington Beach was truly an exhilarating experience!
I spent most the day tied to bed. Nobody told me that my entire lower body would feel like it’s paralyzed after completing the half-marathon. My legs are in so much pain I literally can’t walk. This gave me ample time to reflect over my marathon experience. Here are my top five lessons learned.
1. Finishing well is a lot harder than starting well.
Immediately prior to the race, I felt the adrenaline rush. I was surrounded by 15,000 people embarking on this EPIC race. I mean what could possibly go wrong?! I was excited and felt invincible. After the first six miles, the adrenaline faded away and I felt a growing pain inflicted on my body. I was pushing my limits and by the time I reached the 10-mile mark, all I wanted was to give up and walk. The pain was so unbearable that I even entertained the thought of cheating. In life, I feel like starting well is a lot easier than finishing well. In fact, this post shows an interesting stat that only 1 out of 3 people in the Bible finished well.
2. You’re not alone.
Funny enough, I didn’t feel alone throughout my entire race. How could I? I was running with 15,000 people. I felt an uncanny, communal bond with these strangers. We were in this together. We shared the same goal of finishing strong. The bystanders cheered us on. I also happened to run this race with my good friend Kevin Lee. Running as a duo certainly enriched the experience altogether. In fact, his sheer existence pushed me to reach new heights. The truth is, life is not meant to be lived alone. It reminded me that I am created and wired for community. So often, I try to do things all by myself and it can often feel lonely. Instead, I just need to look around start realizing we are in this game together called the race of life. All it takes is a smile and a genuine “Hi” and I know I can break the silence and create an opportunity for life-changing relationship.
3. Perspiration > Inspiration
John Maxwell said, “Champions aren’t made in the ring. They are merely recognized there.” Thomas Edison also said, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration.” Running a marathon was a truly humbling experience. It taught me that a few things never betray you. Among the chief: hard work. Hard work coupled with consistency become a potent weapon. You become unstoppable. Bruce Lee practiced this all throughout this life time. He was right when he said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
4. Purpose precedes persistent performance.
Every single runner seemed to have a “why,” a compelling purpose that propelled them to run a marathon. From a 90 year old grandma running to a disabled man in a wheel chair, this marathon was nothing short of amazing. Freidrich Nietzsche was right: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” As I hit the “wall” around the 10th mile, I realized that everything from this point was a mental game. Those who had a stronger “why” propelled them to persist. Those were the ones who were smiling and genuinely enjoying the entire experience. I couldn’t help but come to a halt when I hit the “wall.” I tried my best but I realized my “why” wasn’t strong enough. It’s wasn’t clear and motivating enough for me to endure the pain. This profound experience led me to think about my “why” in life. I ask myself, would I continue to do what I do despite unbearable pain I might experience in future? Or would I just give up?
5. Before anything else, preparation is key to success.
As a first-time half-marathon runner, I didn’t know what to really expect. I was clueless around how I would feel before, during, and after the race. I didn’t know what to eat before I run. I didn’t know how to best pace myself. I watched a few YouTube clips and thought I was ready. After all, I followed a regimented training plan and felt nothing could go possibly wrong. I realized the running part was the easy part. I had no idea there was so much to running than just running. John Wooden was right: “When the opportunity arises, it is too late to prepare.”
Here’s what went wrong. After the race, I felt extraordinary pain on my ankles. I hurt my ankle on my final training and didn’t fully recover until I started my race. I neglected the pain and didn’t choose to wear an ankle brace. Into the third mile in the race, I could gradually feel the pain on my ankles. After my race, I discovered blister on my left foot. After the race, a friend told me that I needed to wear a slightly bigger shoe because your foot swells during the race. Who knew? Since I was wearing the right clothing and I got jogger’s nipple. All in all, I was a mess. Ben Franklin was right: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”