The Marathon Called Life

Marathon Called Life

For some strange reason, I think about it every fall. Should I, would I, ever consider trying to run one more marathon? I know. It sounds pretty stupid when you consider I am now 71 years old and while considered “active” for my age group, I have not run consistently for at least 10 years. In 1980 and then a 29-year-old, former college football player who was still actively working out 4-5 times a week, I decided to see if I could go the distance (26.2 miles). I did not follow any formal training plan, just ran my usual 25-30 miles a week with ongoing weight training 3-4 times a week. I finished that first marathon in just over 4 hours (4:09). Since then, I have successfully run 8 more marathons including the 100th Boston Marathon (1996).  I ran my last marathon (New York City Marathon) in 2006 at 55 years of age. Each one was special in its own way.   

My Fastest Marathon (PR) – 3:49:44  (8:46 mile pace for the 26.2 miles), 1982 Skylon International Marathon, Buffalo, NY  

My Most Memorable Marathon – 2001 New York City Marathon (less than 60 days after the 9/11 Attacks).  Shedding tears at the start with countless other runners, I ran the race wearing an NYFD t-shirt and a New York Yankees baseball hat. Spectators along the course high-fived me and hugged me as I made my way along the entire 26.2 mile route. My slowest marathon ever; by far my most memorable marathon EVER!  

So, let me ask, “What kind of marathon are you running these days?” Or, maybe I should ask instead, where are you at in the marathon you are running?  I ask this question because the marathon has so often been used as a metaphor for life. After all, just as the marathon is not a sprint, neither is our life. 

Anyone who has ever run a marathon will tell you, during the race, each mile can take on its own personality. The early miles seem so easy and the excitement and magnitude of the event can be almost overwhelming.  But, that can sometimes lead to going out at too fast a pace which will create problems for you later in the race. Yes, patience is required in running a marathon as it also is in life. 

And, as in life, you will experience change as the miles pass. Changes in the weather which are totally out of your control can suddenly impact the way you feel both physically and mentally and this will often affect one’s performance. And in a very weird way, some miles in the middle of the race just seem like dull, mundane experiences where all you can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other in a mindless, body-numbing state. Interestingly, these miles have some parallels to mid-life.    

And ultimately, usually between mile 18 and 23, you will hit “the wall.” This isn’t a psychological thing, this is physiological and it is real! “Hitting the wall”  is when you have totally depleted your glycogen granules (carbohydrate stores) in the muscle tissue. The glycogen granules (your carbohydrates) are the most efficient fuel source required for your body to continue its aerobic metabolism.  When those carbohydrates are gone, your body will adjust by starting to burn fat cells which are much less efficient as a fuel source. And, as you might expect, this physiological change can easily lead to a very negative psychological change, one that sometimes forces runners to step out of the race and not finish.   

The marathon – filled with emotional highs and lows, changes, many of which may be  out of your control, the need for patience, physical pain and discomfort. Amazing! In oh so many ways, running a marathon has many similarities to life. And there is one more similarity. 

If and when you decide to run a marathon and you put your toe on the starting line, one thing is always true – God is with you.  And, at mile 3 when a blister starts to form on the heel of your foot and it is irritating the heck out of you – God is with you. And at mile 11 when you get a cramp in your side that makes you want to double over and quit – God is with you. And at mile 20 when you “hit the wall” and you’re thinking I cannot do this anymore, you remember this scripture…

I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 Philippians 4:13

And once again, God is with you.  And then, as you finally see the Finish Line in the distance, you will know once again that He was with you every step of the way. 

Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men may stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:30-31

Yes, life is a marathon and God is with us every step of the way.  

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Harold “Bud” Boughton is a husband, father and grandfather who is often referred to as “the teaching coach.” A former senior executive, published author and professional speaker, Bud currently works for Shine.FM radio, a community-supported, not-for-profit Christian radio station affiliated with Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL. He will continue to work for Shine.FM in conjunction with his responsibilities as Co-Director of Team Focus – Indiana. You can reach Bud Boughton by calling 317-258-6372 or click here to leave him a message