Leading a Well Lived Life… Lessons from a Marathon

Last Sunday, my second son, CJ, ran the Chicago Marathon. It was the seventh time he has run 26.2 miles to completion. Frankly, this is beyond my understanding. It just doesn’t seem like something a body should be asked to do.

The day is incredibly inspiring. Launching the race are the folks with “different-abilities.” They wheel themselves all 26.2 miles. Every time, seeing this makes me cry.

Next up are the elite runners. To be considered elite, your finish time must be at least 2:35 for men and 3:05 for women. Again, beyond my understanding.

CJ acknowledges that he rarely adequately trains for these marathons. He’s in good physical shape, a professional disc (frisbee) player, so I think he believes that all the running he does leading up to the race is enough.

But not this year. This year, his 29 year- old body, at about mile 21, said no. He told us after the race, while lying in the grass and looking up at us, that he had never had this experience. He said that his body froze. It would not adhere to what his brain was telling it to do. He could not run. Walking was his only option. And even that was difficult.

This made me think about the association between running a marathon and leading a life well lived. Here are the connections that I made:

  1. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Don’t assume that because you were able to do something in the past, you’ll automatically be able to do it now or in the future. Be steadfast in your preparedness. Don’t skip knowing, understanding, learning about how to get where you’re trying to go.
  2. Use your I.D. Marathon runners are identified by a number attached to their shirts. In this case,  your I.D. stands for Intention/Deliverables. So many of us keep our heads down, we show up less than who we really are; we forget to set intentions (on a daily basis), backing those intentions with deliverables that will help us to live into our fullest potential.  Every day, for every meeting, for all that you’re involved it, give it an I.D. Intention. Deliverables. Start today. Be mindful, intentional about your everyday living.
  3. Mental Toughness. In every single race, life, lived experience, there will be challenging times. How mentally tough are you? Are you disciplined? Can you dig deep, going into yourself at cellular level to keep yourself upright and moving forward?
  4. Eyes forward. Be aware. There will be things along your path that you may not have anticipated. Keep your eyes up. Stay focused. 
  5. Control that which you can. Forget about the rest. So you’ve prepared. You’ve increased your readiness. You get up on the morning of the race, and it’s raining. Cold. Not at all what you anticipated. It’s still your race. Decide to show up with all that you have in the moment. Run on.
  6. Marathons mean different things to different people. You don’t have to run 26.2 miles to be part of a marathon. The day of the Chicago Marathon, my daughter and I got on a train at 4:30 a.m. in the morning to get into Chicago in time to see CJ run. Following him, we walked 17,000 steps, something I have not done in two years since being diagnosed with Stage IV Lymphoma. It was a struggle, and I am so proud of what I’ve accomplished in two years. From walking with a walker, to now, walking unaided, seeking wellness has felt like a marathon. I’ve practiced steps 1 – 5 listed above in my own life for the past two years. Often tired, sad, scared, and sometimes unprepared for the path, I ran (metaphorically) on.
  7. You need cheerleaders along the way. At the marathon, fans line the 26.2 miles route to infuse spirit for those running whose physicality is depleting. Cow bells ring, signs wave, fans lose voices. All are necessary to infuse spirit of those running the race. These cheerleaders are necessary. They are necessary too in our everyday lives. Find them. Cultivate them. Appreciate them. Be grateful for them.
  8. Superheroes. All of us who are here, on this earth, in this moment in time, have this choice. We can choose to be (S)heroes. We can exude inspired lives, and we can inspire others. It’s our calling. Especially in these times. In this marathon we call life I’d encourage you well. Run on.