Personal Development Lessons from a Marathon

The Pleasure and the Pain

I recently went along to the Melbourne Marathon, here in Australia, to watch some of my team (Fiona, Johnny and Mikey) punish themselves for 42.2 km’s (26 miles). Aaah the pleasure and the pain of it all. The agony and the ecstasy. They all finished and they all did great. Well done guys. I rode my pushbike to the course so I could pedal beside those crazy kids for a while to offer a little support, some momentary distraction from the pain and some timely encouragement. Gotta say, on my current list of things to do, running a marathon ain’t anywhere near the top. While the idea of completing a marathon kind of appeals to me (in theory), I don’t know that my 95 kilo (210 lb) body-builder-ish physique would enjoy the experience or get me over the line (in reality). Having said that, I must admit that I totally love watching them and being part of that incredible energy. Even as a cheer squad. If you can’t get inspired watching thousands of ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things, then you don’t have a heartbeat. A sea of humanity all moving in the same direction; both literally and metaphorically. Where else could you see such a massive cross-section of people all working to their absolute max and fearlessly and passionately exploring their potential to achieve a common and a personal goal?

A Feelgood Event

Watching people explore their boundaries and discover their own version of ‘amazing’ gives me goosebumps. Ironically, when people are exhausted and in pain is often when we see them at their best. Their genuine selves. No bullshit, no acting, no ego, no lies, no meaningless dialogue. They don’t have the time or the energy for pointless crap. Despite the obvious physical pain, a marathon is a feelgood event. There is universal and unconditional encouragement, friendship, care, compassion and support. To see complete strangers (both runners and spectators) encouraging, supporting and helping people along their way is both uplifting and moving. If only mainstream society was a reflection of the Melbourne Marathon. Over the course of a couple of hours I saw thousands of people and witnessed no anger, no rudeness and no negativity. In fact, quite the opposite. I rode beside an old(er) guy for a while and apart from getting his sixty-something body through the distance, he seemed to be on a personal mission to encourage every other runner over the finish-line as well. He was constantly talking, cheering and even clapping for the runners going in the opposite direction (it was an out and back course).

The Runner Salad

Elite athletes, high-performance running ‘machines’, Ethiopians who ran without actually touching the ground, hard-core guys in army boots and backpacks, a girl running in bare feet, a woman with her head fixed at forty five degrees, two old blokes wearing shiny running shorts from the eighties, young alpha-males who only started training three weeks ago, the guy with the tennis racquet (racket) and ball, the woman with the worst running technique in the world who appeared to be jogging on the spot, the chubby woman who will “finish no matter what”, the eleven year old kid with the backward light-weight headphones who sang as he ran, the hi-tech crew and the old-school brigade… they were all there. They all lined up side by side.

Much More than just ‘a Run’

Being a born motivator, coach and encourager, I couldn’t help but get totally drawn into the moment; the emotions, the psychological battles, the physical pain, the barriers being broken down, the incredible stories being written, the fears being overcome, the courage, the discipline and even the lives being changed. I know that all sounds somewhat melodramatic but for many people, running a marathon (or achieving any significant goal for that matter) is indeed a life-changing, mind-altering experience. It has the potential to change the way people think, behave and achieve – in all areas of their life. For life. It re-defines their standards, their expectations and even their beliefs. They become stronger, more courageous and have a greater insight into, and understanding of, their own potential. It’s truly amazing what we can achieve when we stop talking ourselves into defeat and we find a way, rather than an excuse.

Doing What Most Won’t

When we persevere and do what most people won’t (not just in a marathon but with any challenge), we learn, we grow and we change. When we endure the discomfort, face the fear and work through the challenge, we become a better version of us. We get stronger. More courageous. More capable. We develop new skills. We see things differently and we start to produce better results in our world. Why do the vast majority of people who start the marathon complete it? Because they have prepared. They did the work. The got uncomfortable on a consistent basis over an extended period of time. They got fit and strong. They did what the majority wouldn’t. They did what needed to be done to produce an exceptional outcome in their world. Marathoner runners understand what it takes to succeed. They understand the concepts of discipline, self-control, over-coming fear, dealing with discomfort, determination and perseverance. They understand that, more often than not, success has almost nothing to do with potential, age or genetics and everything to do with attitude and hard work.

Thanks and congratulations to all the brave runners who inspired me that day.

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