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4 Ways a Marathon Mirrors Life

4 Ways a Marathon Mirrors Life

I recently completed my first marathon – one of many things that people suddenly do when at the mid-point of their lives. Reflecting back on the experience, I was struck by the parallels between a marathon and life in general. The distinct emotional phases that I went through during the 42.2km journey eerily mirrored those of my life to-date. It is as if a digital recorder played back my trials and tribulations of the past 39 years but truncated it in 3 hours and 55 minutes – still a very long time but let’s not dwell too much on that!

1. The Exuberant Phase, Brimming with Cockiness

With arrogant confidence gained from a solid training regime beforehand, I began the race well. So well that, for the first 15km, I was tearing up the course comfortably under my goal time of 3 hours and 20 minutes. I remember overtaking the pacing group for that same time, almost sneering at their tortoise-like caution, while ignoring my hare-like recklessness. At one stage, I even sprinted past a boisterous street crowd at a drink station, too pumped up to even take a drink because I was too busy showboating my amazing speed and stamina.

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2. The Comfortable Phase, Devoid of Zeal

As the running crowd stretched out and thinned around the 15-20km mark, the self-admiration and show-boating gave away to an eerie sense of detachment. Fatigue began to set in, slowing down my pace as well as my breathing. At that slower pace, however, I felt I was in an auto-pilot mode and could just run forever. Such was the comfort that I ignored taking the energy gels which I had meticulously planned to consumer at designated intervals to keep my sugar and energy levels up. I simply felt in the zone and was confident that zone would carry me uneventfully to the end. While that meant finishing about 10 minutes later than my target, I gradually became comfortable with that too, much to my own dismay at how easily I gave up on my initial goal.

3. The Rock-Bottom Phase, Full of Despair

At around the 25km mark, my knees began to hurt, forcing me to shorten my strides. This somehow led to strangely uncomfortable feelings in my ankles and muscles in my lower legs that I never knew I had. My mind, on the other hand, was battling its own demons who incessantly posed unhelpful but quite valid remarks such as: “Why are you doing this to yourself?” and “Do you realize how much further you have to go?”. These seeds of doubt blossomed into a forest of despair at the 32km mark, as excruciating cramps started to work their way up from my lower legs up to the back of my thighs. The physical and emotional anguish were so severe by that point that I did something I have never done before in a race — I stopped running and started walking.

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As I trudged along forlornly, wondering how I can possibly cover the remaining 10km at this pathetic rate and in this diabolic pain, all those runners who I gleefully overtook earlier in the race passed me by, one by one (the 3 hour 20 minute pace group, the 3 hour 30 minute pace group, the 3 hour 40 minute pace group, the elderly couple probably 20 years my senior). Rather than looking like the cautious tortoises of earlier, they appeared downright superhuman this time around!

4. The Resurrection Phase, Fuelled by Tenacity

Tired of feeling sorry for myself doing the loser’s walk, I willed my body into what may roughly be called jogging motion. This was at the 34km mark, still seemingly an eternity from the end. But I didn’t want to let myself down. I wanted to cross the finish line, not as a dejected walker, but as a proud runner, albeit one who had given up all hope not so long ago. The subsequent 8 km shuffle (running would be too grand a description) was perhaps one of the hardest things that I have ever done in my life — one painful step after another, with no grand ambition other than to not give up. Eventually, I finished, in running motion, and even with a smile on my face. Pathetic as it may seem, the sense of achievement I felt was indescribable, most certainly made more so because of the lows I experienced during the race.

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Rejuvenated and Ready to Do It Again

The emotional roller-coaster of a marathon that I just described happened a month ago. Despite the experience, but most likely because of it, I am eagerly anticipating my next 42.2km challenge. Masochistic as it may sound, I am especially looking forward to that 32km mark where I can redeem myself for my first time failure. That’s the good thing about marathons. Unlike life, the journey’s not only truncated, but opportunities for redemption are never far away. On second thoughts, perhaps life IS just like a marathon, a perpetual roller-coaster ride with triumphs, failures and endless opportunities for redemption.

Featured photo credit:  young businessman running in a city street via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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