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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 December 9, 2019

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

1. Get Rationally Optimistic

Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

The result: no more mental stress.

2. Unplug

Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

3. Easy on the Caffeine

Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

  • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
  • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
  • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

The result: mental stress will be gone!

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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Featured photo credit: Radu Florin via unsplash.com

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