Running a Marathon is An Incredibly Stupid Idea
Running a marathon is an incredibly stupid idea. Of course, I’m sure that’s not what you would expect a mindful fitness expert to say about the subject, but I stand by this assertion.
To thinks it’s a good idea to train for several months, just to run the arbitrary distance of 26.2 miles, primarily to say you did it, lacks merit. There are much easier challenges to undertake and many other things you could invest your time into that would yield greater results.
Just think about it. In the time, it took to train and run a marathon you could begin learning a new language, you could start playing an instrument, or even make a new friend. Any of these give your life equal or greater value, meaning, and connection.
When you run a marathon all you get are nominal bragging rights, a bunch of blisters and lost toenails. You get a cheaply made T-shirt and medal that will most likely get thrown away. So why in world would anyone run a marathon?
Here’s Why I Ran A Marathon (And Maybe Why I’m Stupid)
Ok now that I have fully defamed the noble name of this ignoble competition let me tell you why I ran the marathon. Although a marathon is an incredibly stupid idea, it is a wonderful practice.
The practice of training for and then running an endurance event like a marathon helps you focus your mind towards a long-term goal. It helps you work through and master the intermediate steps. And the event itself demands you to develop mental and physical fortitude.
But the secret to getting all of these things is to take on a marathon as a practice instead of an idea. Having run other endurance events I can easily spot those participants who were into the idea of the race, but weren’t into the practice of it.
They’re the ones with the grimace on their face and an expression of bewilderment. They look as though they’ve been sold a bill of goods and have severe buyers remorse.
This happens because of the way marathons are marketed. They play heavily on the bragging rights, the feeling of accomplishment, and the nominal cred that doing these running a marathon creates.
The problem is that those things are only a very small part of what a marathon can give to you. I’ve discovered if you really want to get the most out of running a marathon or other endurance event. You have to embrace not just the finish, but also every step along the way.
When you take on the practice of marathon running and not just the idea. The power of this event to change your life takes on a whole new meaning.
The 7 Mindful Marathon Practices
Or The Running a Marathon is an Incredibly Stupid Idea Guide
1. Training –
If you look at any marathon training plan, you’ll notice that it’s 98% training 2% race.
Most marathon training plans last 12 – 16 weeks. And the weekly runs add up to around 4 – 7 hours per week. That means that the average marathoner will run anywhere from 100 – 150 hours before they step up to the starting line.
I’m telling you this not to dissuade you from signing up. But to demonstrate that the key to running a mindful marathon is to see training as an integral part of the experience.
When we embrace training as a practice, it’s easy to see that transformation happens not on the 20th mile of a race, but on the 500 miles you run before the event.
2. Listening –
I ran my marathon with out any music. I say this not as a judgment of anyone’s use of music, but because I think that going without made a big difference during the race.
When you don’t listen to music, you’re forced to pay attention. First to your environment, but most importantly you have to listen to your mind.
To get the most out of your marathon it’s important to watch what your mind is doing. Not only is race day is known to play tricks on your ego and derail you well established pacing plans. If you fail to listen, you risk losing an opportunity for self-discovery.
3. Sticking to It –
When you run a marathon at some point a thought will arise that you are tired and it would feel better if you stopped.
For many people this voice is the greatest challenge they will face. Because the voice usually is the strongest when you hit the ‘wall.’ The mistake most people is they resist or deny this voice.
If instead of denying this voice you greet it with gratitude, you can transform your relationship to it.
First listen to the voice for a few moments and then thank it for its opinion. Let it know that you appreciate it having your best interests at heart, but that you will keep going anyway.
Finally, access the opposite voice, the voice that tells you how strong you are. Don’t use phrases like I’m not weak, or I’m not going to quit. Instead, focus on what you are. Say I am determined. I will keep going. I will continue to believe in myself.
In this way, you can honor each part of yourself without having to slow yourself down with excess doubt.
4. Having Fun –
Remember running a marathon should be at least a little fun. If you are miserable from start to finish, it may be time to pick a new hobby.
Having said that it’s easy to get stuck in the, “This is F’ing hard” mindset. When you find yourself here, acknowledge that mindset, and be willing to let it go. Once you’ve done that, a few simple things can make the race more fun.
- Yell for and at any musicians on the course – Try “Woo yeah bagpipe pirate band!” This worked for me numerous times during the race.
- Smile – Science has proven smiling makes us happier. So try smiling especially at others SMILE at runners and spectators. Smile at the water stations. And especially smile at little kids along the way.
- Notice other runners having a good time – whenever you pass or get passed by someone with a happy expression notice it and let it you lift above your adversity.
5. Being with Pain –
Pain happens during a marathon, but pain happens also happen in life. What matters is how we experience pain, rather than if we experience it.
When you notice pain during the race the first step is to notice it arising. Resisting pain only makes it worse. So if we can accept the pain from the beginning all the better.
Once you’ve acknowledged that you feel pain there are two strategies you can use.
Focus on something other than the pain.
Pick an area of concentration and pour your attention into it. You could focus on the sound of your feet hitting the pavement, on your breath, or on a running mantra.
Focus directly on the pain.
Though many people think this is crazy. Focusing on the pain can help you see through it to the peace underneath. The key with this strategy is to focus on just the sensations of the pain and not the story behind it.
This means you don’t focus on why the pain means your legs are going to fall off, but instead describing to yourself the shape, texture, size, and color of the pain in as much detail as possible.
If you are willing to accept and work with your pain, you will be able to overcome it.
6. Facing Ego –
More than any other competitor, the #1 person you will face during your race is yourself. Your greatest threat is you ego.
It’s easy to see another runner pass you and think, “I’m faster than that guy. I’m not going to let him get ahead of me.” But if you just run your race, often that’s the guy you’ll pass walking at mile 15.
But if you let your ego get the best of you, then you’ll run faster than you should. And bonk much sooner than you had hoped.
The Mindful Marathon key to dealing with your ego is to acknowledge it, thank it, and let it go. Your ego is just one of the many forces that arises during a race and you don’t have to listen to it.
One other wonderful practice that you can use in this situation is to practice sympathetic joy. When you see someone pass you, just smile and say silently. “I hope you have a wonderful race.”
By turning your jealously into appreciation you keep your focus on your race. Plus you create a sense of positive energy that you can draw on when things get tough.
7. Accepting Love –
One of the most important practices you can take on during a Mindful Marathon is accepting love.
Though you have done many long runs, race day is unique. The course is covered with other runners and fans cheering you on.
Don’t let this fact slide over you. Let the love in.
A race is one of the rare times where people express enthusiasm for something you are doing. Every time you get a water, or listen to a fan cheer you on, open yourself to the love they are sending your way.
Be willing to accept this love and absorb it into your body. This feeling is something you can carry with you during and after the race.
In the days and weeks following your race remember that the people you saw cheering you on are in the houses you pass and in the car next to you. Remember even if they aren’t cheering now, they are willing to.
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