Marathons Resembles Life/Life Resembles Marathons



I recently read one of my buddy's blog on how Life Is A Marathon (click on the link to see her short blurb on it) and as I read and re-read it and prepared myself to share a comment on her article, I was suddenly reminded how I had written a post on how Marathons Resembles Life/Life Resembles Marathons, following my participation in a 10 km Standard Chartered Marathon in 2007.

I remember that I wrote it in my blog then, but a google search didn't show anything; I think when I moved my blog a couple of times from BlueHost Hosted WordPress and Site Build It! a couple of times had much of my articles lost in the transfer process - I had lost that article and the message inside.

So I'll try to dig deep into the recesses of my mind to see what I said and learnt from the marathon experience...in 2007. The retrospective thoughts will be both at the very end and in brackets (this is what it'd look like) hopefully, learning conclusions that will prove beneficial too to you.

So here goes:

We started early in the day - we had to gather at about 7 am in a meeting point, near Raffles Place (which is coincidentally, where our new physiotherapy, hand therapy and sports massage clinic is now. Hmm, maybe we've come one full circle eh?).

There was Louise, myself and another of our friend who had intentionally ceased to be a friend since. Then, Louise was with him as his girlfriend (I got together with her only in 2008). It wasn't only us who were there, but there were thousands upon thousands gathered there, in different groups here and there such as working groups from the shirts that they wore that stated they were sponsored by their companies, to older veteran looking men and women, to youngish looking people that looked like they were going to rock themselves and the world and so on (lots of different tribes here).

We waited, gently and lazily warmed ourselves through really slow stretching and walking around, which was quite difficult with so many people around/near us. All of us had our numbers on already (I can't really remember if we attached the numbers to our shirts at home...or there and then. But I'm willing to put my money on the more likely possibility that we put our number on at home).

At about 7.25 am, they herded us towards the starting point where they shared some last minute updates on the weather, and I think, some simple tips to avoid marathon-related injuries such as dehydration, back pain and stitches. At about 7.30 am, they gave the sign, and everyone started walk/jogging. We weren't in front, so we were walking for awhile until there was more comfortable space to jog.

Then we started jogging.

Our friend had just had a lung operation the day before to remove some Grade 2 cancerous cells in his body, and he really wanted to come to this marathon as he wanted to prove to himself/us that he is alive and kicking. So he persisted and forced himself to jog the 10 km with us. Louise stayed with him throughout his entire journey, just in case. I didn't argue the case because I thought and felt that if he had decided, I don't want to go against it - what for?

My long distance modus operandi is I start slow, and pick up momentum and speed. This has always been the same since I started jogging in 2002. I would start the first 800 meters nice and slow, and my body would go through some resistance like 'I don't wanna jog' for the first 800 meters, and slowly, such resistance would melt away and I can't hear them anymore until I finish or am super winded.

This marathon was no different. Well aware of my own pattern, I took my time to warm up and overcome the resistance and slowly pick up momentum, noting the scores of people running and jogging by me. Some had faces that were serious, some were laughing, some had flat faces (no expression whatsoever). Some had long strides, some had short strides. Some wore nice running shoes, some wore trainers. Regardless, as I was aware of my modus operandi, I wasn't fazed to run like crazy in the beginning to flop like a dying fish midway, so I took my time.

Our friend kept asking us to go ahead, and that he would catch up; but I guess he didn't know or understood that I wasn't slow/slowing down for him, but it's really my style...but I didn't want to waste my energy to explain so I kept plodding on.

More people zoomed past us, some walked past us (yeah, they walk really fast eh heh). Some were loners, some were in groups. Some groups took turns with the person in front as the setter. Others, like us, were made of individuals with their own styles and (lack of) plans.

Once my body started warming up and getting used to it (I know as my speed will pick up automatically as I'll find the current situation/speed too easy, and naturally I'll pick up speed) and my speed started increasing, I kept going. A couple of times I glanced at Louise and my friend, who urged me to go on, and Louise said that she'd accompany him to make sure he's okay.

With that, I kept moving forward at my speed which was slowly but steadily increasing. I started to see the people who had bypassed me earlier, they had either stopped jogging or went into a walk-jog speed, some have stopped entirely and are walking and laughing and drinking water. I kept moving forward, well aware of how alone I was, but seeing people in this same marathon as I was, some ahead, some behind, some I'm halfway overtaking - gave me strength somewhat, knowing that I wasn't alone.

Some people jogged past me still, but I still was overtaking many, many people who had started too strong and had fizzled out or those who wanted to get out of the way of the people had quickly run ahead so that they can start walking and talking with their friends. In my mind, I thought about the finishing line as well as kept looking at the floor so that I won't step on slippery stuff and fall.

In my head, flashed this thought often: "Where's that damned finishing line?"

My hands started to feel colder and numb. I think that more of the oxygen and blood were being pumped to more crucial organs and muscles of the back, legs and the visceral organs, so less were going into my hands. I kept gripping and ungripping my fingers as I jogged to increase blood flow into my fingers. As I kept on going, I remember seeing multiple points where there stood people in groups of threes or more, with large banners to say "Keep going!" and they kept smiling and shouting words of encouragement.

Every time I jog pass such groups I'm always encouraged and I could feel my energy increase again, enough to reach the next group of encouragers. I would occasionally glance to see where my position is, to see how many more kilometers am I short of the finishing, and at each point, I would tell myself "it's only another 4 km...", "it's only another 2 km..." and so on, at each point. I kept thinking about the finishing line. I want to finish. Where's that damned finishing line?

The last one kilometer was the toughest for me, I think I've pushed myself to my max. My lungs were burning and I couldn't feel my fingers, and my legs I think were moving on their own - what sustained me was just the mere fact of "where's that damned finishing line?"

I controlled my breathing, two quick suction intakes and two short but slow exhales kept my oxygen good, and I kept my eyes out for people in front whom I can follow, and kept my ears out for the encouragers who kept shouting encouragement and kept moving.

I kept moving. My legs, they kept moving. My toes were numb, I can't feel them. The burn in my lungs were catching up with me, and I feared that I wouldn't be able to finish, and I kept going. I still thought: "where's that damned finishing line?"

I came to a bend under some shady trees that felt really good, and suddenly I could see clear, open and blue skies of the marina bay area, and I saw the finishing point. It was beautiful. So beautiful, I could cry. Of course, I'm too tired to cry and I wanted to finish the damned marathon, so I kept on plodding on.

I finished.

What's that? No super cheers. No family or friends to greet me. No special effects. Lots of smiling faces of other marathoners who had completed, and more encouragers. Eventhough I was glad to see such faces, but boy, was I glad when I finished that damned marathon. It was my best timing ever, 1 hour and 5 minutes (my standard was usually 1 hour 25 minutes).

Louise and my friend finished later, and I remember being happy that they finished the marathon as well - all ended well!

My Reflections

Looking back, some of the thought and learning lessons that I remember writing down included and concluding that everyone is special, unique and different:

  • We all have different strengths, skills and preferences. Some can run faster, some can last longer. Some have longer legs, some have shorter legs, which impact stride length and speed. I am comfortable with my body and my capacity, and I jog/run in my capacity, to the finish line. Different people have different strengths suitable for different situations, which speaks about the necessity to observe and appreciate diversity as well as teamwork.

  • We all have different ways of doing things. Some like to run alone, some like to follow a person in front, some like to run in groups, some join for fun, some join for the t-shirt. Regardless, no one's right or wrong - you do what you want to do. This was my first marathon, and likely won't be my last. I am aware of the way I jog, my modus operandi of start slow, and as I warmed up, pick up speed. No one pressured me, nor did I pressured everyone else. Those who didn't/couldn't go faster, I would overtake, with no hard feelings; and those who were faster and more conditioned than me, would go faster than me or had gone so far front I didn't even though they were there. This taught me to allow or encourage people to do things the way they do, as long as they do finish, within legal, ethical and moral boundaries, of course.

  • We all have different functions. I was a participant, keen on running and finishing my first marathon. So were all/most of the other marathoners, regardless of their purpose. I was encouraged by the encouragers who shouted words of encouragement and to keep going; I was encouraged by focusing on the people who were ahead of me, I "latched" onto them in my mind, and I paced them. This taught me to realize and appreciate the different functions of different people.

  • "Where's that damned finishing line?" is possibly the most important thing that kept me going, other than the cheers, my automatic moving of my feet and my rhythmic breathing - but they all worked together. I tested a couple of things that'd keep me going, and I focused on finishing.

With those conclusions in mind, I remember the lessons I learnt during the process of the marathon as well as the afterthoughts were the best things that I learnt from signing up and participating in this. It was awesome! I think, many of the lessons I learnt here I still hold and they guide me still until today. What about you? What were your thoughts and learning points from the marathons you had participated in before? Will you go for marathons? Why?

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