When you have a goal that is as huge as the marathon-it will “keep you honest.” It’s not like a smaller goal that you can announce and then put off or fake your way through. Once you sign up, commit months to training, and take your first step on race day-you better have done your homework.
The beauty of this is that it goes against 99% of the natural tendencies of our culture that favors gratification without effort or devotion. But is that kind of achievement ever as satisfying? Linda Hill once told me she loved the quote, “There is no glory in training, but there is no glory without training.” In no way is this more true than in running.
One thing I’ve found over the years is that many of the folks I train with (and race against) are for the most part as devoted to their jobs (if not more) as they are to running or cycling or triathlon.
Unlike participation in say, golf or softball or basketball – no offense to club/league sports – the type of determination, discipline and emotional focus that comes with training day in, day out for extremely challenging endurance events (often by yourself) tends to bleed over into people’s 9-5’s.
Whether you’re training for a marathon, a century or the Ironman triathlon, one thing you quickly find out is that there’s no room for bullshit out there on the pavement. You either do the work or you’re screwed. Politics won’t get you to the finish line. It doesn’t matter who you know or how well you can work the system. When you’re out there, every weakness bubbles up to the surface and stares you in the eye. Lack of preparation, lack of motivation, lack of dedication will all come back to bite you in the ass. there’s nowhere to hide. They will all find you and jump up on your back to stop you dead in your tracks. The choice becomes this: Do you let them stop you, or do you accept them and keep going?
You learn a lot about yourself, training for that type of event.
You learn a lot about how to break thresholds and get past your own little ego, training for events like these. When you’re tired and sore and hungry but you still have four miles to go, guess what? You still have four miles to go. How you get through these last four miles is entirely up to you. Nobody cares whether you walk those last four miles or run, or hail a cab. Nobody made you set 26.2 miles as a goal. Or 100 miles. Or 144+.
Once you’ve broken past your lack of will and learned to keep going, you are transformed. A similar thing happens to Marines during training. At some point, who you used to be before you went beyond what you thought your limitations were, before you kissed excuses goodbye, before you left all of the bullshit that stood in your mind’s way ceases to exist. You become someone else.
That someone else, the marathoner, the long distance cyclist, the triathlete, the Ironman, he or she walks into your place of work with you every morning.
We all work with two types of people: Partisans of the least amount of effort, and dedicated professionals.
The latter aren’t all marathoners or triathletes, but I have yet to meet an Ironman or marathoner who didn’t take his or her intensity and dedication to their job.
Not that there’s anything wrong with drinking a case of beer and watching sports on TV all weekend, but who you are outside of your work does have parallels with who you are when you are at work.
Something to think about.
Update: Wow. You guys have turned this post into The BrandBuilder blog’s most popular post ever. Over 2,000 views in less than 24 hours already. Thank you all: Fellow runners, cyclists, swimmers, triathletes… It’s amazing to have so many of you respond to this post with so much enthusiasm. You’ve really made my day. Next time you’re in the Greenville, SC be sure to look me up. Lots of great running, cycling and racing out here.