Create an Extraordinary Experience: Run a Marathon

9 06 2009

Every great journey begins with one step. When I signed up to do my first marathon, I never anticipated how much my life would change because of that one decision. I’ve now run four marathons in different places around the world….even though after finishing my first marathon I swore out-loud that I was “never, ever going to do another marathon again”.  Now with San Diego, Alaska, Stockholm, and Copenhagen marathons under my belt, I’m realizing that running a marathon(s) has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

So what keeps me coming back year-after-year to run and train for another 26.2? It’s the journey. It’s the amazing friendships I’ve made along the way—the people I’ve met running that have now become some of my best friends. It’s the pride of having the identity of being a “marathon runner.” It’s about getting to meet others and listen to why they are running a marathon—like a man I met who ran an entire marathon in a seven-foot rubber rhino customer for charity, or the daughter running in honor of her mother’s losing fight with cancer. It’s how a spectator, a mere stranger, inspired me to finish by cheering encouraging remarks as I ran by (and how they’ll never probably know that they were the reason I didn’t give up), or about the tears I shed from being so touched as I ran by loved ones excitedly cheering on their runners in the pouring rain and cold four hours into the Alaska marathon.

Running a marathon is what you make it—you can remember it as ‘grueling, hard, losing toe nails, or getting up at 6am on Saturdays (yes, all true), or you can remember it as “an incredible moment in your life where you were dedicated, committed, working towards a goal, spending time with fellow runners, and stretching yourself more than you thought you could.” It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.

But mostly it’s about the memories that come from all of this that will last a lifetime. It’s about running the Alaska marathon with my best friend—and being mesmerized by the awe-inspiring beauty of the course, getting soaked in a torrential downpour the last half mile, or getting attacked by a huge grizzly bear along the course (just kidding about the bear part!) It’s about giggling to myself during the entire Copenhagen marathon after noticing “Pace Setters” are called “Fart Holders” in Dutch—and they even have it written in bold letters  (FART HOLDERS) on the back of their shirt. It’s about the time spent with friends during training—the breakfasts after our longs runs, complaining about our running injuries, or running with friends on the beach during sunrise. It’s about sharing in the pride and excitement when someone qualifies for Boston, or gets engaged during the Great Wall of China marathon. It’s to know I’m living life to the fullest—to be part of the 1% that crosses the marathon finish line.

No extraordinary experience can be obtained ordinarily. The journey of the marathon runner is definitely no ordinary experience—and the memories, friendships, and experiences that have come from this journey are indeed beyond extraordinary. Choosing to run a marathon has been a life-changing experience that I am beyond grateful to have created.

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