Life Lessons: The Marathon

by Lance Ekum on · 128 comments


“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny mat­ters com­pared to what lies within us.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Run 26.2 miles.  The marathon.  A dis­tance that chal­lenges run­ners phys­i­cally, men­tally, emotionally.

Octo­ber 3, 2010.  The Mil­wau­kee Lake­front Marathon.  My first marathon, and a day that took me to the high­est of highs and the low­est of lows.

Does life ever feel that way for you? 

Let’s dig a lit­tle deeper into this.  The day began with partly sunny skies, cool tem­per­a­tures, and a very light wind.  For running…pretty ideal con­di­tions.  And as I ran…as I ran along­side all these other amaz­ing ath­letes, I felt ener­gized by their pres­ence, their mov­ing for­ward.  I also recalled the count­less hours of train­ing that went into get­ting me ready for this day, train­ing that began six months before this day came.

Back­track to late win­ter, 2010.  I’ve been think­ing about doing a marathon…except that a dis­tance of 26.2 miles just seems unreachable. 


Lim­ited by my own beliefs in what is pos­si­ble within me.

Have you ever been there?

Six months ago (it seems like ages). This idea of com­pet­ing in a marathon rises up again.  It rises up…only to be knocked down by that lit­tle voice in my head…the one that says “you can’t do this”, “what are you think­ing, any­way?”, “this is way too far for you to run”.…and all sorts of other self-limiting thoughts.

Have you ever had a voice in your head say things like that to you?

What hap­pens if we don’t lis­ten to that “voice of rea­son”?  (and “voice of rea­son”…I am more deeply believ­ing that is is not…)

I talked to a friend.  A friend who has com­peted in the marathon before (sev­eral times).  That “voice of rea­son” cropped in there, too.  (per­haps a bet­ter term would be “voice of giv­ing up”…)  A friend, a sup­porter, a per­son in your cor­ner — that can make all the dif­fer­ence.  Lori was all of that, and more.  She believed in me, she believed in what was pos­si­ble, she believed in doing.

“Do or do not…there is no try.” ~ Yoda

A plan to get there…from my physical/mental/emotional state six months ago…to today. 

And so the jour­ney began.

How about you, what jour­ney are you on right now?  Are these jour­neys that are tak­ing you to places of deep meaning?

“A jour­ney of a thou­sand miles begins with a sin­gle step.” ~ Lao-tzu

Run­ning.  Swim­ming.  Ab work.  Strength train­ing.  Bik­ing.  Oh…and lots more running!!

Espe­cially as I think back over those train­ing runs — with one long run every week — I recall moments through­out this jour­ney.  Com­ing home, elated with my time.  Com­ing home, think­ing that I could have likely walked faster.  Hav­ing my wife, Lora, drive to pick me up because I couldn’t com­plete the run — sit­ting dejected along­side the run­ning path.  Stop­ping for water breaks — and being so refreshed by a sim­ple bit of water into my body.  Feel­ing pain in my knees, in my hips, in my feet as I ran.  Feel­ing that pain leave my body — as my body became stronger.  Run­ning in the quiet of the early morn­ing hours.  Run­ning in a rain­storm.  And all the other moments that were steps on this journey.

“The road of life twists and turns and no two direc­tions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the jour­ney, not the des­ti­na­tion.” ~ Don Williams, Jr

This jour­ney you are each on…this is YOUR journey…your life…now…

And that jour­ney on Octo­ber 3rd.  Back to where this all started up above.  I felt light on my feet.  The wind, mostly at my back.  What a great start to this day!

…and then…

And then…mile twenty.  My feet, get­ting heavy.  My legs…sore and tired.  My soul…wanting to stop. 

Six more miles.  So far…at that moment in time.

Have you every felt that way?  Have you ever felt like the des­ti­na­tion of your jour­ney seemed out of reach?

In those things that matter…keep on keep­ing on.

Some­thing I kept telling myself — from mile twenty through twenty five…the most men­tally, emo­tion­ally, and phys­i­cally chal­leng­ing miles of this jour­ney.  Dis­tances in my head that had been mea­sured in miles ear­lier in the marathon, became dis­tances mea­sured in tele­phone poles…in city streets…in the spec­ta­tor ahead cheer­ing run­ners on.

Slowly…the miles went down.  My pace — slowed by phys­i­cal and men­tal chal­lenges I was facing.

Then…the des­ti­na­tion in sight!

Mile twenty five.  An increase in spec­ta­tors (wow…I have such great respect for all the peo­ple vol­un­teer­ing to help out, and for all the amaz­ing spec­ta­tors cheer­ing on the run­ners!), the end in sight along the hori­zon of Lake Michi­gan.  The phys­i­cal pain, the men­tal chal­lenges, the emo­tional roller coaster…all tak­ing a back seat…as resolve (and adren­a­line) kicked in more deeply. 

Mile twenty six.  Two-tenths of a mile to go.  So close.  The crowd — more exu­ber­ant than ever!  My fam­ily — within view!  The fin­ish line — such a glo­ri­ous sight.

Back to that jour­ney.  My jour­ney.  Your journey.

The highs.  The lows.  Every­thing in between.  These steps that are our life jour­ney — in how­ever we are liv­ing our life — wher­ever that jour­ney is tak­ing us…these moments (from the high­est of highs to the low­est of lows) are ours.  And it’s these moments — the moments that are our jour­ney — that make the des­ti­na­tion what it is for each of us.

Emo­tions sweep over me.  From those early beginnings…where 26.2 miles seemed unreach­able, to those train­ing runs that had moments of deep good and deep chal­lenge, to this par­tic­u­lar day.  To these 26.2 miles — 26.2 miles that chal­lenged me to my core and on all lev­els (phys­i­cally, men­tally, emo­tion­ally) — I am there.

The des­ti­na­tion.

Fin­isher!  At this moment…not a more beau­ti­ful word in the Eng­lish language.

So it is with me…and so it is with you.  We travel out on these jour­neys in our life — what­ever they might be — we face the mon­sters that come along the way, we cel­e­brate the amazing-ness of what we are doing, we revel in the joy this brings us…all the way along the journey.

Then we reach our des­ti­na­tion. (or some deriv­a­tive of it)

This destination…it’s a moment in our life jour­ney.  Per­haps it’s a big moment, and one that has deep mean­ing.  Per­haps it’s a small moment.  Or some­thing in between.

…and our jour­ney continues…

Today, I reflect back on this jour­ney toward com­pet­ing in the Mil­wau­kee Lake­front Marathon…and I see that this jour­ney has for­ever altered me…has added belief in what IS possible…and has given me a spring­board as this jour­ney through my life continues.

As does yours…

Your jour­ney con­tin­ues today.  Are you choos­ing a jour­ney that has deep mean­ing for you?

Epi­logue:  I would like to espe­cially thank a cou­ple of peo­ple who were instru­men­tal in this jour­ney toward the marathon.

  • My wife, Lora, for her amaz­ing and con­tin­u­ous sup­port through all of this.  And espe­cially for the time that she com­mit­ted to being along on this road with me.  This whole jour­ney has been a com­mit­ment for me, as well as for my fam­ily.    Lora, know that you are loved…
  • Won­der­ful friend Lori — who has been there before — who knows the marathon ropes.  Lori, with­out your sup­port and guid­ance along the way, this wouldn’t have come to fruition.  Your help in cre­at­ing a plan to get to Octo­ber 3rd, your tweak­ing as we went along, your lis­ten­ing to all the highs and lows along the way — all of this made cross­ing the fin­ish line that much sweeter.
  • Friends at InStep, a local run­ning store here in the Mil­wau­kee area — and espe­cially to Meaghan.  The train­ing runs you orga­nized, the ques­tions you answered, the sup­port you pro­vided — all of this made the marathon that much more achievable.

“It is amaz­ingly empow­er­ing to have the sup­port of a strong, moti­vated, and inspi­ra­tional group of peo­ple.” ~ Susan Jef­fers

To each of you, and every­one who has pro­vided sup­port and encour­age­ment in some way — thank you! 

Lance writes sto­ries from his heart, aim­ing to inspire and moti­vate, as you align more fully with YOUR true peak. When he’s not here, you can find him hang­ing out with his fam­ily, rid­ing a bike, or just gen­er­ally act­ing goofy.   Sign up for the Thoughts from the Tree­house newslet­ter and get addi­tional inspi­ra­tion in your email inbox!
Lance Ekum
View all posts by Lance Ekum

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