Countless articles and blogs have been written about the Boston Marathon, marathons in general and the lessons we can learn from comparing marathons to life. The clearest lesson of all is the lesson of Boston after 2013. Out of adversity came strength, commitment to service and a celebration of life. Boston is stronger because of what they went through. Each year the marathon gets better. This year they established Boston One Day as a day of service to others. We can all take a lesson to our lives, our jobs and our careers from Boston’s response. The lesson is simple, adversity can be used for good. Things meant for evil can in fact be turned to good.
I have watched the Boston Marathon several times over the years. I remember watching my niece run in it about a decade ago. I also remember wishing that I had made an effort to qualify and run it myself while I was young enough and capable of doing it. I was sad that I had let the opportunity to participate pass me by. It wasn’t until four years later, while I was running down a wooded trail on a nice summer day that an epiphany came to me. I could run a marathon. I didn’t think Boston would ever be an option but at least I could go the distance. I went home that night and signed up for the Rochester Marathon. That race did become my Boston qualifier and in 2013 I ran in Boston with my niece. Lesson learned. My father often told me when I was growing up that if I reached my goal it was set too low. We need to believe in ourselves and reach high. If we don’t reach all of our goals it doesn’t mean we have failed, it only means we have appropriate aspirations.
In 2014 I ran the New York Marathon. I knew going in that I had problems with my knee. I chose to participate anyway believing that the memories of participating would have higher value that any pain I might endure along the way. I ended up run-hopping the last eight miles while twenty two thousand runners went past me. A bit humiliating, yes, but I finished and I have all the memories of the course, the event and the pride of having completed it in spite of a bum knee. I saw the surgeon a week later and got back to training for the next Boston. Life will have set backs and down times, but we don’t have to give up, quit or stop moving forward.
I’ve completed ten marathons in the past five years. As I think back about them I realize that often my fondest memories are of the hardships, injuries or pain that I went through. It is the blisters, cramps, stops at the porta-potties along the course and days when it is too hot or too cold that actually become the highlights. Perhaps I cherish these the most because they give me a chance to show my own strength in the same way that Boston has shown theirs. Life can be the same way. When things are going well and we have no adversity or setbacks it may mean that we are coasting. We need to take on bigger challenges, a faster pace, and set goals beyond ourselves so that we can push our own limits. We need to remember that it is not shameful to experience failure and that failure is never final. There will always be another chance in life just as there is always the next marathon to run.
Boston is strong. We should be too. Let’s celebrate life.