I ran a marathon last Sunday. It was my first one A.T. (after twins) and my first ever-positive marathon experience. Over the past few days, I’ve thought a lot about how and why this time I was somehow able to avoid the pitfalls and disasters that have plagued my other races. Illness, injury, inability, instability: you name it and I’ve probably cried about it. But this time, for the first time, I crossed the finish line without disappointment and without regret.
What made the difference wasn’t the training, or the course, or the weather, or the Imodium (although I’d have favorable things to say on all of those fronts, except for the Imodium which failed me at miles 18 and 23). What made the difference was an improved ability to hang on, dig deep, and outrun my head.
There are few better tests of mental stamina than a marathon. It’s just you and your thoughts out there on the road. Music, scenery or cheers might dull the roar of those thoughts but they never really go away. Especially in those last miles. And it’s a long slow march, no matter how fast your pace is.
This week I learned that mental toughness had really nothing to do with this race and everything to do with the rest of my life. Chasing three boys, lugging car seats, backpacks and diaper bags, walking miles in circles around my kitchen island, and socializing with 45 lbs of baby in my arms…all on just a handful of nights of uninterrupted sleep will surely thicken anyone’s skin and outlook.
And watching someone you love to the moon and back garner up the courage to fight cancer will give you new perspective on what is truly hard. Her tenacity and grace under fire is nothing short of incredible. And running for a few hours is nothing compared to what my mom has faced and continues to face. If she can find the strength to battle cancer every day, surely I can find the strength to stay on my feet.
Nietzsche said (and Kelly Clarkson sang) that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. It’s true. And wise.
Life’s burdens can certainly leave you tired and fretful and sometimes even a little desperate…for a break, for an accolade, for solidarity. But Life’s burdens can also leave you resilient, feisty and a little sharper and brighter than you ever were before. Growth isn’t always found via the easy road. Sometimes you gotta pull on your big girl boots and trudge through the mud.
But the reward is good. Because when you are called upon to dig deep, to tap into strength reserves you didn’t know you had, you’ll find just what you need.
Life takes care of you, so that you can take care of you.