Excerpt from ‘50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days—and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance!’ by Dean Karnazes
Even if the process of training for a marathon weren’t extremely health promoting, I would still encourage everyone to run at least one marathon simply for its powerful effects on the mind and spirit. After all, don’t we spend enough of our lives doubting ourselves, thinking we’re not good enough, not strong enough, not made of the right stuff? The marathon gives you an opportunity to tackle these doubts head-on. It has a way of deconstructing your very essence, stripping away all of your protective barriers, and exposing your inner soul. The marathon tells you it will hurt you, that it will leave you demoralized and defeated in a lifeless heap on the roadside. It says it cant be done—not by you. Ha! It taunts you. In your dreams!
So you train hard. You dedicate yourself wholeheartedly, you sacrifice, and you overcome countless smaller challenges along the way. You pour everything you’ve got into it. But you know the marathon will ask for even more. In the dark recesses of your mind, a gloomy voice is saying You can’t. You do your best to ignore the self-doubt, but the voice doesn’t go away.
On the morning of your first marathon the voice of doubt multiplies, becoming a full chorus. By mile twenty this chorus is screaming so loudly, it’s all you can hear. Your sore and weary muscles beg you to stop. You must stop. But you don’t stop. This time you ignore the voice of doubt, you tune out the naysayers who tell you you’re not good enough, and you listen only to the passion in your heart. This burning desire tells you to keep moving forward, to continue putting one foot boldly in front of the other and somewhere you find the will to do so.
Courage comes in many forms. Today you discover the courage to keep trying, to not give up, no matter how dire things become. And dire they do become. At the twenty-five-mile mark, you can barely see courage any longer—your vision falters as your mind teeters on the edge of consciousness.
And then, suddenly, the finish line looms before you like a dream. A lump builds in your throat as you cover those final few steps. Now you are finally able to answer back to that nagging voice with a resounding Oh, yes I can!
You burst across the finish line filled with pride, forever liberated from the prison of self-doubt and self -imposed limitations that have held you captive. You have learned more about yourself in the past 26.2 miles than on any other single day in your life. Even if you can’t walk afterward, you have never been so free. A marathon finish is more than just something you earn; a marathon finisher is someone you become.
As you are being helped away from the finish line, wrapped in a flimsy Mylar blanket, barely able to raise your head, you are at peace. No future struggle, doubts, or failure can wipe away what you accomplished today. You have done what few will ever do—what you thought you could never do—and it is the most glorious, unforgettable awakening. You are a marathoner, and you will wear this distinction not on your lapel, but in your heart, for the rest of your life.