After a year filled with Triathlons and running events, I decided to end the 2012 race season this past Sunday with a Full Marathon. If you’ve ever ran a full marathon, I salute you, if you haven’t, I’ll tell you some things I learned in the 26.2 mile race that literally seemed to cover all of Dallas. You’d be surprised how many parallels to life there are in the marathon.
When I announced I would be running in the race, I heard every excuse in the world from people around me. “Dude humans aren’t supposed to run that far,” “Aren’t you kind of big too be running a marathon,” etc. Coming off triathlon season, which consists of swimming, biking, and running, I first looked at a marathon training plan, to see if it could help me in the approximate month I had to train for the 26.2 mile distance.
Every training plan I saw took from “4 months for those that were in amazing shape,” up to 14 months for those that had a dream of completing a marathon. Nowhere was there a “1 month plan,” in fact many sites and plans say if you don’t have at least 4 months of training exclusively for the marathon, don’t attempt it because you won’t make it. But guess what? In the marathon, as in life, just because People say you can’t do it, doesn’t mean you can’t.
The longest distance race I had ran was a half marathon, 13.1 miles. The training plans all recommend you work up and run a 18-20 mile long run so that you can “know how it feels,” to run that far. I don’t think it takes a genius to realize that it probably feels terrible. So I ignored that, and I ignored those that said you can’t do a marathon without training for half a year. Instead I focused on nutrition and prayer. I figured if the bible says, with the faith of a mustard seed you can tell a mountain to jump in the ocean and it will be done, then merely completing a marathon will be a piece of cake.
If you listen to what everyone says you can’t do, you won’t accomplish much in life. You have to listen to that part of yourself that says, regardless of the odds, I know I can do this. I could have given myself every excuse in the world from “I’m 225 lbs., vs. these 140 lb. runners, I have to work harder;” or “it’s not fair” due to bruised and cracked ribs I suffered from a bike crash, or a myriad of other things. But, I focused on what I WANTED TO DO, not what could prevent me from doing that.
My philosophy was simple, this was not a 26.2 mile race; this was 26 individual races, with a .2 mile victory lap at the end. Too often in life, we try to “do it all at once” and fail to realize that success in life comes down to mastering the task at hand, the mile at hand. I can’t think about mile 22 when I’m on mile 5. I have to think about reaching mile 6. Every mile marker I crossed, my new goal became, run to the next mile marker. When I got to the next one, my new goal was do my best to run to the next mile marker. I do the same in life, one mile marker to the next, knowing I’m on the right path to get to my destination.
They say never to judge a book by its cover, and that couldn’t be more true in the Marathon. Before the race, we all kind of look around and think “ok well I’ll for sure beat that guy or girl,” or “hmm that person looks like they may win the thing.” But, in the marathon, as in life, appearances are deceiving. I can’t tell you how many “in uber great shape” people I passed on the side of the road who were laying in the grass throwing up or stretching or walking away having just quit. On the flip side, I can’t tell you how many “I’ll for sure beat that person” type people passed me and I never saw them again.
The point is, we often judge people but we don’t know their circumstances. They may look like an elite athlete, but they may not be in cardio shape. Someone may look fat and slow, but they may running 30 miles a day and are ready to whoop you in a race. In life, we often admire celebrities and people we “think” are rich and famous, but fail to realize most of them are broke putting on a façade for the cameras. Trust me, you wouldn’t want their life. Then we look at others and think they haven’t amounted to anything, but fail to realize the true wealthy people in the world, don’t feel the need to flaunt it, they’re past that. Warren Buffett, uber billionaire, still drives a ford pickup and lives in the same 3 bedroom house he’s always lived in. You wouldn’t know he was that rich if you judged the book by its cover.
As some of these older folks ran by me, the people I “KNEW” before the race that I would beat, I asked myself, how is it that they are successful runners. The answer is, consistency. They didn’t move very fast, but they run at the same exact consistent pace the entire race. In life, you probably know someone like that. Someone who wasn’t the most talented person in the world, but they got up every morning, and attacked whatever they did with the same consistent pace, day in and day out. One day they look up and they’ve “Made it” and the rest of us are scratching our heads wondering how? Life is long, slow and steady definitely wins the race.
About mile 8 I learned another valuable lesson. In the marathon, the full and half marathon people start together, all 25,000 of us. Of course that makes for some crowded streets. Around mile 7 or 8, there is a cutoff, that’s where the half marathoners (who I’m taking nothing away from because that’s a feat in itself) turn around and the full marathoners continue on. What I learned is, the road of life is never crowded when you go “the extra mile.” At the cutoff it went from super packed streets, to wide open streets. Why is that? Because not everyone is willing to or can go the extra mile.
If you have clutter in your life, or you feel swamped, go the extra mile. Do you feel crowded and can’t get a moment to yourself? Go the extra mile. The reason it’s lonely at the top is that very few are willing to travel the road it takes to get there. Are you willing?
Finally, the main reason I chose to run the marathon THIS YEAR, instead “one day” like so many people say, was a) to say I’ve done it, but more importantly b) to challenge the greatest opponent I’ve ever faced. No I’m not talking about the 25,000 other runners, I’m not talking about the distance, I’m talking about me. At the end of the day, no matter who you are or what you’re doing, you are your only opponent. It’s never about anyone else. Most people lose to themselves on a daily basis when there is any adversity.
In the marathon, it’s known that at some point, usually around mile 18-21, you hit The Wall. That’s the point in the race where the whole race takes its toll on you, your legs lock up, your body feels terrible, and you truly learn what you’re made of. Instead of fearing that wall, I went in to the race looking forward to finding that wall, looking forward to battling “me.”
I told myself before the race that it was a two entity race. It was me vs. the voice of doubt. Baylor Barbee vs. the voice that says, you’re tired, you’re hurting, you can’t go another step.” You’ve undoubtedly heard that voice in your life too. I didn’t just want to “win,” this was a death match. Somebody, whether it be me or that “you should quit” voice, had to die in that race. We could no longer coexist. You should have that same attitude in your life. You can’t coexist with that voice that tells you that you can’t accomplish something. If you merely just beat that voice all the time, it’s still there. So it has to die. You have to kill it so that you can live a life of “I can” not a life of “maybe I can’t.”
So I set out to kill that voice. The funny thing about life is this; we all have that voice that tells us “quit, you can’t do this” and most listen to it. But what most don’t realize if you keep running forward in life, that voice that says “you’re tired, you should quit,” gets tired and quits on you. Yea, think about that. Same goes with naysayers in your life. At a certain point of doubting you and saying you can’t, they get tired and quit doubting you because they realize you can’t be stopped when you’re focused and passionate about reaching a goal or a finish line.
Early in the race that voice said “you realize you still have more than 20 miles to go and that bridge you just ran up took a lot out of really early in the race.” At mile 8 it said “You should have just signed up for the half like everyone else so you could be mostly done now, but you’re not even a 1/3 of the way yet.” At Mile 10 it said, “it’s almost 70 degrees, that’s extremely hot for this distance and you’re 6’4 225 lbs., you’re going to get dehydrated and your kidneys are going to shut off, you could die.” At mile 14 it said “you’ve ran further than you’ve ever run at one time, and you’re still 12.2 miles away, you should call this a moral victory and quit here.”
I kept my head down and kept running. I was fatigued. Remember, I told you I spent a lot of time praying for this race. God answers prayers, and He always answers them at the right time. During mile 13 when I really started feeling the effects of the hills I had been running and the heat, I See a car pull up, and my sister hopped out. Her and my brother had been looking for me, it was a breath of fresh air, a definite blessing. She ran along with me for at least 11 miles, my brother ran along some, and would then drive to another spot to have hydration and nutrition stuff for me. Both were totally unexpected, but most blessings are.
(as you can see my brother and sister are clearly enjoying this race more than me)
If you tune out the “I can’t” voice, God will always supply you with what you need so that You CAN. Seeing my family there gave me a second wind, yea I CAN DO THIS.
Most of us get to that point, but it’s that second wave of “I can’t” that usually defeats most people.
I was feeling good again, sister running with me encouraging me, and then I hit mile 16. That’s when it got real, so to speak. It was hot, it was humid because I was running around the lake, and my whole body was starting to lock up. That voice said “your feet are burning, your calves hurt, you might have pulled your groin, your legs are heavy, you should stop, you could die,” I kept running. Then it said “Look WAYYYY off in the distance, you see those skyscrapers downtown, that’s where you have to get too, that’s more than 10 miles away, You’ll NEVER MAKE IT.”
In life, we have goals, but sometimes, we have to alter our strategy. Notice, I didn’t say alter our goal, never that, you should always at least get to the goal you set out to get. Notice I didn’t say alter your route or your plan, too many do that and deviate from where they were trying to go, I said alter your strategy. Break it down. Early in the race the goal was to make it to the next mile marker, every time until there were no more mile markers.
I had to change it, it wasn’t make it to mile 18, it was “make it to that tree right there, ok good you made it” now “make it to that rock up there” good you made it. I broke it down, same path, same course, same direction toward the goal, with mini goals in mind to help me reach the big one. For the next 6-7 miles that voice tried to tell me to quit, but I noticed something. About mile 20, that voice started getting less frequent. It stopped trying too hard to tell me I couldn’t. It started to seem that the voice that was telling me to quit, was running out of steam, and was ready to quit itself. By mile 24, I knew I had that voice on the ropes. There was a faint effort by that voice as it gave its last “please quit,” it didn’t have the strength anymore to tell me to quit, and I was too close.
Your life is the same. If you keep going, that voice WILL quit, and you will be successful. I hit mile 25, and that voice of doubt quit. It died. Knock out. Game over. I knew I had 1.2 miles to go and I picked up my pace. I forgot about the my legs feeling dead, I forgot about my back and my shoulders being tight, I forgot about the blisters on my feet because that voice that said “I can’t” was no longer there.
I noticed I was running through a beautiful city. I noticed the skyscrapers were really tall and it was a beautiful day outside. I heard the crowd, I thought about how blessed I was to be able to live in a country where I can run freely on a Sunday morning and not have a care in the world. I thought about how prayer works and God fulfilled that prayer request to do this race and all of the support via blessings He gave me across the last few hours to ensure that I did it.
I heard my mom half a mile away holding her “Johnny Football can’t run a marathon” sign (relax aggies, it’s a joke) and I heard the crowd at the finish line cheering as I came down the home stretch and finished.
Whatever you set out to do in life, let nothing stop you from getting there.