The Marathon and the Metaphor

This weeks blog was going to be on ‘Resistance vs Inhibition’ but you are going to have to wait another week for that I am afraid because there has been a change of plan and now I have decided to write about the London Marathon.

Those of you with good memories may recall that this is not the first time I have written about the marathon, but please do read on as this post will cover new ground and the blog serves a much wider audience these days, who in the whole will be blissfully ignorant that I repeat myself. Plus the blog serves a much wider audience these days, who in the whole will be blissfully ignorant that I repeat myself. Sorry, couldn’t resist – thats what we call in our house a ‘dad joke’.

So there I was last night, all set to fire off my epic pre-prepared blog when I got a phone call from a good friend who has been doing some epic preparation of his own in training for the London Marathon. It was good to catch up and it was nice to hear how well he has been doing and how his training regime has brought him additional benefits (namely stopping him going out on the piss too much and getting fitter – obviously). This friend is not the only one I have who is doing the marathon this year either – I have a number of other chums participating and a little cousin who has impressed me enormously not only in announcing it in the first place, but by sticking to it.

But our conversation yesterday evening and my appreciation of his level of focus amidst the other distractions I know he has going on, got me thinking about the marathon, the individuals who choose to do the marathon and the wider metaphor for life that the marathon can represent.

Let me start by saying I have nothing but admiration for not only friends and family, but anyone doing this or any marathon. I readily doth my cap at their discipline, their focus, their positive intentions and the sheer enormity of the task they undertake by signing up for it.

I wont say I couldn’t do it. I wont say that because I don’t want to send the message out to anyone that you should deliberately create insurmountable obstacles or to put it another way, I don’t want to send out the message to never say never say never (i’m knackered just proofreading that sentence!).

But I just am not built for running. My arse sticks out too much and I run like Phoebe out of Friends. If I was running this weekend and the TV cameras covering the event zoomed in on me, you’d probably think I was some brave soul running on behalf of my own charity! When it comes to running I’m just not very good at it and have always been lacking in stamina in that department. I’ve got plenty of stamina in other departments (I could probably give Sting a run for his money in one in particular!) but not when it comes to running.

So hats off to every single person who is running it this weekend for the physical accomplishment alone.

Yet for most the physical goal is only one factor and all of those amazing people who are running the marathon, even if they see it as a personal challenge, will be doing so on behalf of thousands of good causes and will collectively raise over £50 million pounds this year for charity. How incredible is that?

My friend and cousin who were the inspirations for this alternative blog (this weeks blog was going to be on ‘Resistance vs Inhibition’ but you are going to have to wait another week for that I am afraid……see earlier for hilarious joke continuity) are running on behalf of two amazing causes that touch everyone; Havens Hospice and Children with cancer. For them and their fellow runners, the fact that they are doing it on behalf of others and that what they do this weekend will make a positive difference to peoples lives, would have spurred them on when the doubts and the ache and the pains had set in during training.

One thing that I do know is, that for each and every participant that crosses the finishing line this Sunday, they do so as victors and that because of what they are doing on behalf of others – their own lives will be better for it in a multiple of ways. For those of you that are either clients or students of mine, you will know that I focus a lot on the necessity of meeting internal needs throughout our lives and the runners will be meeting a lot this weekend as a culmination of all their hard work.

So what needs does committing and completing the London marathon meet?

Firstly it satisfies for many the importance of having a routine or an element of consistency in our lives by having them commit to a training, eating and abstinence schedule that, despite sometimes feeling tedious and monotonous, is rewarding and fulfilling them in other ways. The paradox is that while many of us yearn for something regular in our lives, we all still need variety and a choice of different stimulants and experiences too and how can this need be met any more, than deciding to do something as crazy and exciting as preparing for and completing a marathon. New experiences are essential to our overall wellbeing and running a marathon is an experience that those who have done one, will tell you sticks in their minds forever.

The third area that everyone should satisfy from time to time and marathon runners do so successfully (and rightly so) is the need to feel self worth, importance and effectuate the feeling of significance. Now that can be an internal feeling, taking significant action, or an exterior accomplishment of any magnitude. But when an individual gets themselves fitter, takes part and then completes a marathon, they’ve reached a significant level of fitness, invested a significant amount of commitment, run a significant distance, raised a significant amount of money, inspired a significant amount of people and changed a significant number of lives. Consequently, that need gets met significantly!

What they also manage to do is satisfy one of our very basic needs, that of making connections, in a number of productive ways. They connect with others when they make their initial application and become part of something and they then connect with a wider audience as they begin to campaign and raise money for their respective charities. What someone also does when they begin the arduous and commendable training schedule, is inevitably connect with themselves at a deeper level; discovering their resources and their capabilities through pushing their physical boundaries and engaging in an increased amount of self-talk. They then connect with thousands of fellow runners and spectators on the big day itself.

What they are also doing when they commit to a marathon, is they are beginning a long and sustained period of self development and growth. Physically they are growing and shaping their body and their muscles, while developing more stamina and more resilience too. Growth can also be defined as proactively moving in a right direction, uncovering new talents and new resources you previously never knew you had. In fact the whole process of committing to, training for and completing any marathon is all about a journey (I bloody hate that expression normally) of growth. Then on top of that, each and everyone of them as helped grow a charitable pot that will exceed £50 million pounds that will be heading in the direction of numerous good causes.

Which leads us to the last and arguably most beneficial need of all. The need to go and give beyond ourselves and contribute to the wider world is a need deservedly met by every single marathon runner who sends out a sponsorship form. Furthermore these men and women who do so, are meeting that special need of contribution in exactly the right way – making personal sacrifices and helping others who cannot personally thank them back. This is the very essence of contribution and why when met, can resonate so positively and be so beneficial to a person. Fifty million plus reasons for why all the pain was worth it and lives changed for the better.

This is why despite the pain, the blisters, the exhaustion, I’ve yet to encounter a marathoner (sure that’s a word) who regretted doing it. In terms of meeting the aforementioned needs they would have ticked at least a couple of boxes and for many would have ticked all of them.

At some level they would have either needed to change significantly to do it during some part of the process, or changed significantly once it was completed. Either way they were the better for doing it.

Which leads us to the metaphors the marathon gifts us with. Moving forward, meeting needs, pushing boundaries, self discovery, going beyond yourself, connecting beyond yourself. If you have read this blog right I am hoping the metaphors and the messages are already hard at work. If they’re not?

Read it again and put yourself in the minds of the thirty or so thousand applicants, connecting with how they would have, or will, be feeling throughout the process. The metaphors will kick in then.

Best wishes to everyone taking part in the London Marathon this Sunday. Each and every one of you is doing something and being amazing! 

Leave a Reply