… I finished my first marathon. On October 7 2012, beaten and bruised, still overweight, I was crawling towards the finish line of what eventually became the start of my new life. I finished 42km for the first time ever, just a month before my 42nd anniversary, in 5 hours and 20 minutes. Looking back, I can safely say I walked more than I ran, but still, I finished in time.
What followed was really hard to imagine at that specific time. I was too tired, adrenaline was running too high, and I simply didn’t have the capacity to fathom the unfolding of the events. From that humble and almost ridiculous beginning I ended up being an ultra runner, finishing dozens of marathons, both in competitions and in training, I participated constantly, for years, in ultra-races longer than 100 kilometers, and I even completed one of the hardest ultras in Europe, (UltraBalaton, 222km). I also did a couple of 48 hours races and a 24 hours one, in which I managed to bank over 100 miles.
There were many ups and downs, and some of the fights I chose, I didn’t fight, in the end. I learned to listen to my body, to understand the difference between short term and long term damage and I learned how to choose the safest way, in the middle of the action, while still sticking to the goal. For instance, I had another attempt at UltraBalaton, the year after I finished it first time, with the goal of getting a better time. Couldn’t do it. I had to stop at kilometer 145, because I knew the physical damage would not be worth it. I never felt sorry for that. I did the right thing. Just days after that decision I was running again, instead of recovering for months (which would have happened should I have forced myself to finish a race I already finished once).
But all this is behind me now. I’m not putting it here to brag. I don’t think there’s anything to brag about it.
I put it here as a reminder of what are we able to accomplish if we just stick to the task at hand. All those achievements came as a result of constant, humble, persistent training. More often than not, that training was dreading. It was just a relentless fight against resistance, boredom, complacency or pain. It wasn’t by any means spectacular. Yes, some of the moments of the journey were indeed spectacular, those at the finish lines of these events. But they were just sparkles in a constant darkness.
I didn’t do it for the sparkles. I did it to learn how to keep pushing through the darkness. To create and maintain the habit of pushing through, of not giving up, of sticking to he goal, of putting in the work.
We learned to plan and get ahead short term and we got pretty good at that. We can plan and execute 2 weeks sprints, 6 months challenges, even a one year project. But we lack the ability to even understand what we can do in longer time windows, like 5 years, for instance, or 10 years, or more.
For many of us, the enormity of what we can achieve is so overwhelming, that we simply cannot believe we can do it. And I’m saying this not in the sense of “oh, you wouldn’t believe how much better your life would be if you just do x or y”. No, because that still operates at the same level of understanding. You still think to improve your current life, as you perceive it now.
I’m saying that we simply don’t have the capacity to fathom what we can become. In the same way we lack the capacity to instantly speak a foreign language, it’s just something beyond our current level of understanding. But once we start learning, once we start practicing every day, once we put in the work, a new world opens in ways we never thought possible.
I’m not saying we can become everything we dreamed of, that’s a given.
I’m saying we can become way more than that.