The Marathon Challenge: Building My Inner Citadel

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”-Marcus Aurelius

Recently I finished reading “The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” by Ryan Holiday. I first came across it through the blogger and author Tim Ferriss’ book club. As a fan of Tim’s podcasts, I decided to use the library of “our fair city” Cambridge to give the book a try—I’m glad I did. Holiday’s book was instructive for its honest and straightforward examples of how to apply stoic philosophy to everyday obstacles in life. Stoic philosophy helped me stay positive through a sponsor audit at work.

This week I crossed the 30-day threshold until the Marine Corps Marathon so I wanted to explain my motive for running in more detail than my crowdrise page allowed and discuss what I’ve learned about overcoming obstacles from Holiday’s book and my two most recent training runs.

The first full marathon I attempted was the 2014 Cox Providence Marathon. In the case of Cox, I suffered a knee injury in the final month of training that forced me to defer my entry to May 2015. During a final 20-mile training run in the lead up to the race my right knee progressed from no pain, to a dull tolerable pain, to a severe throbbing one. I had to walk the final five miles after completing the first 15-miles. The experience taught me to always run with my cell phone and a bus pass. Walking, limping rather, with that taste of defeat in my mouth isn’t something I’d like to relive, it was a bitter pill to swallow. The knee pain persisted for weeks afterward; it eventually subsided, but the “what if” never left.

With that, the 18-mile training run I finished last Sunday taught me a valuable lesson. Whenever I talk to co-workers about my training I often get the impression they think it’s insane to run 18 miles. To be frank, I agree; honestly it’s boring, painful, and slow. Lisa would agree that I dread my long runs. Last Sunday’s 18-mile run took me 2.75 hours; I can think of innumerable things I’d rather do with that time. I set the halfway point in front of my apartment building purposefully in case I needed to stop, but also to build perseverance. If I can keep running after 9-miles when the exit is right there and I know I have 9-miles more to go, I see the investment as a net positive.

Life is full of obstacles, many of which may take years to overcome. If I can persevere when the exit is right there, I will eventually succeed. The reward, in the end, is worth it.

-Ryan

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