I could hear the crowd cheering, I knew he was right behind me. As he surged past me, I knew it was over.
I’ve been running long distance for over two years now. I started out with 5km runs before transitioning into longer and longer distances. These days, on a weekend, I’m prone to running 20km+ whenever time allows. I never really “got” running when I was young, but now I understand it, there’s one very important life lesson I’ve learnt during my time pounding the pavement. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
My first experience of long distance running was back when I was 8, and I would stay back late after school. Since there wasn’t a lot to do, I would sometimes join my friend to train for the upcoming cross-country challenge – a grueling 3km run around our school. I was pretty good at running, but my friend would always do better than me because he stuck to it – consistently training, and always pushing himself to do better. When we ran together, I would inevitably find myself giving up and sitting on the sidelines waiting for him to finish up the full distance – I knew that I’d do pretty well in the race anyway, so I decided to rely on my natural running ability to get me through to the regional finals.
When race day came, I was fast out of the blocks, and stayed with the leading pack until near the end. Only the top 9 runners would go to the finals, and turning to cross the muddy school field, I was in 9th place. I could hear the crowd cheering, and I knew that another boy was right behind me. At that moment, I realised that he was going to overtake me – I was completely exhausted. With the finish line less that fifty paces away, he surged past me. I crossed the line just after him, knowing I had missed my chance. That knocked my confidence a lot – missing out by so little. I didn’t run competitively for another twenty years.
In 2012 I decided to try running again, building up to my first marathon in 2013. Running isn’t easy at first – it’s exhausting, and I found myself barely able to run for 500 meters at a time. I made a decision one day, though. No matter how tough the terrain, or how long the distance, I was determined to give my best, and not give up. I decided to stick to it, and that’s been a difficult choice at times. When it was raining early in the winter mornings, or when I was struggling towards the end of my first half marathon distance, I had to remind myself: stick to it. You’ll never make it to the end if you don’t stick to it. So whilst I learned to love running, loving it isn’t enough; to finish strong you have to push through when you’re feeling down, not let the constant drain beat you – you have to determine that you won’t stay down when you’re down. You have to stick to it.
Life’s a lot like that at times. Over the years, there are many things I’ve wanted to give up on – whether at work or in my personal life. I know I still haven’t mastered the art of sticking to it, but I’m determined to try – because to be there when the goal is achieved, when the event is a success, or when you launch that new initiative, you have to stick to it during the planning, not give up during the discussions, and never quit when you’re facing rising odds.
As I turned the final corner into the the Melbourne Cricket Ground toward my first marathon finish line, I could hear the crowd cheering. In front of me, I could see several runners who had passed me over the final stretch. I was exhausted, but I reached down inside, and at that moment, I surged. I powered past people as I ran towards that finish line, discovering energy I had no idea I had left. Did I finish in the top 50%? No, but that wasn’t the point. I had stuck to it, and the distance hadn’t conquered me.
I completed my very first full marathon in 4 hours 38 minutes.
I did it.