Are you in the middle of a marathon?
I may be a health coach, but I am NOT EVEN CLOSE to being a marathon runner. The closest I’ve come is one horrible and exhausting 6 mile run back in my twenties, when I vowed that I’d only run that far again if my own life or a loved one’s life depended on it. Literally, this may be true (as I’ve found many other ways to exercise that I enjoy much more than running — but that’s another post). My naive twenty- something self did not know that I would be required to run many metaphorical marathons in my life (as most of us do at one time or another).
I would argue that the metaphorical marathons I’m referring to are in many ways more challenging than an actual 26 mile marathon, because of the extremely difficult emotions involved. These types of marathons are the long-lasting, trying, incredibly challenging situations that occur in life —the ones we wish could be resolved quickly— such as dealing with the death of a loved one, a serious physical or mental illness, a child in crisis, a major relationship challenge, or a divorce. These are situations we desperately wish we could sprint through with a quick fix or magic pill. However, “marathon situations” force us to go to battle every day for a much longer time period than we would like.
These situations inspired the saying, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.” I hear this expression often, and it’s usually used to help change someone’s mindset to accept their involvement in a PROCESS that won’t be resolved overnight. It is a journey with many small steps that add up to big distances over time. When we are running a marathon in life, we can become so frustrated and impatient when we don’t have answers or progress as soon as we’d like. Reminding ourselves that this situation can’t be “sprinted through” can help us to appreciate any movement forward on the journey. When we suffer setbacks and delays, the marathon mindset helps us to keep going and not give up.
An important lesson we can learn from actual marathon runners is the concept of conserving our energy. Once we understand and accept that this situation will take time and consistent effort, we can’t keep up a sprinter’s pace for very long, or we will surely burn out. In the same way a long distance runner paces himself or herself, we have to emotionally pace ourselves. Just as the runner takes water and snack breaks, we have to make sure we are refueling ourselves with rest, good nutrition, and activities that bring us joy and relaxation. As all-consuming as the marathon is, we don’t want the marathon to be the only thing our life is about. We still have permission to stop, rest, and experience joy in life.
So if you are in the middle of a Life Marathon, don’t give up! Focus on the step you are currently taking, and when that step is done, focus on the next one. Take care of yourself so that you will have the emotional and physical energy to keep going. Celebrate any progress forward. And embrace your life, even in the middle of running a difficult race. Let’s cheer each other on!
Melissa Jordan is a Health and Wellness Coach that loves assisting clients nationwide to improve their quality of life. She supports clients in creating optimal health and well-being in all areas of their lives, including weight loss, stress reduction, and sleep management. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.