Loving What you Hate


“Life is a marathon"

You must have heard this saying, it's almost a cliche now. 

We all know at some level how analogous the marathon is to life. Coach Bill Bowerman points directly to the relationship in this quote to the University of Oregon freshman track team.

“Men of Oregon, I invite you to become students of your events. Running, one might say, is basically an absurd past-time upon which to be exhausting ourselves. But if you can find meaning, in the kind of running you have to do to stay on this team, chances are you will be able to find meaning in another absurd past-time: life."

I’m going to take this a bit further and state if you know how to win at running you know how to win at life. And failing at running means failing at life. A bit much? Please bear with me.

Success at running, like life, can mean different things to different people, but basically, it involves some form of progress and while it isn’t for anyone else to decide what success means to us, it is helpful to understand what determines success.

Ian Mark Manson echoes many when he says what determines your success isn’t “What do you want to enjoy?” It is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences.

If we relate this to running it means we don’t get better by only running on the beach on warm spring afternoons a light breeze at our backs. These positive experiences are a lot of what we run for but if we want to be “successful" we must embrace the negative experiences. The early mornings, the speed sessions running into biting cold wind, the stinging eyes as the sweat streams into them on a hot humid day.

In the realm of our everyday life, it means such things as taking the long crowded commute to a job you’d rather not go to. It means not punching someone you know deserves it. Ian Mark Manson summarizes: Getting good at dealing with the negatives means getting good at dealing with life.

When we see Richard Branson being toasted at the poolside bar, or Meb Keflezighi storming up Boylston street to cross the finish line first in the Boston Marathon, we are seeing the result, not the process. The process is doing the small annoying and hard things that most of us are not prepared to “suffer" through. 

Success is a very personal thing, still, everyone wants it to a certain extent and how to get it is clear. For everything, there is a price and that price is paid in negative experiences. Yet with practice, we can come to see these so called negatives as things to be handled and sort after. You don’t have to be a masochist to understand the joy of suffering. Suffering is a form of pleasure when seen as such and happiness can be derived from it. George Sheehan wrote: "Happiness is different from pleasure. (Yet) Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing." 

It is not a simple matter of taking the good with the bad it is a matter of knowing they are inseparable and that nothing worthwhile can be achieved without fully understanding and embracing this fact of life.

“Life is a marathon"

Let’s live it as such!

Ian Mark Manson https://markmanson.net

Meb Keflezighi https://marathonmeb.com

George Sheehan http://www.georgesheehan.com