Part I – Lessons from the Run: Mile 18 – Endurance


I recently listened to a podcast with Brené Brown and Dr. Marc Bracket, Unlocking Us: On “Permission to Feel.”  Brené compared the events of 9/11 to a sprint in which tragedy struck and then we quickly came together and moved forward to focus on recovery. Meanwhile our current situation she compared to a marathon. Just a few days later, a friend said to me, “So Des, you’re a marathon runner, what do you know? What do we need to know in this ongoing situation?”

Then yesterday, a friend and coach asked me how I am doing.  Having been pondering this comparison to a marathon, I responded, “It’s mile 18 of a marathon, “the bonk,” the part where I question my sanity, devise multiple plans of escape, calculate how I will explain quitting the race, determine how far it is to the next aid station and what I will tell them to get them to help me escape.  It is now a mental game.  I know from past marathons that in a few more miles, just 20-30 more minutes of running, resolve will kick in and I will finish.  At the moment, my brain is wild with doubt and panic and desperation (not really but in the sense of what I feel in that place of mile 18 of a marathon).  This is a marathon, and I’m in the intense struggle to find my resolve.  I know my body can finish the race but keeping my mind in the game feels somewhat impossible right now. I miss people and need some encouragement!”

There is no clear finish line to focus on in this marathon we are running. There are no fellow runners to keep up with or talk to, no fans line the course encouraging us to finish. True, at that moment, mile 18, in a marathon, I know how much distance I still have to cover and there is a finish line there, unlike now where we do not know when this will end.  But, in that moment of the “bonk”, whether that comes at mile 13 or mile 15, or mile 18, while the final distance is known, the mind cannot comprehend that distance as tangible.  The thought of another 8.2 miles after hitting mile 18 seems no different than the thought of running for all eternity.

Until I make it to mile 20 or 21 and then it clicks and my mind begins preparing and visualizing the finish line, that moment of accomplishment and celebration. From running 11 marathons now, while the “bonk” or that space of mental anguish, may come at a different point, I now know how to play the mental game, to adjust my self-talk to encourage myself to persevere, to find the resolve.  I know I can endure.  Endurance has come with training and experience, and fierce determination.  I hope we find mile 20/21 and that sense of resolve kicks in, but right now, my mind is wild and in the thick of the struggle.

So, I am focusing on my training and on the lessons from life that have taught me I can and will finish this race, too.  My choice of how the marathon ends is mine – will I cut off the course, will I take a rescue ride out, or will I cross that finish line with a relieved and proud smile of accomplishment on my face?  I am leaning into my daily runs, yoga, meditation, writing, and practicing appreciation for the little things.  I am working to give myself, and those around me, grace and space to struggle, reminding myself that the journey looks different for everyone.  And I continue to remind myself of all the times I have overcome, and to coach myself to remember I will once again cross the finish line victorious, whenever and wherever that line might finally appear.

When have you endured and overcome? What can you learn from the struggles of your past when you have overcome that will help to carry you through to the future once again?  How can you embrace the struggle and calm your mind, knowing you will endure?  What does it look like and feel like to endure and overcome, to cross the finish line? How can you hold on to that feeling in anticipation of successfully completing this endeavor? What do you need to do right now to steel your mind for this mental game? How can you make space to train for the finish line while remaining focused on the journey?


Boston Marathon, 2018 – The weather took the endurance lessons to another level…more to come!

Stay tuned for more Lessons from the Run!