I ran the Portland Marathon in October 2014. This sounds pretty straightforward. Make a goal, do the necessary training and preparation, complete the goal, check it off. The reality of a major goal like running a marathon is a bit more complicated.
In my mind, I “ran” a marathon. Rather, I finished a marathon. I trained with a stress injury and wound up having to walk the last eight miles. The course shifted to the alternate route about half an hour early. I had to stop at every. single. stoplight. while limping along on a bad ankle. I couldn’t even run the last few yards where my family was waiting. There are no victorious pictures of me crossing the finish line. They were out of shirts in my size, as well as the next size up, so the shirt I got looks like I stole it from my husband. They were also out of roses and tree saplings and commemorative coins. So I have a finisher’s medal, a friendly relationship with a physical therapist, and a reality check. The reality of my goal to run a marathon is that it’s now twice as strong as before.
Endurance running has an appeal for me that would be impossible to explain to my younger self. I recovered from fibromyalgia, so being able to run at all is a novelty that has not worn off, even after four years. Running is tranquility. The farther I go, the farther I want to go. One day, I’ll do ultra. What I learned while hobbling along my first marathon course was that it is still a peak experience for me, even when I’m failing at it. Only backpacking expeditions can match it for intrinsic fascination and satisfaction. I just love being out there, and I can’t wait to get back.
Any outsider would probably think it was fair for me to describe myself as a marathoner. I went 26.2 miles on foot. I ran half marathons or greater on a weekly basis all summer. I think about distance running every day. I have future plans to run as many marathons as I can. I think of a marathon as the basis for an exciting vacation. So the fact that I’m still rehabbing my foot and haven’t run a quarter mile in six months doesn’t really matter. Marathon running has become part of my identity.
Therein lies the purpose of goal-setting and the secret behind successful habit formation. When it changes who you are on the inside, goals are no longer required. Habits don’t even feel like habits any more. You do it because it’s become part of your nature to do it.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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