I realized several things about myself when I ran a half-marathon 4 years ago.
I am not a big fan of running. Allow me to be more clear, I HATE running. Running is boring and mundane. For the majority of the past 15 years, I have enjoyed lifting weights and doing intense exercises much more than just running. Mainly, I run or do cardio exercises because I know it is good for my heart and lungs and will keep me healthy. Yet, I have rarely found joy in running alone.
My Friends Were All Doing It
You are probably familiar with the cliche saying that your parents probably told you when you were growing up.
If all your friends were jumping off of a bridge, does that mean you would jump off the bridge too?
I was the smart ass that would usually respond with, “Well, it depends on how high the bridge was and how deep the water was.”
In the Spring of 2014, there was a big half-marathon event coming up in the summer about an hour away from my house. A few of my close friends told me they were going to be running in the event and that it would be cool if I ran with them. They told me, “We can all do it together and support each other.”
They all knew how much I hated running and I had never done a half-marathon before so I had no idea how hard I needed to train for an event like this. One of my best friends Josh talked me into running in the event with him and since we were living together…
We could train together and hold each other accountable!!!
What a delightful idea I thought to myself! We did pretty much everything together anyways and since I hated running, Josh could help me perhaps find joy in it.
And so there we were helping each other get ready for the event. We would run 3 or 4 times a week. During the early stages of our training, we would only run maybe a couple of miles each time we would do our run. After a week or two of this, we would slowly build up our endurance and try to run a little further each day. After a couple of months of doing this and me resenting every second of it during the first couple of weeks, something strange started happening to me…
Running Became Fun
I started to enjoy running!
After a long hard day at work, I liked being able to run and being able to talk through issues Josh and I were facing. We worked together and were trying to open a business together as well.
We talked about issues facing our company and our business we were trying to open up. Josh and I also would talk through possible solutions to these problems. If we were having other personal problems in our lives, we would talk through them too while running. I liked being outside and not being cooped up in an office or some other indoor facility. Running made me feel free and I started to get that “runner’s high” that everybody always talks about.
The endorphins I felt coursing through my body after I completed a run were incredible!
We were inching closer to doing the half-marathon and I was genuinely excited to be able to compete in the event. I had never done anything like this before and was looking forward to the challenge and seeing what my body could endure. Yet, here’s the thing about running…
Running a half-marathon is equal parts mental as it is physical. I was about to learn that valuable lesson soon enough.
9 Miles of Torture
The day of the half-marathon was upon us. My friends and I drove out to the location where it was going to take place and for the hour-long car ride, we were all extremely excited. We were trying to guess our finish times and how hard the race might be. I myself could hardly control my excitement for this race.
Then as the race was about to start, all the runners lined up among the masses of competitors and we waited for the gun to sound.
It was time to show the world what I could do. Brian Kurian was about to run a half-marathon!
I briskly jogged the first 3 or 4 miles and was working on setting a good pace just like Josh and I had trained for during the past few months. One step after another and trying to control my breath, I was making great time. I was very proud of myself for committing to do this race and I started thinking of how amazing I would feel when I crossed the finish line. It would be a while yet before I could cross the finish line because I still had another 9 or 10 miles left but it was okay, I was going to finish this race.
And then the unthinkable happened…
Shortly after I crossed the mile 4 marker, I felt a sharp pull in my right heel. It was my Achilles tendon. I started to feel some soreness in it for the past couple of weeks leading up to the race but I kept training and trying to push through it because I wanted to compete in the race. I was committed and didn’t want to drop out just because of a little soreness. I have always been too stubborn for my own good.
This time I was going to pay for my stubbornness.
Maybe I Should Just Quit
The pain became so bad in my heel that I was no longer able to run or put a lot of weight on it. I still had almost 9 miles to go to get to the finish line. I started limping so that I could keep going on.
I started to think to myself that maybe I should just quit at the next checkpoint when I see a staff member. Nobody would be upset and everyone would understand me quitting. I am hurt and I physically can’t run. If I keep limping like this for the next 9 miles, I will be holding up all the other runners who will finish long before I do. I should just quit I thought, for everyone’s sake.
But when I got to the next checkpoint, a staff member saw me limping and asked if I was ok and if I wanted to quit the race.
Yes, I am fine! I’ll see you at the finish line.
I have no idea why I said that to her. My brain wanted to tell her that I was in serious pain and that the last thing I wanted to do was finish this pointless race. Yet, my heart wouldn’t allow me to quit. I couldn’t physically tell her how bad I wanted to give up and go sit on the sidelines. I’ve never been a quitter. I guess I wasn’t going to start being one today.
And so I limped on.
After a couple more miles of limping, the pain intensified. My heel felt like it was almost on fire and tears started filling up in my eyes. It was very hot at this time of year as well and the humidity was bothering me as well. I was hot and tired as well as in tremendous pain.
I was absolutely miserable.
Still, I kept limping on.
After I passed the mile 9 marker something happened to me…
I said to myself,
I don’t care if I die trying to finish this marathon, I’ll die crawling to the finish line!
And so there it was. I made the decision that I had come too far and that quitting was not an option for me. Either I am going to finish the marathon, or I will die trying. Those were my only 2 options. When you make that level of a commitment, you would be amazed at what you can accomplish.
On and on I went, each step brutally painful just like the step before it. I was taking so long during the race that the staff actually sent two employees to me in a golf cart to ask if I was ok and if I wanted a ride back to the finish line. I told them I will finish the race on my own but thank you for checking in on me. I told them I was fine and I want to keep running. Or, in my case, I wanted to keep limping.
As I passed the mile 12 marker, I realized that I was almost there. I was almost at the finish line, I could see all the other racers off in the distance, drinking water and eating snacks. They were laughing amongst each other and having an immense amount of fun. I could sense their joy and their sense of accomplishment that they must have been feeling. I wanted to feel that way too.
I wanted to feel the joy of finishing this race and I wanted to be proud of the effort I gave. As I kept limping towards the finish line, I felt in my heart that most people in my situation would have given up a long time ago. Most people quit when they face even the slightest amount of pain. Personally, I had been limping for the past 8 miles!
Brian Kurian never quits on anything I thought to myself. I have to keep going, one step at a time.
Then my friends saw me in the distance as I was about 3/4 of a mile away from the finish line. They yelled out to me to support me and cheer for me.
You can do it!
You are almost at the finish line!
Their words of encouragement lifted my beaten down spirit. Yes, my body was bruised, but my spirit was rejuvenated.
And then the unbelievable happened…
I decided that I wanted to finish this race strong. I wanted to sprint to the finish line!
I know what you are thinking.
How in the world was I going to be able to sprint for 3/4 of a mile when I had been limping for the past 8 miles.
For a second, I thought the same thing.
I just didn’t care.
I made the decision to sprint, and so my legs started churning and my arms were moving me forward full force.
I was sprinting. I sprinted the rest of the way and broke through the finish line!
Crossing The Finish Line
It’s hard for me to explain in words how happy I was when I finished this race. My friends and several other runners came up to me to congratulate me and tell me how proud they were of me. They were all concerned for me because it took me so long to finish the race and they didn’t know what happened to me. Yet, the fact that I kept going and stayed determined to finish the race was inspiring to them.
I have no idea how long it took me to finish this race exactly. But I do know that I finished it.
Life is a marathon. You will suffer setbacks and injuries. People and outside influences will make you feel like it would be foolish to continue onwards. I am here to tell you that it is never foolish to continue on your journey. You can overcome a lot more than you might think is reasonable or realistic.
Life is rarely reasonable or realistic.
Cross your own finish line.
Even if you have to limp for the majority of the journey.