I am running the 2011 Boston Marathon to raise money for the American Liver Foundation's Run for Research, and will post frequently about my training here, in these final weeks leading up to the race.
Often, when we make large decisions, it's second-nature to receive advice from others, particularly when we value their perspective and insight. The decision whether to run the Boston Marathon was one instance when I believed insight from most people I knew would not be helpful – if I was driven to run, it would be a decision I'd make for myself, and one I would take full ownership of. Sometimes, there are motives working deep within and all of the advice for or against it won't deter us: this was one such instance.
Admittedly, it's possible I'd have been met with a chorus of support if, back in October, I decided to let many friends, family and others know of my decision to pound the pavement on April 18.
Truthfully, I considered the advice I would give myself, were I to ask for it: a brand new father with several weekday and weekend public appearances, a job that requires excessive hours, especially during often harsh New England winter months, and who already struggles to find time for himself, is considering training from a baseline of zero in October to be conditioned for a marathon in April. My advice would be simple: “It's a great vision, and a great goal, but this just isn't the time.”
Advice and insight from those who care about us often comes from a position of love and caring, which is a terrific foundation, but also poses an inherent problem – lack of risk. Most of the time, those who love us hate, more than anything, to see us in pain, and pain can come from failure to reach a meaningful but difficult and risky goal. Therefore, the advice we give and receive often is geared toward limiting pain for our loved ones, not necessarily toward the greatest potential for difficult gain. The dichotomy is that most of us know our greatest gains often come only when we're willing to take risks, and challenge pain. In these moments, to achieve our end-goal, we must follow our own lead, aware but undaunted by perceived risk. I never thought in my career I'd find occasion to quote Joan Rivers, of all people, but also never thought I'd end up writing blog posts like these, and the quote I found from her on advice rings true to this topic: “Don't follow any advice, no matter how good, until you feel as deeply in your spirit as you think in your mind that the counsel is wise.” I knew, without doubt, that the most logical advice would be not to run, but I simply couldn't reconcile that advice in my spirit, which was determined to see it through and make a difference for liver patients.
Naturally, I was aware that training would be time consuming, difficult and could result in injury. I was obviously well aware that I would not win the Boston Marathon, nor would I even finish with a time a hobby runner could look at without laughing. I still know, on a logical level, there is a possibility I won't be able to finish, though I also know my determination and my training runs serve me well and minimize that possibility. So, I made the decision to run and, as I mentioned in my first marathon post, shared that thought with two of my best friends and colleagues:
Slowly, over months, I let more people know of my plan to run the marathon. In the first few months, I'd hear an occasional vote of confidence, but most responses included: “You don't have time for that!” “Yeah, right.” “You shouldn't be doing that with a new baby.” “Do you know how hard that is?” “I hope you're a good runner,” “What's the point in running if you aren't going to do well?” and even “There's no way you can do it.” Looking at those statements from the most positive perspective possible, one can assume such hesitancy stemmed from a concern for my well-being. Nevertheless, I was glad I had a 10 mile run under my belt before I let the cat out of the bag – by that point I'd seen enough progression to know this wasn't an unrealistic goal, and dismiss any expressed doubt from my mind.
Of course, with the marathon now exactly three weeks away, I have no choice but to spread the word that I'm running – and quickly! If I am to achieve my overarching goal of raising a substantial sum of money for the American Liver Foundation, I must make certain as many people know as possible. Over the last few weeks, responses from those I mention my intended run to have changed dramatically, now nearly entirely positive and nearly unanimous that, given my training runs, I should have no problem completing the marathon on Patriots Day. I hope that's true, and have every intention of making it happen.
My goal in today's post is genuine and pure – to share the lesson I've learned about advice and when to follow it, or not. When we reflect on life, many of us would agree it is from moments of risk and determination from deep within that we have gained – and lost – the most. Those moments are our defining milestones and landmarks, and those decisions are the ones that compose the fabric of who we are. To realize dreams is perhaps the most intoxicating and uplifting feeling. If things don't go as we hoped – if I fail to finish the Marathon – there will be some who will remind us we should have listened. Sometimes, though, our vision becomes reality – we complete the long training runs once, twice or three times per week, ever-closer to our goal, until those who advised against the long road watch with widening eyes, learn something new about us, and realize we just may cross that finish line, after all, having risked a great deal, but gained so much more. I can say, without reservation, that even if I should collapse in the first mile of the marathon, this journey has been worth every moment – learning to lead from within, appreciate the guidance of others but charge forward with a dream, and make that dream a reality by raising funds to help those in desperate need of it.
A very real part of my goal is to make a sizable difference for children and patients bravely battling liver disease. Please...show that you believe in them and in this mission to help them, and click here to donate to the American Liver Foundation Run for Research.
Previous Marathon Posts from Matt: