I ran the Rim Rock Marathon today in three hours and thirty minutes. That’s a respectable time, though hardly a course record. But it’s important because it marks a transition in me from someone who has skated by in life on natural talent to someone who sets goals, works hard, and achieves them.
I’ve been gifted in life with an abundance with the sort of intelligence that makes it easy to excel in academic environments. But, to my chagrin, I have most often used my intelligence to shirk rather than excel. In high school, it was a point of pride to earn “A”s on exams while completing none of the homework. I’m living proof that it’s possible to ace tests without ever actually learning the material. I’m good at taking tests; I always have been. High marks aside, my math skills today are notably weak. Not because I’m incapable of it, but because I’ve never worked at being good at math. And math is but one example.
College was much the same. It was less a point of pride to be a Dean’s List slacker, but I nevertheless persisted in the mode of doing the bare minimum required to outperform the majority of my peers (as though the point of college was to earn relatively high marks, rather than to learn). In retrospect, I’m ashamed of the opportunities I’ve had that I’ve squandered on being mediocre. Naturally talented, but lazy.
Well, the joke’s on me. It turns out, in the real world, being naturally talented can only take you so far. Being talented and saying yes to opportunities as they arise can take you places–good places even. But if there’s something you truly want in life, nobody is going to just hand it to you. I’m learning that you have to work for it.
Which brings me back to marathons. The first marathon I attempted, I didn’t train and managed only half of. I should mention that I’m a naturally talented runner. I’ve got great genes. My dad has qualified for the Boston Marathon five times, and run it twice. My brother similarly a strong runner. Two years ago, I ran the Colorado Marathon. I trained halfheartedly, bonked, and crawled across the finish line in a measure of time unbefitting a capable 26-year-old male athlete.
What makes a marathon a great accomplishment is that you can’t skate by in a marathon on natural ability or good genes. Running a marathon requires work, commitment, and training. Which is why today’s marathon is important to me.
I’ve had enough of just skating by in life. I am remaking myself into someone who works hard for the things I want. Someone who leverages natural ability with a greater measure of hard work. Someone who makes the most of everyone opportunity given, and who creates his own opportunities. I am learning to be a better version of myself.
Today is symbolic of that. And I hope that today is the first and least of many accomplishments to come gained by hard work and dedication. My accomplishment today is a mild one, shared with the half-million other Americans who run a marathon every year (many of whom run much faster). But today I add a new item to the short list of things in life I’ve done that I’m proud of. Not for the accomplishment of running 26 miles, but for the work and training I put in before hand. This is the new person I will become.