Life is Like a (half) Marathon
I ran my very first half marathon this summer. This was a very big accomplishment for a former track and field sprinter who, prior to April, had never run more than four miles at one time. Going from four to 13.1 miles was daunting. So, for the very first time in my life, I paced myself. Distance runners say “pace” all the time, but I am not a “pacer,” I am a sprinter!
I was not just a sprinter on the track, but a sprinter in life. I am very fortunate that for the most part, everything in life has come quickly to me. Natural athletic ability made me good at just about every sport I tried, school was a breeze and I was able to get into the best college in the country (shout out to Princeton University).
Before you think, “this girl is so full of herself,” and quickly click away, I must add that not everything has come easily. Learning foreign languages was always a struggle for me. Even grasping my parents’ native language from Nigeria was a challenge. Sure I can understand when they speak and when I am spoken to, but ask me to construct a sentence and forget it! Spanish is another language fue muy difficile (is that correct)? I got my first C on a paper in a high school Spanish class. At first, I could not understand why. I made flash cards and memorized vocabulary, so why didn’t I get an A? The reason is learning a foreign language takes more than just memorization and quick retention for a test. It takes practice and persistence. This was a hard concept for me to grasp as a teenager, even as a young adult.
So, I quit Spanish senior year of high school and had to take Spanish 101 in college. I used the same memorize-for-the-test approach and was able to get by. Apparently, I thought I was good enough to take my Spanish skills to study abroad in Spain. I was not. I realized after six years of Spanish classes, I could barely speak the language! But in Spain, I was forced to speak Spanish 24/7. During the summer abroad, I slowly picked up the language. Everyday, I got a little better, then a little better, then a little better. A slow pace, not a sprint.
Fast forward eight years later, and I am still learning to pace myself. The half marathon was a good example of that. Instead of running a lot right before the race, I spread out my training over three months, making sure to incorporate short and long runs and get used to running in the heat. (Note to self: next time, I should also practice running in the rain because there was a torrential downpour the day of the race). Still, no matter how much you train, practice, prepare, and pace yourself, you never know what obstacles you will face. But, if you really give yourself time to learn and grow, you can handle whatever challenges life throws at you. I once read somewhere that luck is when opportunity meets preparation. And preparation, I have learned, takes time.
Life really is like a marathon, and not a sprint. I just celebrated a birthday and promised myself that during this year, I will remind myself that just because I am a natural sprinter both on the track and in life, it is OK to pace myself.