It starts with shoes. Don’t mess with the feet. Get it right, down there at toe-level. Cushioned socks, too. Then exercise. Get the right stretches in all the important places. And build those long muscles. Go for aerobics – build up wind and stamina. Gear – shirts and shorts – inspires us. But for perspiration, wear things that wick sweat away.
It continues with NOT running. As in, don’t overdo distance at first. Don’t overextend muscles and “pull” something. Grow into longer time spent on longer courses. Listen to the body. It will talk.
Plan water and energy during the run. Don’t get underhydrated. And carry enough sweet goo to swallow at just the right time for the power kick. Eat well BEFORE the run, days before. Listen to your body.
When the gun goes off, till the final tape is crossed, pace yourself. You are competing with yourself, not others.
This running you is different from the daily you. Your daily self could be a blog-poster, media influencer (we all wish!), accountant, programmer, nurse, teacher, student – you could be anybody with any skills. But all those skills will not get you to the end of a marathon in good shape. It takes something different, something special that doesn’t happen unless you go after it, prepare for it, build up endurance to succeed in it, psych yourself up mentally to endure it.
A marathoner chooses all the preparation, the training, the pain-or-no-gain fixation, and makes a running life that is at least as exciting as the daily one. Probably more exhilarating and more interesting (cool gear, too!).
Fall is marathon season. So, join me in a thought experiment. This time RUN! You have 5 minutes to grab what you can, find who you can, and run out your door and run all night on a course that is unmarked in the dark. No special shoes. No muscle stretches. No water or energy goo. And no clear end with a “finish” tape.
All that you were in your day life, is gone. What you were planning to be, to do, to build, is gone. And the marathon that goes for who-knows-how-long, has no end point in sight. You had no choice, no warning. No advance notice to prepare for the run of your life.
I got to Zaatari refugee camp in 2013. I felt all doors were shut in my face, my life turned completely upside down. Full of fear and alienation. My only companions the heat of sun and cold of night. - Mahmoud now 28.
A refugee has no choice – just run in the refugee race – totally surprised – and no daily self to return to. The marathon that no one can stop, that no one chose, that no one prepared for.
Now the suddenly unexpected runner has to figure out the “other life” that does not yet exist – the life that is not about running. The life that includes choices and new skillsets to learn. Hard? Much more impossibly harder than any words can express. Rethinking things. Regaining confidence – the “I-can-do-this” inside thing. Reacquiring self-identity to build a future on.
Mahmoud got a chance to complete college in Jordan in business admin – while also developing a passion for coaching others. To give back to the community he loved, he made special efforts to learn about violence directed towards women and girls. He became a trainer/leader for young men in the camp to help them change behavior and mentality that turned anger and frustration onto women.
This is where Questscope comes in. Inside the chain-link boundaries of a refugee camp, we make a space where a life can be rethought and rebuilt. The refugee runner rediscovers their daily self, with new options, new directions.
Today I’m a trainer with Questscope. I work with youth to increase their awareness and develop their skills. My goal is to help create a community that appreciates women and provides a safe environment for all of us. – Mahmoud, again.
This does not make war and suffering good. But people can make good of suffering – finding themselves as new people with new lives. Resilience is a word for this - to come back stronger and better than before the calamity.
This remarkable ability of refugees to reconstruct their lives creates a deep humility in me as I observe their capacity to turn deadly sufferings into liberated lives. I am totally awed at their resilience. And this awe energizes us all as we become partners in figuring out what is next.
Questscope is like an aid station along the way for (unprepared!) runners. We are there with more than a water bottle and a sugar snack. We listen, we provide opportunities, we support them as their talents and vision guide the choices they will make.
And you are there with us.
Glad to have you on the course. Pace yourself, dude.