Mountains and Marathons

Finally finishing the Chicago Marathon, 26.2 miles

Last Sunday I ran the Chicago Marathon; 26.2 miles through all the neighborhoods of downtown Chicago.   The second time I climbed Kilimanjaro I was joined by an amateur tri-athlete and her husband who ran 3 marathons to train for the climb.  Even he struggled on the summit portion of the mountain and it made me wonder.  If I could climb Kilimanjaro, could I run a marathon?   Well, now I know.  The marathon was an amazing experience and reminded me a lot of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. First was the training.  I’d never run 26 miles before and the most I’d ever walked in a single day was 18 miles on Kilimanjaro (from Kibo to the summit and back down to Horombu).  To complete this monumental achievement (at least for me) took months of consistent training with slow, purposeful progression.  Four days a week I ran varying distances.  On Saturdays we’d do our “long run” starting at 8 miles and peaking at 22 miles.  Just like Kilimanjaro, the key was consistency. The next great think about the marathon, like Kilimanjaro, was the people.  It was my wife, Lisa, who really motivated me to climb Kilimanjaro the first time and it was my brother‘s invitation to run with him that motivated me to finally try a marathon.  On Kilimanjaro, the porters, guides and fellow climbers were the best part of the climb.  In Chicago it was the 38,000 other people running and the 1.7 million cheering fans that made it so special.  Each neighborhood had its own distinct feel and rolled out the red carpet for us in different and meaningful ways.  In Chinatown we ran past dancing dragons, in the Latin area we were greeted by a mariachi band.  There was an Elvis impersonator, a men’s baton squad and even a runner dressed like Captain America. The other big similarity was what it took to complete the marathon and the mountain.  I still remember each aching step to the summit of Kilimanjaro 19,340 feet above sea level.  All I wanted to do was quit, but I dug deep and kept marching.  The last two miles of the marathon were brutal.  My legs were screaming to stop.  But I kept running.  I reminded myself of my success on Kilimanjaro and used it to motivate me through the toughest part of the race.

the Chicago Marathon

In the end, any experience that requires us to dig deep and push ourselves beyond our comfort zone is just like climbing a mountain.  It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to lose weight, fix a broken relationship, or run a marathon.  In the end, we’re all climbing our own mountains.  If you’re thinking of testing yourself and looking for a great way of connecting with inspirational people , a marathon or a mountain are both great ways to do it.
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