When I’m considering the next big event to run (read marathon) I look for “race reports” written by previous participants to help me make my decision. These first-hand accounts give excellent insight into the course, the hills, the weather, and all other things related.
Honest retellings are, frankly, much more reliable than the promotional materials you find on the event web sites, although that stuff also has good value.
Yesterday, as I was reading a blog of the San Francisco marathon, it struck me that most race reports have a decidedly negative feeling to them. The most memorable, and most reported, aspects of the races are the moments of suffering or bad weather or tough hills. Having run two marathons myself, I remember those moments quite clearly, and they do tend to resonate. But that doesn’t discount the times of joy and beauty or the elation that came from crossing the finish line on my own two feet.
When I mentioned this thinking to Sally, my wife, she rightly pointed out that most people, when they relate stories about their lives, have a tendency to focus on the most difficult parts of their journey. Perhaps our minds and hearts lean toward the “80-20” rule where 80% of what we remember is kind of bad and 20% is kind of good.
I’d argue, though, that our lives aren’t really that way. I think that 80% (or more) of what we experience is good and even great. Perhaps the other 20% is marked with overwhelming pain and sadness on occasion, and maybe that’s why it takes a bigger portion of our consciousness. And I don’t disagree that the challenges we face are often interesting and stirring, but it’s what we do to overcome the challenges that truly inspires.
Maybe the simple realization that life just comes with joy and sorrow can help us keep a more balanced perspective. “Accept the bad with the good” seems trite, yes. On the other hand, accentuating the negative seems counterproductive to a life of abundance well-lived. We can choose to hurt every day or we can choose to celebrate each day while coping with the hurt. I choose the latter.
And so, after I finish my next marathon, I’m going to write a race report that never mentions how hard it was. No, wait, I’m going to use the “20-80” rule where 20% of the story focuses on the hard parts and the other 80% tells you what a thrill it was to run across the Golden Gate Bridge twice. I may not have run my best time, but the run will be among my best of times.