So, every self-respecting advisor, teacher, coach, and basically any other adult who talks to you for more than ten minutes will tell you all about the merits of goal-setting. However, I’m in college, which is a very fluid time in life when I know very little about my future. Thus, people telling me to have goals is more stressful than helpful.
But there is one goal that I have been committed to, so far, for about a year now. And that is to run the Boston Marathon. This goal is pretty much entirely in my control, and it’s about something I’m already very passionate about and on track to achieving, making it a realistic goal. The problem with goals about my career is that there are a lot of other factors in play with most of those decisions, and right now I’m still exploring so much, that in a month or two I probably won’t want the exact same things. Personally, I tend to get very attached to goals and they become very concrete in my mind, which unfortunately, can sometimes cause stress when it comes to situations like this. So, we’re sticking with the running thing.
The Boston Marathon. A world-famous event, the Boston Marathon takes place on Patriot’s Day, now better known as Marathon Monday, and thousands of athletes run the 26.2-mile route through the city. There is every type of person there, from world-famous runners paid just to include the hashtag in a tweet, to people who have never run a full marathon before (but got in due to connections or as charity representatives, since you have to qualify by running some other marathon in a certain time). The whole city celebrates, strangers stand shoulder to shoulder cheering on other strangers, and the running community gathers and celebrates our day of fame.
This is a particularly special community, I think, because the people in it generally are kind, inclusive, and have no sense of elitism or entitlement. All it takes to be a runner is a pair of shoes and the will power to get up and run instead of stay in bed another hour. Sure, shoes can be expensive but you can also find tons of deals, and maybe you won’t have the newest, brightest billion-dollar Nike shoes, but you’ll have running shoes and they’ll work just as well. But it’s not like sports like lacrosse or football, where all the padding or special uniforms or other equipment is necessary, and thus money is required to be part of it. There’s also an understanding amongst runners, a recognition that every mile you’ve run, every aching knee and discolored toenail you’ve iced, and every finisher medal and race t-shirt has been yours and yours alone to earn. Yes, teams are great, and all people should be part of a team, but there’s something special about the individuality of running. In a marathon of 30,000 runners, it’s not about who comes in first or last, it’s about every single person that managed to overcome the mileage, the pain, the relentless sun, and the unforgiving route (seriously, anyone who says running for 20 miles, then running up Heartbreak Hill, and then continuing to run for another 6 miles is easy either hasn’t done it or did it and is lying to try to impress you). That being said, there are tons of running teams and clubs in schools and in cities and towns. So, you’re not isolated as a runner, not at all. But your teammates are a support network, people to encourage you to keep going even though you’re exhausted, a group of your peers that all recognize both the hardships you overcome and the triumphs you earn.
So, my goal is to run the Boston Marathon. I’ve had to adjust it a bit: at first I wanted to run it by the time I finished undergrad, but I started my marathon career a bit late (I only ran my first one in May 2016), so I need a little more time. I want to qualify and run it well, you see, so I figure I should spend a few years building up my marathon repertoire. My new goal is:
Run the Boston Marathon by the time I am 25 years old.
I think I can do it, if I really kick my ass. And every year, on Marathon Monday, I will watch the racers go by and be inspired all over again. I even bought a poster that has the names of all the runners for this year, so I’m going to keep it as a reminder to get my own name on it. At the Expo, a huge marathon-weekend event that can only be described as Disneyland for runners, I got a little bracelet charm that says “26.2 Boston”, so again I have a physical reminder (besides the aching legs and discolored toenails). Also, now it’s on the internet which never forgets or erases anything, so I have to do it now.