Today, I read an interesting article in the NY Times entitled Learning Moderation from the Marathon and was immediately transported back to one of the most humbling moments of my life.
I was 25, and without prior running experience, decided to train to run the LA Marathon. I joined Team in Training, exercised religiously, and got all my friends and family to donate to the cause (and this was before I was on Facebook - I actually mailed out physical letters!). As you may well imagine, I got injured about a month before the run. I was overdoing it and I should have never done so much in the first place. Yet, I kept going to physical therapy, kept trying to work out and up until I started the race, and kept believing that as long as I didn't stop (this is how extreme I was thinking) I would just finish the race and THEN would collapse.
I started running with my friends, my IT band injury immediately started acting up, and before I knew it, I was walking the 26.2 miles by myself. One of my friends did come and walk a mile with me, which I will be forever grateful for. I learned very quickly that even to walk that far, I should have trained more. By the last couple of miles, I was ready to stop.
Just then, a middle-aged woman came up to me, and, slowing down, smiled and offered to walk with me. "I don't want to slow you down," I panted. I was hobbling at this point, and my feet were a mess of pins and needles. "Oh, I'm not trying for a specific time," she said. "I just like walking. Don't get too extreme, like all these runners out there." I realized then that I was putting so much pressure on myself to run this marathon simply because I said I would. Even though I wasn't a runner, even though I was injured - it was so hard for me to just exercise a bit of moderation. If I had, a month before the marathon, decided to walk, I wouldn't be having such a hard time just then.
So, I walked the last three miles with this wise stranger, and finished the marathon (it took me almost 9 hours to walk the whole thing). I learned then that my motto can't ALWAYS be to work as hard as it takes to get something done. Sometimes, moderation really is the key.