Hello everyone! Welcome to another running article!

You know, in my experience, there is not much worse than the final mile in a marathon.

Every time I line up at the start line, I tell myself on that last mile I’ll just drop the hammer and sprint across the finish line.

But that’s not how marathons work. Sprinting is not allowed.

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And to be honest, it’s a wild experience to watch your body hit it’s absolute limit.

Even this past marathon, I knew I wasn’t going to hit my goal of sub-3 hours, but I was also only seconds off from a sub 3:20. But even though I had run 26 miles, I couldn’t even sprint that last 0.2 miles to get those last few seconds back. And so I crossed the finish line in 3:20:35 or so.

Even now as I write this it’s hard to think that that is true. I mean come on, you just ran 26 miles without stopping, you couldn’t have just picked up the pace for 1 minute?

But the reality is that no you can’t. And I think that’s what I love about the marathon the most.

And no, I’m not a masochist. Though I might be a little crazy. Let me explain.

Endurance vs Skill

When it comes to sports I like to break them down into 2 categories: endurance and skill. You could also include strength as a 3rd category. But we’ll focus on those 2 for now.

When I think of sports like golf, you require an insane amount of skill, but not that much endurance. I know the pros don’t get golf carts, but still. You can walk, and there’s no time limit.

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Then you have other sports like soccer where the skill is still pretty high to do well, but endurance now also has to be high. You have to sprint around for the whole game nonstop. Of all sports, I think I have the most respect for pro soccer players. Some wild animals right there.

And then there is running. Running is cool because it’s perhaps the only sport that when you compete you are competing on pure endurance.

Yes, there is some skill to running, but I’d argue that the skill comes into play in strategy. How you train, how you refuel, how you refuel during a race, how fast to push the pace, etc. But when you start the race, it’s all about endurance.

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The winner of the race was the person with the highest endurance. The one who can suffer the most for the longest.

That’s what I love about it. I think skill-based sports are impressive too, for sure. But there is something special about endurance. It’s not something you can learn. You learn skills. But endurance is earned through pain and suffering.

Endure Pain to…Endure More Pain?

This brings us full circle to my articles on Running with Joy. Remember that concept?

This is where it really shines. Because, yes, I suffered 26.2 miles in the marathon race. But this was only possible because of the 600 miles I ran in preparation.

I’m reminded of Usain Bolt’s quote: “I trained 4 years to run 9 seconds, and people give up when they don't see results in 2 months.

Because that is the true reality of endurance.

To endure a race faster or longer than the others you are competing with is less about the race itself and more about how much you’ve already endured.

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I heard another professional marathon runner say this about his training strategy. He loves to make sure he gets tons of fast runs in because the more fast hard workouts he does then the more that race pace feels slow. That’s his goal: make the marathon pace feel slow.

How About Real Life?

Now, if you know me by now, you know I’m going to want to use this as an analogy. Because how true is this for real life? The more we endure, the less painful that next trial feels. The further you can go, the more you can push.

This could be any aspect of life, right? I love to write, but I get burnt out at times. And it doesn’t help if you don’t get much traction other than your mom and a couple of close friends.

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But the more you endure, the easier it becomes to keep writing. And keep writing. And keep writing. And maybe eventually you can achieve that big goal of selling the book, changing a life, or whatever it might be for you.

It’s like Bolt said, he trained for 4 years to set the world record. But so many of us quit when we haven’t set the record in 2 months.

Maybe you want to invent something or start a business. The same thing applies there too!

Maybe you love the 9-5 life. I mean, I ain’t hating on it. I live it too.

Our culture makes it like working a 9-5 is something to be looked down upon. But if you love your job, then working a 9-5 can be one of the least stressful ways to live life and super easy to maintain habits and routines.

But, life will still require endurance. Maybe it’s dealing with a hard co-worker. But again, with endurance, comes growth, and with that growth, joy.

And I’ll say it again, that is the promise of trials and suffering that brings us the joy of God.

Because He promises that our trials will grow us into more mature, stronger people, proving our reliance on the Lord.

We can also always rest assured that any trial or pain we experience in this world is temporary. Because Jesus promises that when we are face to face with Him, all the pain will be gone and the tears will be wiped away.

The Last 10%

There is one last truth to this too that applies to all corners of life. The problem with going out too hot on a marathon is that the beginning is not the hardest part.

The hardest part of the marathon where most people hit a wall, drop out, or drop pace is the final 10K.

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On any other day, for those doing marathon training, running a 10K would be a delight. But when you’ve already pushed your body to it’s physical limits over the course of 20 miles, it doesn’t really matter, that 10K is now one of the hardest races you’ve ever done.

And the reality is, this is true of all projects I’ve ever tried. Starting is fun and easy, the middle might get difficult at times but you keep grinding. But the last 10%?

Nope, that’s the part that feels like it takes an eternity.

So what is the secret then?

For the marathon, some of the secrets are to avoid doing what I did and start off a little slower than race pace. Conserve the energy as best you can, and never stop running.

In that final 10K I know that if I slow down to a walk or stop completely to rest for a second, there is no way my body will allow me to keep running.

And so maybe that’s the secret with all our projects. Just keep running. Because if you stop for a second, even with just 10% left, you might not get back to it. So just keep running, finish the work, and cross the finish line.

The feeling of accomplishment will fill you with enough endorphins to carry you onto the next project!

So, whether you are setting out to run a marathon, finish a book, or finish building that shelf in the basement, keep running. And remember, run with joy!