Every year, my family watches the Music City Marathon from our front porch. It’s humbling and inspiring to watch 5000 strangers pass you by, 20 miles in with 6 more to go.
I always tell people I am not a runner, so part of me thinks these 5000 people are crazy. On the other hand, watching them makes me question my “I am not a runner” statement in the first place.
Watching these “runners” pass for hours, you realize there is no such thing as “a runner.” These are just people. These are people challenging themselves. These are people reaching for a goal.
It’s a 90-pound, 70-year-old woman, and a 270-pound, 20-year-old man.
It’s a graceful Kenyan, and a rickety man with scoliosis.
It’s the parents pushing their physically disabled children in strollers, and a fallen soldier’s Mom running in boots.
It’s a survivor “running for a cure,” and a loved one running in memory.
Some take long strides, some shuffle. Some have bodies that remain still and calm. Others seem held loosely together by thread, body parts clacking and crashing with every stride. Some ignore our cheers; some are in a zone; some cheer back.
As with most of my experiences, I wondered if there were a lesson to learn here about education, about community, about life. Surely, there is a metaphor in this profound example of human endurance. Surely, there is a reason that watching this marathon is so emotional.
Here’s what I’ve got:
Each has his own motivation. Whether we are talking about marathons, relationships, education, or careers, we are all motivated by something – and our motivation is unique to us. Even those we deem “unmotivated” are simply motivated to do nothing. Either way it is motivation. And, if we want to engage them, relate to them, or educate them, we must tap their motivation.
Each has his own style. Running, learning, or communicating, our “style” is a combination of our nature and our nurture. It is in some ways developed and managed by our motivation and our opportunities, and in other ways by things beyond our control or beneath our consciousness. So, if we want to relate to others, to love them, to learn with them, we must be open to their style. We must see style as part of who they are.
Each has his own pace. We live in a do-more, be-more society and our culture tells us that winning is the goal. Winning, however, doesn’t have to be externally defined or culturally recognized. It can be individual and internal. Self-actualization comes when I can define what winning is for me. So, if we believe in each other and that each of us has purpose and power, we must broaden the parameters of success and celebrate each at his own pace.
In a marathon of 5000 runners, there are 4999 losers, and none of them lost.