One Step at a Time

How My Marathon Reminded Me of My Path

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

I ran my first marathon a few days (1/20/19) before writing this story. And while I’ve completed an ultramarathon, this was an altogether different experience, one which I’m sure will result in another article.

But the experience of running the marathon reminded me of how it relates to life. It’s really a simple message, too. And it’s a message I have forgotten more times than I care to admit.

I am always looking to the future to figure out what is coming and trying to understand what might be. But what I should focus on is “what is.” And that is this moment — the right here and now. Because that is all I have.

During a lot of the run, I focused on getting to the finish line and what it would be like once I was done — once I accomplished my goal. The problem, however, is it stopped me from concentrating on what was happening at the moment because if I would have been present, I would have seen there were many kinds of wonderful all around me. Other runners, bands, the crowd cheering, kids wanting high-fives as you ran by. It was all there for me to enjoy with each step.

But I spent a lot of it worrying about the future — whether I would make it and if I could get to the end in the time I wanted. However, I realized I would have enjoyed the experience more if I listened more intently to the message I was receiving — and that is I can only take one step at a time and I should appreciate each step I took.

Because I only get to the finish line by taking one step at a time. I will only write this article by typing one word at a time. I will only achieve the goals I set for myself one day at a time.

Photo by Andrew Ridley on Unsplash
“The man who moves mountains begins by carrying away small stones.”
— Confucius

Many of us get caught up in what the ending will be. I did. It’s easy to do because that is what we want to achieve. We envision what it will be like once we have “made it” to our goal. Sometimes, though, we fail to remember the process isn’t going to be quite as fun as achieving the goal, and we give up. But the only way we can achieve that goal is to go through the process. And you can only get to the ending by doing one thing at a time.

I know I sometimes want things to happen faster than they should and my expectations are out of whack on a lot of things. I end up becoming frustrated when events don’t turn out as I want. But what I need to remember is that as long as I remain in the process of trying to achieve my goal, I will get there eventually. It may take longer than I expected, but that doesn’t mean it’s not working or I will not get there.

And you should remember the same thing.

You will get to where you want to go if you want it bad enough. You will have to work to get through the process, the race, the suffering, the hurt, the expectations — LIFE. It will be difficult and you will want to quit but if you keep moving forward, the finish line will eventually appear. It may not be in the time you wanted and you may be tired, but the finish line never moves. And we don’t have to see the finish line to get to the end. It’s there, and it’s always in the same place. You may take detours and go down the wrong street but you can always find your way back to the path.

The path in my marathon was laid out for me. There were cones and people directing me to go a certain direction. I had thousands of other runners near me who could help if I got lost. And while this was not something I worried about in the race, I’ve been lost plenty of times in my life.

But the marathon reminded me my path is whatever I want it to be. I don’t have to be lost. I don’t need others directing me where to go or to tell me where the finish line is, but I also know there are people who are willing to help me if I do get lost. However, I get to define what is on the path and where it leads. And my path is becoming clearer with each day. It’s lined with beautiful scenery, people, happiness, and things which spark joy.

Your path is waiting for you to line it with whatever you want. And I want you to remember you are never alone on your path.

But you (and I) will only get down that path by taking one step at a time.