How Ready Are You To Take Ownership? More Lessons From The Marathon

Photo by Miguel A. Amutio on Unsplash

As I was wrapping up my training for the Pittsburgh Marathon, I was reading a wonderful book called Reinventing Yourself by Steve Chandler. While the overarching theme is of course reinventing yourself, there is another biggie: Owner vs. Victim. This distinction is all about choosing between Ownership where you truly own your experience or being a Victim where your experience owns you. With the first, you win, no matter what the result. You take the result, look at it and learn from it. With the latter, you lose even if you’re a so-called winner. Steve summarizes it so well when he says Owners look to see what they can get from an experience while Victims simply try to get through an experience. Much more on this later…

I had been training hard since completing the Philadelphia Marathon in November. After finishing the Philly marathon in 5:39, I was shooting for an improved finish time of 5:30. Knowing that the Pittsburgh Marathon was challenging and filled with hills, I tried to replicate that in Florida, where I live. I did bridge repeats over the Edison Bridge, a local bridge. I did speed workouts some of which were the equivalent of a half marathon. I felt as ready as one can be. And while I steer clear of a mindset that says I deserve a result, I felt that if I achieved my 5:30, I would have earned it.

One thing I didn’t do till a few days before was check the weather for the day of the race. My philosophy is why spend time worrying about something that you have absolutely no control over? Yet, I couldn’t fully ignore it so on Thursday, I started checking the forecast. It was not good. A 90% chance of rain throughout the day and temperatures in the mid 50’s. I wasn’t concerned. I’ve seen predictions of rain turn into beautiful days and the other way around. In fact, as a former stockbroker, I often joke that the only people that get paid whether they’re right or wrong are meteorologists and stockbrokers!

Photo by Inge Maria on Unsplash

I continued to check the weather and there was no change in the predictions. Wanting to play it safe, I purchased a bright yellow Pittsburgh Penguins rain shell once I was in Pittsburgh. It was thin, light, and waterproof. I was hoping I wouldn’t need it but I had a feeling I would.

The day before the race, my thoughts were going back and forth. They ranged from “this is going to truly suck — a hard course in non-stop rain” to thinking how I could own this situation. I wish I could tell you that my positive mental attitude ruled the day. It didn’t. My thinking continued right up to the minute I walked out the door of my hotel at to meet my cousins and head to the course. I went outside to a lovely morning in the mid 50’s, wearing my bright yellow Penguins jacket.

This changed as we reached the start line at 7:30. The first drops of rain hit. Then more. It eventually was full on rain for the first of numerous downpours throughout the day. I ran the first half of the marathon at a much faster pace than I had been training for. By the mid-point where half-marathoners go down one path and full participants go another, I was seriously considering quitting. My shoes were full of water and my body simply hurt. Most challenging of all, a thoughtstorm in my head was playing versions of top hits including: “How stupid are you for doing this?”, “You could just quit now” and a new favorite, “Who would even know?”

I’m fortunate that it became logistically impossible for me to quit. We were crossing a bridge that had a substantial barrier as we split off, so I no longer had a choice. It was now impossible for me to back out of my commitment. I was in this thing for the long haul, the next 13 miles.

I made the choice to go full Owner! Even though my body was feeling less cooperative, I decided I was going to finish this thing even if I had to walk it. This new mentality was put to the test immediately as we got off a highway that led to the first of several monstrous hills.

But something had shifted. I was no longer going for a result and made the choice to own the moment. To see what I could get from this experience as opposed to simply getting through it. It didn’t take long…

I came across a runner that was at this point, walking. I greeted him the way most of us do when we’re struggling with a marathon. “You got this,” I said to a young man named Anthony. As we walked together, he shared that this was in fact, his first marathon and he was feeling discouraged.

I told him I’ve done many of these before and the only objective for your first is to finish and assured him we’d both be doing so. We walked together for about two miles, sharing stories and lifting each other’s spirits. As I began to feel more capable again due to the walk break, I told him you’re going to finish this and that I was going to try to do some running (we had come to a downhill at last!).

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

As I continued on, I came to the steepest grade around a residential neighborhood in Oakland. I caught up to an elderly gentleman walking at a very intentional pace yet somehow, he seemed relaxed. He seemed to know exactly what he was doing. Our paces were a good match and as we walked side by side, he said we were coming to the top of the hill. I asked him how he knew this — had he done the course before? Yes he said. 31 times. That’s right 31 times!

I learned I was walking next to the incredibly inspiring Frederick Davis III (scroll down this article to learn more) This amazing man, 74 years young, has run more than 100 100 mile runs. Suffice to say I was beyond inspired. He shared stories of his runs, his life and what he has learned on the run. What a privilege to have spent time with him. What a gift to be able to learn from this individual. Talk about an Owner!

As the miles wound down, I continued to track my time but with a different mindset. I had run fast enough in the first half that finishing in around 6 hours had become my new goal. As such, I was walking at a good clip. What truly made my day was that as I was about a mile away from the finish line, a runner came up to me and said “I just want you to know, this is my first marathon. I kept my eye on your bright yellow Penguins jacket the whole time to keep me going.” I was thrilled to learn that I had helped pace a new runner to her first finish line.

So, did I finish? Yes (in 6:03). More importantly, I’m excited to share what I got FROM this special experience:

We move up the ladder when we’re being of service: When I decided to sign up for this marathon, it was because I had a great experience at my last one. I enjoyed the scenery, I appreciated the other runners and simply felt good. I wanted more. And I wanted better. It was about me. When I switched gears in the middle of this marathon and decided to relax into whatever this was going to be, sharing, learning and helping others proved to be a much richer experience than it would have been to shave 9 minutes off my time.

Flexibility is the key to keeping our commitments: In a coaching course I did with Melissa Ford called Intentional Prosperity for Coaches, we all had to pick a theme song. I chose “Hold on Loosely” from 38 Special. Holding on exemplifies commitment — think of holding on to a steering wheel as you’re heading in a particular direction. The loosely aspect acknowledges the need for flexibility, adaptability and a willingness to not know every step. In fact, while it sounds paradoxical, sometimes flexibility is what empowers you to keep to a commitment. Bottom line: It takes some commitment to get to the start line but a full commitment to get to the finish line. Flexibility in between makes up the difference.

Everything in life is about perspective: Are you an Owner or Victim? I was going to say Almost Everything in Life is about perspective but then I thought the better of it. It really does apply to Everything in Life. Whether it’s your experience of work, personal life or whatever. We make it up. We create it and always have that ability to do so. So why not experience it as Learning and Growth as opposed to Success or Failure?

Why not Own Your Moment.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Robert Grabel

Robert Grabel

Robert Grabel is committed to serving and does so through his practice Nonprofit Now! Learn about him at