Yes, according to Oprah Winfrey, running is not only a good metaphor for life or an appropriate metaphor for life, it’s the greatest metaphor for life.
For Oprah, who famously ran the Marine Corps Marathon back in 1994 (when she was 40), the experience of crossing that finish line (and losing 72 pounds during training) gave this very successful woman the same sense of awe and personal satisfaction that running gives any of us non-elite runners who achieve similar goals. Not goals of being the fastest – although obviously we want to do our best – but the fact that we can finish something we hadn’t thought possible, not in a million years. And that’s where running as a metaphor for life comes in for those who’ve run, reinforcing the meaningful life lesson that we seem to need to keep relearning: if you put the work in, the results will come. For the biggest challenges we face, successful outcomes result from having a strong desire to see the goal through and the perseverance to get there.
There’s another lesson that running offers as a metaphor for life, and that’s the importance of running your own race, not trying to run “someone else’s race”, not trying for the impossible. In a recent personal reflection published in the Globe and Mail, Running has taught me some important life lessons, Audrey Danaher describes how she was encouraged to run at her own best pace. If you try to start running too fast or too long before you’re in condition, trying to keep up with others, you’re harming your chance of success. The same principle holds for anything you want to try that’s new to you. In other words, don’t set yourself up for failure; run your own race, metaphorically speaking, in all aspects of life.
In recent blog post in Pointless Overthinking blog entitled Running: It’s Not About Actual Running, Todd Fulginiti describes that same overwhelming sense of accomplishment when he completed his first half marathon. He nails it in identifying why so many of us experience this sense of awe as we cross a finish line, especially the first time:
Running isn’t really about running. It’s about doing things you didn’t know you could do or were reluctant to try. It’s about realizing that you can do difficult things well.
As many of you will know from previous blog posts through the years, starting to run long distances as a retirement project brought me impactful personal lessons very similar to those of Oprah, Audrey, and Todd. After a lifetime of identifying as a total non-athlete, I learned that I really could accomplish a significant physical goal with determination and perseverance. Running at my own best pace. And I will never, ever forget the utter sense of awe and joy that engulfed me as I crossed the finish line in Central Park at the conclusion of the NYC Marathon back in 2011, when I was 65. Running my own race. So for me, although I hadn’t really thought about it before, running is a good metaphor for life. Perhaps not the greatest, as Oprah suggests, but a very good one.
Of course, not everyone can run. Not everyone is able to attempt physical challenges of any kind. Regardless, the lessons offered by running are applicable metaphorically both to challenges we choose to take up and those challenges life presents us:
- Run your own race (don’t feel pressured into doing something the same way others are doing it);
- Find your own rhythm, your best pace (pursue your goals and responses on your own terms, within your own abilities);
- Don’t underestimate your abilities, ever;
- Find enjoyment and personal satisfaction in what you do, always.
What have you taken particular satisfaction from in your life that could serve as a good metaphor for life? I’m sure there are many. 🙂
P.S. I can think of another metaphor for life myself, but I don’t want to spoil the challenge for any of you. Country Girl might think of the same metaphor I have in mind! 😉