Running a marathon is becoming more and more of a commonplace activity. The amount of marathon finishes continues to rise annually. Pretty much every runner friend I have has either run one, or aspires to run one. As more people run marathons the accomplishment of finishing one can seem to be lost in the commonality of it.
There are certainly benefits to having marathon running become so common. Large demand has led to better gear, better nutrition, better training plans, groups/clubs to train with and more races. You can save yourself a lot of time and effort by taking the advice of those who have run before you. But, at a certain point it doesn’t matter how many people before you or around you have done it, you have to do it for yourself to call yourself a marathoner. Just because it’s common doesn’t make it easy. It doesn’t shorten the distance. It doesn’t lighten the amount of training required. It doesn’t make it less of a struggle. You still have to put your own feet down on the road, one in front of the other, for the full 26.2 miles. It is still difficult and a major accomplishment not only for each individual who runs one, but for each marathon an individual runner finishes.
One of the things I adore about running are the correlations between running and the gospel and the lessons it teaches me. When I think about how running a marathon is an individual accomplishment independent of the accomplishment of others I think of this quote from Joseph Smith:
We can only live by worshiping our God; all must do it for themselves; none can do it for another.
(Joseph Smith, History of the Church 4:24-25)
We can’t piggyback on the accomplishment of our friend’s marathon, even if they are our best friend and/or spouse, and we can’t piggyback on the depth of our friend’s testimony, even if they are our best friend and/or spouse, mother, father, child etc. If we want to have a testimony, we must do it for ourselves.
Just like marathoning, there are great benefits to having so many who have traveled the road before us. We have volumes of scripture, both ancient and latter-day, filled with “training plans”. We are a member of the spiritual training group when we go to church. We can learn from the training of others to learn from them to become more efficient. But, at a certain point, we have to put our own feet on the road and run our own race. I know sometimes I think that just because someone close to me has gone through something similar and is giving me advice and teaching me that it should also buffer me from the difficulty of learning. They can warn me of the rough terrain ahead, but being prepared for it doesn’t mean I won’t have to traverse it. We have to do the work to gain our own testimony. (For my previous post about the Savior’s role in our marathon of life click here)
Although the general population may not see marathon running as a major accomplishment as they once did, but I assure you that every person who has run a marathon knows and understands what it is like to cross that finish line and those who know celebrate with you. The same is true of strengthening your testimony and receiving your finishers medal of taking upon yourself the name of Christ. The people who have done it, the people who know, recognize what an accomplishment and sacrifice it is and each person who crosses the finish line is treasured!