More than 20 Lutonian’s participated in London Marathon 2021 and here are some of their top lessons from the experience:
- It’s rare to experience so many people who wish well for you without expecting anything in return. This is coined in the single word ikraam – to honour another – and was the key driving force behind the Prophet’s(SAW) concern for all humanity, if they remained unaware of their true purpose in life.
- Its estimated that only 1.5% of the UK population complete a marathon in their lifetime. Tawfeeq is both the ability and the opportunity to do something and we recognise that this nothing is possible with Allah(SWT) blessing us with the intent, health, commitment and strength to fulfil it. This should only increase us in our gratitude to our Creator and Sustainer.
- Steadfastness through months of training and persevering through a 26 mile trek seems superhuman. And life feels like a move from one challenge to another – a true test of ones will. No doubt, one day, we will have to cross a bridge from this life to our final destination – Jannah or Jahannum. The question is, have we invested in the right activities and training in this life which will give us value for that final marathon?
- Although we all committed to 26.2 miles, everyone goes through their own journey and they are rewarded according to their effort, not their completion time. I saw people in wheelchairs, multi-person costumes, high heels, some very elderly and some visibly unwell and even a phone-box. Witnessing this diversity, my effort didn’t seem too great.
- Look below the hummock – most of the iceberg remains submerged. We are rarely recognised for the persistence through pain, discipline and sacrifice in training, overcoming disappointments and fighting waning motivation.
- The journey is truly more important than the destination – the secondary benefits of improved mental and physical wellbeing, diet regime, time management, incremental gains, positive influence and camaraderie with fellow runners are priceless.
- Never underestimate the value of positive voices in your life and think about how many times you encourage others. It is said that the spectators carry you the last 4 miles of the marathon but I felt they carried me the first 20 – their enthusiasm, energy and well-wishing are a form of nourishment rarely experienced in life.
- Remind yourself of your massive WHY. Whenever I felt the temptation to slow down or walk, I reminded myself of the great cause and purpose behind this effort and how minor 26.2 miles felt, if this was my son waiting at the finish line in need.
- How true the adage that if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together. Critical to sustained, long-distance running is coaching and guidance from experienced friends and practitioners. I am indebted to the Luton Lions who helped motivate, advise and welcome me even facilitate personal training in a private gym.
- In life, you come across dreamers or doers, although rare are the dreamer-doers. A goal without a plan is just a dream. Commitment to regular training based on a well-developed plan is critical.
- You can learn everything about yourself in 26 miles. Your body, mind and spirit are unique and you need time to learn about them – as you build up to marathon day, your weekly 20-30 miles of training help you learn what you are comfortable with and you need to experiment with rest, nourishment, challenge, sounds, sights and challenges. My favourite definition of an expert is the one who has made the most mistakes – make them and learn from them all before the final exam day. Every one of the runners I have spoken to, even the elite 2:30 finisher, got leg cramps. Despite that, every one of them finished, even if it took + 6 hours.
- Invest in the right things. Having experienced back problems earlier in life, I am certain the best investment I made this time round was my running shoes – Brooks Ghost every time. You don’t need much but I’d recommend getting a running watch, an armband, electrolyte tablets and running gels (essential after you pass 13 miles of non-stop running).
- Take small steps – a mountain is just a mass of pebbles and rocks. Slow, steady, gradual, regular growth will help you win the race. Shortening your stride, increasing your cadence and slowing down is one of the hardest things to do when you want to finish. It is said that when you’re making audacious plans, think big but when making progress, think small.
- Thank everyone who makes this happen. God. Your family. The organisers. The crowd. The well-wishers. The donors. The charity. The beneficiaries. You are the sum of their effort. Always be grateful.
We believe everyones got a marathon in them and this was proven by our friends who ran despite serious injury and setbacks (slipped disks, difficult Covid experiences and personal loss). Remember, challenge is the long form of change and what seems hard now will one day be your warm-up. Just so long as you put your shoes on today and take action towards whatever marathon you are driven by.