One of the overused metaphors on automobile bumper stickers is, “Life is not a sprint. It is a marathon.” However, as anyone who has read my articles knows, I’ve never encountered a metaphor (or a simile for that matter) that I wasn’t willing to exhaust. So, here goes!
Eliud Kipchoge, the most decorated marathoner on the planet, is a man of immense self-discipline, having won a record eight straight marathons. He lives in Eledoret, Kenya with his wife and three children and trains at 8,000 feet above sea level. To put this in perspective, I once fainted after a brisk walk at 5,200 feet in Denver, Colorado.
A unique training aspect of Kipchoge is that he never pushes himself past 80% - 90% maximum effort while on practice runs. He saves it for race day. Maybe this is why he has never sustained a serious injury. Like Kipchoge, on the rare instances I run somewhere, I don’t push myself past 20% - 30% because otherwise I would be sure to injure myself.
What does all this have to do with the coronavirus, you ask? As it turns out, quite a lot! Almost no American alive had experienced a major pandemic until COVID-19. This is frightening new territory for us all. Hopefully, in the next several months, we will sprint to the end to these devastating impacts. But, we will have yet to overcome the systemic reasons why this has been much worse than it needed to be.
Speaking of systemic challenges, in my humble opinion, the biggest threat to peace and security we face in America is an absence of compassion for and an abundance of fear of others who are different. This results in racism, antisemitism and religious intolerance. Which means, as Jewish Buddhists, my wife and I are in double jeopardy. I’m also reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
This societal inequality epidemic is nothing new. The world has been running this angry marathon for thousands of years and in this country since before its founding. In spite of this harsh reality, and even among what may appear to be insurmountable setbacks, we can choose to make a difference -- to view all the people of the world as family, equally worthy of respect.
World peace and social equality don’t have a finish line; they are an unending marathon consisting of daily battles we each wage between our own inner darkness and light. Kipchoge believes, “No human is limited.” So, as long as we remain open to changing from within, I’m confident we can continue to make steady progress in our families and communities, winning numerous sprints along the way. Not only will this attitude and sincere effort benefit us individually, it will surely be passed onto future generations.
If you’re still feeling discouraged about our nation and world’s long-term potential, please follow the advice of Katherine Switzer, who said, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon [on Zoom].” See you there.
Thanks for reading and keep staying safe out there!