There are some people, coaches in particular, that come into your lives and leave a lasting impression, no matter how old you are. When I was about six years old, I swam with the Phoenix JCC's summer swim team, under coach Brian Metheny. Coach Metheny had a manner about him that inspired us all to strive for our best, but he made it fun - and after years of coaching myself, I can't imagine successfully convincing a bunch of 6 to10 year-olds that working hard during swim practice was awesome. But Coach Metheny did. He had a saying: "hard work, done well, feels great" that instilled a swell of pride from all of his swimmers at an early age after we finished our races, knowing the satisfaction of an accomplishment well-earned.
It was a year ago that I started training for the NYC marathon and subsequently started blogging my experience, first on my Team in Training website, and then here. The blog, and subsequently, the journey, has given me a lot of space for reflection. It was during some of the most difficult parts of marathon training where I learned how hard I could push myself, physically, but mostly mentally. I didn't realize how much of an impact that the marathon had on me until recently.
I don't think I ever thought of the marathon as something I would do only once. It was hard, but worth it, and I always thought that when I crossed the finish line, that it stood for more of the beginning of my journey in running, rather than a singular accomplishment - something to do, then only bring up again if it suited me in conversation. "Oh yeah, well when I ran my marathon..." I completed it to test myself, and because I wanted to see what I was made of.
Today, I crossed another sort of finish line, and once again, I feel like this accomplishment marks the beginning of something, rather than the end. Today I finished my final exam of law school, and on Friday I will graduate as a Doctor of Jurisprudence. The huge significance of this hasn't quite set in yet, but I know one thing - I couldn't have done it without having first done that marathon, without learning what it felt like to feel like absolute shit in every part of your body, and to come head to head with a nagging, continuous desire to stop, to quit, and to take the easy way out. And to ignore that desire for however long it takes until you get to your goal, not with any tangible reassurance making it any easier, just with the fortitude to stick it out and do what it takes to finish.
When I walked out of the law school today, I felt like that six-year-old kid again in a blissful reality of awesomeness of my own doing. I had finished. Hard work, done well, feels great.