"You will never be the same", friend Stephen told me before my first 26.2 mile run. I was skeptical. Nobody is ever the same; life means constant change, from moment to moment. What difference does doing a marathon make?
Well, Steve was right, in a big way --- it just took me a while to realize it. There's a palpable sense of quiet satisfaction that somehow comes from setting oneself an ambitious goal, planning an attack on it, working hard for a long time, and then successfully finishing the quest. One is rewarded with a feeling of confident competence --- rather like a relaxing aura. Daily troubles aren't quite as troublesome as they once were. It's easier to recognize things as the unimportant small stuff that they really are, ephemera not worth breaking into a sweat about. And I smile to myself more often now, for no reason. Maybe I'm even easier to get along with, or so I imagine. (see also EinBenStein, 19 Sep 2002, and the offbeat movie Rustler's Rhapsody for humorous use of the phrase "confident heterosexual" ...)
A few weeks after my first marathon a fellow Boy Scout father, Philippe, approached me at a troop meeting. "Welcome to the club", he said quietly, as he shook my hand. I was embarrassed, not least because both Philippe and Steve are real runners --- they've done multiple marathons in less than 3 hours. If there's a club, then they're full members and I'm very much a junior associate, with my two barely-short-of-5-hour experiences. But I was also proud to shake Philippe's hand.
Thank goodness, there are plenty of other "clubs" that can produce the same healthy changes. A significant personal project doesn't have to involve physical exercise. It can be an educational experience, a journey, an artistic activity, or any of a thousand other things. A well-defined conclusion may be part of a worthy mission, but even that's not always necessary. But the task should probably require at least many months to achieve, and should offer some intermediate rewards during the process. And it's definitely wise to stay flexible, so that the path and endpoint can be redefined if circumstances change along the way.
So I've come to believe that clubs are good things. And in the most important sense, everybody is a member of a club of one ...
I am looking for Charlene Arthurs' archives, Welcome to the club.