Marathon thoughts: what I learned from long-distance running

Tsatsa Battsengel
3 min readSep 14, 2021

Life is like a marathon. I know. It is a cliche, but I had this euphoric moment of realizing its truth when I first completed a full marathon. I wanted to share my thoughts that occurred during a marathon. I wrote this almost 2 years ago, but I decided to publish it here. Currently, I am “training” (not really) for another full marathon, which will happen in November 2021. This post should serve me as a motivation to go out for a run to train (for real). Many changes have occurred in my life within the last few months, including becoming a guardian of my 10-year old brother. On top of trying to finish my Ph.D. this December, I am trying my best to parent my lovely little brother. Of course, things can get stressful during the process of Ph.D. finishing and parenting. Running has always been my go-to stress reliever, my meditation media, and my dopamine refilling activity. So, I am always thankful for my body which is able to go out and run, run 26.2 miles…

Here, my thoughts on why life is like a marathon:

  1. There are people who pass you by fast. If these people are true leaders, they will smile at you, sometimes thumbs up to you, or simply do not try to make them known that they are passing by you. Most of the time, I get frustrated when people pass me by, but sometimes these people inspire me and keep me motivated. Just like in life, there are people far better advanced than you, and who share their knowledge with you. They are often called mentors, but sometimes they can be your friends or family members. Also, there are passers who can make you feel worthless, slow, and inadequate. These kinds of people are very rare, and I just freaking ignore them and keep taking a step after another. If they are crabs, people who get their life pleasure from pulling others down or feeling they are better than others, they will be surpassed by you in the long run.
  2. Just like in life, marathon runners have a determined goal, a long-term goal, and struggle to reach that goal step by step. Only the finishers will know the indescribable feeling of accomplishment which is kind of addicting, in a good way. After ca. 55K steps of physical pain and mental battle, a marathon finisher will feel that they can do anything if they put their mind to it. The same applies to life. We start with a life goal and keep working towards it. The goal can be oriented towards your career, your family, your financial situation, your beauty, your physical or mental health, and/or your degree of being a decent human being.
  3. People run with their kids. They will put their one or sometimes more than one little fellas on their strollers while eating up those miles in sweat. I am sure they will run much faster, and with less discomfort, if they choose to run alone. However, pounding with their kids through this long journey is far more satisfying and meaningful for them, no matter how long it takes than sprinting alone. Some or majority of the parents do the exact same thing as the marathon runner who pushes their kids’ strollers with them through 26.2 miles. Parents choose to give everything they can to their kids, even though it slows them down, requires them to sacrifice.
  4. You can run in disdain of knowing there are hundreds of more runners before you, after looking at the number of used paper cups stumbling on the road, or you can enjoy (a wrong word, it is always hard to enjoy every step of a marathon), acknowledge that every step makes you closer to your goal, no matter how many are ahead of you and how many you are passing by. Just like in life, you can look at your high school friends who are listed in Forbes 30 under 30, your lab mates who are publishing in top journals, your college friends working in top companies, your best friends getting married, having babies, and you can feel BEHIND or failing in life. Or, just acknowledge that everyone is taking their own steps and you too are going forward towards your marathon goal. It is hard, but it is supposed to be hard and it is well worth it.

So, just like in a marathon, we should simply take one step at a time, savor the journey of life! We will get there…