Wilfred Njagi | December 4, 2013

Life is a Race – Learnings of a fellow after running at the Chennai marathon

At the finish line

At the finish lineIt is December 1st at 4:00AM, I cycle towards Tidel Park, the starting point of Chennai Wipro Marathon. A jubilant crowd has gathered and you might think it’s one of those party till dawn mornings. The Dj plays some nice music and hell yeah it feels like a party. The party is out lived by the long agonizing 22 KM run with a heavy down pour of rain. I finish in about 2 hours but not without a handful of new learnings. So below, am going recount 8 lessons from the race.

Life is like a race, there are no losers but winners if we dare to try. During the run, I benefited a lot from the help accorded to me by the volunteers. When my chest was bursting with thirst, they provided water and glucose, the much needed fuel for the race. In life you will be helped by many, don’t be ungrateful.

Find a cause in life – A week before the race, there was an email campaigner encouraging everyone not just to participate but to finish the race. They prompted me to think, why do I have to finish? I had to find a reason, a purpose. What’s yours?  If you are stuck in a rat race, hating the daily commute to work, maybe that career break will help you find your purpose. You might want to quit your job and travel to India for a Villgro fellowship or take up an AIESEC internship in Latin America. It’s never too late to look for a cause.

Don’t forget to celebrate the heroes in your life - Others stood along the streets braving the chill from the rain just to get a glimpse of the runners and cheer them up. I was touched by this little 5 year old boy who stood with his dad and kept yelling “Heeey, keep going, you can do it!” After reaching the turning point and heading back, I was stupefied to find the little lad at the same spot one hour later still cheering. And it did the magic, it kept us going. In life we need people to cheer us up and at other times we should be the ones cheering others up.

We all need a life partner – At one point, having ran for about 1 hour and half, I was in the verge of giving up. Equally fatigued, was another guy just ahead of me. I reached out my hand to give him a pat in the back and we ended up becoming running partners for the next 40 minutes or so. We kept pushing each other to soldier on; lending a hand and even slowing down the pace for the sake of the other. You don’t need to go out of your way to find that partner, all it might takes is just pat in the back, a wink or a smile. Two will always be better than one.

Resilience will get you there – It was impressive to see senior citizens and Para athletes turn out in larger numbers.  They didn’t just challenge me but some performed much better than I, reaching the finish line earlier on. They were not here to seek sympathy but to compete. I have no words to describe them but these are true epitomes of resilience.

Take care of your body, it’s the house you dwell in all your life – As I neared the finish line, I reflected that the same body that saw me start was sure to see me finish. I couldn’t have done without it. More interestingly, some bodies that looked weaker had finished way ahead of mine. It wasn’t so obvious but they had taken some good care of theirs. What did I expect?? I only exercised 2 days a week for just about a month and had not run even 10K for the last 9 years leave alone a Marathon. I took that as a personal challenge to take good care of mine.

We are one - The race wouldn’t have been a success with just one person running. All the 10,000 participants played a role and in the end, we didn’t have 10,000 races but one. The source of life supporting the 10,000 heart beats was also one.

The finish line is a form of death – After finishing the 22K in just about 2 hours, it dawned on me that it was over. All that remained were memories. In life all you got is the journey, reaching the destination is a form of death. So, you better enjoy the journey.

Wilfred has worked in the tech startup scene for almost two years now, both in Jordan and Kenya. He has joined Villgro as a Fellow (2013- 14) and will be working with Villgro’s Scale initiative.