A while ago I stumbled on an article on line on a hill referred to as Heartbreak hill. Heartbreak hill refersto several ascents in footraces considered difficult for the runners in the Boston Marathon. It is an ascent about 20 miles from the start of the marathon and the stretch that distinguishes between the true runners from the social ones.
I was intrigued both by the name and what that stretch of several ascents does to the resolve and the psych of runners in the Boston Marathon every year. The marathon is a race of twenty six miles that is run for the first sixteen miles downhill.
What this means is that the first sixteen miles of the race isn’t as hard as any sixteen mile race should be and as a result even the least prepared or least dedicated runners get find that they are able to run those initial sixteen miles without dropping out of the race.
However, I also found out that upon hitting the seventeenth mile, the runners who joined the marathon without adequately preparing begin to drop out of the race. The reason this happens is because at the 17th mile, the dynamics of the race changes from downhill to an uphill one. Most of the runners who have a bit of self will go beyond the 17th mile and begin the race up hill. However, at the 20thmile, most of the social runners, unprepared and unfit begin to drop off the race. Only the contenders for the medals continue the race.
The more I thought about the Boston Marathon and Hearbreak Hill, the more I could liken the marathon to the race of life and how most of us start the dream life downhill; making steady progress until we hit our individual heartbreak hill. At this point, we quickly begin to find reasons why we should not and cannot continue to run this race into dream life. We tell how we really are not as qualified as we thought or how we can go back to our jobs and old life, since this doesn’t seem to be working.
The greatest learning I gleaned from the Boston Marathon and Heartbreak Hill story is that those who begin to drop out of the race because the 17th mile begins the ascent uphill, are those who got in the race for a lot of reasons but the real reason why others run.
Apparently, in the Boston Marathon some of the runners are contestants while the others are Contenders. Those who run with no goal, usually can drop out of the race without feeling like they have lost anything while those who signed up because they have a goal, do their best to keep running because they are contending to achieve their desired goal.
My big question today is; “in this race of life that we are running, are you a contender or a contestant”? Are you in this to win or are you just whiling away time? Your answer to this question quickly determines if you are a contender or a contestant. So who can you tell if you are a contender or a contestant?
1. INTENTIONALITY – One of the distinguishing factors for me between a contender and a contestant is how intentional he/she is. Running the Boston Marathon is beyond getting the best running gear and having your friends and family to cheer you on; it is about actually counting the cost and setting the goal up front. In your dream life, it is no different. Do you know why you are doing what you are doing? Can you say you have purpose? If yes, how intentional are you?
2. PLANNING – It is my belief that anyone who wants to succeed at running a marathon, has to have a plan. I have heard that some people begin their training regime as early as six months before the race. Now they don’t begin six months ahead to train once a month; no they run practically everyday to build up their stamina. I also know that most of them find a community of runners so they can do that life together. You cannot do your dream life without a plan. Get a plan!
3. FOCUS ON THE PRICE – The race of life is not for social runners, it is for those who have an idea what they want out of life, plan for that which they want and focus on that goal till they achieve it. Running the Boston Marathon past the 16th mile requires a stretching however, a stretch never breaks anyone. Stretching helps the contender build his muscles for other heartbreak hills he may come across as he does life.
4. DISCIPLINE – I can imagine in my mind’s eye a contender for the Boston Marathon, training everyday whether it is convenient or not. I can see him pushing uphill even in training just so he can develop the discipline that will take him up heartbreak hill. To run the race of a dream life, you need even more discipline. There would be a lot of distraction and noise, but I imagine that the Boston Marathon contender doesn’t give in to those distractions.
You cannot do life successfully without a goal, you cannot do life successfully without a plan, and no man without focus ever makes it to the finishing line. I know as a matter of fact that every race requires discipline if the runner is to be considered as a Contender rather than a Contestant.
The good news is even when you set out as a contestant you can always adjust your attitude and come back with the mindset of a Contender.
No matter which side of the divide you fall today, it is given for you to make it as long as you are can make the adjustment in your mind; you will make it NeverTheLess.
Here is to your success!

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