What I Learned About Quitting the TAE by Training for the New York Marathon


I had a call from a student who wants to quit his TAE. He enrolled about a year ago, started strong, took a few months off, and got into a pattern of doing a bit more whenever I got in touch after not hearing from him for a while.

He always had explanations for his lack of progress and they seemed reasonable enough.

I started to think about my own year.

About a year ago I was sitting at this same desk, typing on this same computer. Funnily enough, it was a week very similar to this one.

What do I mean by that?

Well, not much was happening.

I was a bit fidgety and restless.

I received an amazing offer – and I jumped at it. It broke the monotony and seemed like a great thing.

The offer was to run the New York Marathon… in 2012. It wasn’t to do it last year, but this year. At that time, the 2012 New York Marathon was over a year away.

Plenty of time, I thought.

So I didn’t think twice, and agreed. I was in. I was committed and I could picture it clearly. It would be great. After all, how many kids can say that their dad ran the New York Marathon?

But I forgot something.

I still had to do it.

And while there was 12 months until the event itself, I still had a lot of work before I would even step up to the starting line. There was plenty of training to be done.

It was very frustrating to start with the small steps that I needed. My wife used to laugh as I headed out for a 20 minute walk…how can this be marathon training, she would ask?

But it was, and soon enough the walks turned into walk/jogs and the distance grew and then it was just jogging, and the distances continued to increase slowly.

But one thing did not change, and that was that to prepare to finish the marathon, I had to just keep at it. Four days a week, I would be out there. I wondered at the sense of it all, and sometimes it just was so boring and tedious and I could not face it.

But I did.

And I kept facing it.

Well, until my knee gave in, and I had to take three months off. Physiotherapists and specialists got me good enough to see the year out, with a recommendation of surgery to remove the bits of floating bone as soon as possible.

Then it was back to the beginning. Maybe not quite square one, but pretty close to it.

That was June.

7 months had passed, and I was up to about month 3 of a 12 month training program.

I wondered if there was any point. I stretched and I actually did the exercises that the physio got me to. I started anew with the training plan and fought myself every day.

I just wanted to quit.

I just wanted to say “I have an injury…” or “I don’t have enough time to train…” or some other reason that I could use to justify quitting.

More than that, I just wanted someone else to tell me that it was okay to quit. I told a friend of my troubles and he responded by going for a run with me…and he has been for almost every run since.

But no matter what I practised saying, I could not convince myself that it was a real reason, a good enough reason. Nothing I tried to say to myself was true because nothing would take away the fact that when it came down to it, I had a simple decision: to make it happen, or walk away.

It wasn’t about being able to do it. It was about just doing it.

This friend recently found a letter that his father had written him when he was 16. It is now framed and in his kitchen:

Winning is not the most important thing. The most important thing is to not lose when you should have won. Fight. You have to fight. And knowing the fight to have is crucial to knowing the one to not lose.

For me, the” fight to not lose” was not the one about quitting the marathon, it was the one I was having with myself about being honest with myself, truly honest.

Months passed. I kept doing it. The runs got longer, a bit easier. And I looked forward to them.

And now, four weeks out, my running friend has dropped out with his own injury and I have kept going, often minding my own company with the words of his father.

I have run 31 km in one go and finished with enough energy left to know that I can probably do the 42km in New York.

This time last year, it was just an idea.

If I am honest, it was a good idea at the time, and like many people with their Cert IV TAE, it was something that I just wanted to have done. I don’t think I really thought too much about the actual doing of it, the training and the slow and tedious process of equipping myself for success.

But after a year of doing the preparations, I can see it being finished.

For the first time in a year, I can see me crossing the finish line, and as I look back I see that this is due to one choice I made a year ago, and 365 choices I have made since.

A year ago, I chose to do it.

Every day since, I have chosen to be honest with myself.

I think it is fair to say that what separates the successful students from those who quit is that they stay true to themselves.