This essay is a refinement of what I discussed in my most recent YouTube video documenting my carnivore journey and recent challenges in training for the Asheville marathon. I'd love it if you subscribed to my YouTube channel as I am trying to get to 1000 subscribers.

The plan was pretty simple:

  • Sign up for a marathon with four months prep time
  • Train four months, get in better shape than I would have without the goal
  • Repeat

Plans are a nice thing but life gets in the way.

I got sick for basically for the whole month of January. As a result my training was essentially two months long.

I have gotten stronger and I have improved significantly in my ability to run. But I never got to do a distance run longer than three hours. There is a strict six and a half hour cut off time.

I am left with two options:

  • Power through and do my best and hope that I can finish before the cut off
  • Switch from a marathon to a half marathon

My ego wants me to power through and go for the marathon. A part of me is sure that the spirit of the marathon and the energy of my fellow runners will be more than enough. I had finished the NYC marathon in 9 hours and I am sure that I can power through and finish this race!

That same part of me also doesn't want me to give up on a goal I set for myself. If I made a commitment to finish a marathon I should just finish a marathon right?!

But why? Why do I need to run 26.2 miles in order to feel like I have accomplished something? Why wouldn't 13.1 miles be an accomplishment?

If my goal really was to get stronger then mission accomplished! I don't need the arbitrary distance to settle whether I did what I set out to do.

Most of our goals are arbitrary

Why do we strive to go to a prestigious college? Why do we want to become attorneys? Why do we want Rolexes and a Rolls Royce? Why do we want the corner office? Why do we want so much?

We mostly want things because other people want them. We want to impress other people so we strive for the things that other people strive for.

Most of the things we strive to achieve are fundamentally about our desire for acknowledgement from people that we admire and seek to emulate. So I want to complete a marathon because that is the signal that I am "fit", whatever that means. It means that I can label myself as something that might mean something of value to other people.

There isn't anything necessarily wrong with this mimetic desire. It is part of the human condition. We just don't really consciously realize it. I hadn't even heard of that term until recently when talking to one of my professor's about Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.

But what this ultimately means is that we all are going to spend a lot of time seeking out things that we don't really and truly want or need.

I don't need to risk taxing my nervous system and hurting myself to finish a marathon that I can probably accomplish but haven't completely trained to finish. Even if I do finish the marathon odds are that I would stop running for awhile afterwards because I did too much. The half marathon, in contrast, I know I can do and will feel fine the next day. That means I can continue to train the following week and actually continue to make progress on the thing that is my actual goal of continuing to become stronger and more fit.

There isn't anything wrong with striving and pushing yourself past your self conceived limitations; that can be a noble endeavor. But if the reason for striving is for some subconscious desire for acknowledgement it will lead to disappointment and a continued never ending quest for the thing that will "make us whole."

Maybe all of this is just self justification for not taking a risk. But I think that I have my eyes set on pursuits clearly enough to recognize that I want to play the long game here and not worry about any one goal. I am not going to succeed with this marathon but I will succeed for the next one I sign up to do. And I will adjust my goals to new heights; maybe shoot for a four hour marathon. Maybe I'll try and do a triathlon. Whatever I go for I will work on it for years and continue to increase personal expectations until the project no longer speaks to me. But even if that project loses its value the pursuit will continue in another form.

Thanks for continuing to read my thoughts. I'd love it if you shared my work with anyone you think might enjoy it.