Winning in the Desert, Writing and Marathon

I just read the latest blog post by James Altucher ‘The Power of Consistency,’ about why he rates Lawrence of Arabia # 2 among the all-time great movies. The main reason for the top rating is because of the way Lawrence, the hero of the movie, conquers the unrelenting, merciless expanse of the treacherous desert through perseverance. There are some beautiful passages like the ones given below which made me sit up and stay awake to start this post close to midnight.

“And that feeling of consistency permeates every aspect of the movie form the dialog to character to the lack of understanding of the people who can’t understand what Lawrence has conquered when fighting his own inner desert.

In your heads, right now, is that desert. The stories we tell ourselves that create not only who we are but who we aren’t: the excuses, the fears, the angers, the anxieties.”


I enjoyed watching the movie two times, particularly the opening scene where Lawrence snuffs out the flame of a match stick between his two fingers. How he explains the trick to his incredulous colleagues still rings in my ears – “The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.”

But, as I watched the movie, it never occurred to me to view the deserts as the villain as James Altucher suggests. According to him, we all travel on that desert. Along the way, we want to give up. Because the sun is bearing down on us. Because no one believes us. Because we don’t believe ourselves. And because it is lonely.

And because I think I am too tired to go on.

Every day, since my last post on 9th October, I was mindful of the promise I made in my SUSDAT post to write daily, but  told myself, “I am too tired, I will write the 500 words tomorrow.” Then I thought of ways to take back my promise I made in front of the world.

But some words like these from the same blog post of James Altucher are searingly too hot to avoid.  “Like the sun above, drying out your inside, slowly burning you to nothing.”

I am not planning to listen to the sane voice inside me telling me to be realistic and not attempt stiff targets like writing daily amidst a tight schedule. I may have to consider saying no to a few other activities to meet this goal, that is fine with me.

Last Sunday, on October 18, in Bengaluru, I slayed the demon within me that threatened my heel injury will put an end to my marathon runs. That I completed the run was a huge relief. It took me all of 5 hrs and 48 minutes – nearly one hour more than what it took me last year around the same time, in the same city.

I watched myself several times slowing down and walking when in fact I could have pushed myself to run. Around 30 km mark there was a poster that said something like this – “Do not listen to the voice in your mind to slow down or quit.” That sentence actually gave me fuel for a few kilometers to run. Eventually, I listened to that helpful voice inside my mind that said – take it easy, your heel is hurting, walk. I walked for long stretches.

It was the sight of doctor Kumar catching up with me that brought me back to my senses.  I had left him behind vomiting badly, but he continued nonchalantly after taking an intravenous injection. I ran at a much better pace from then on till the finish line, along with this gritty man.

One year of training for and running marathons has given me memorable experiences – mingled with successes and failures. Sometimes I sat perched on the shoulders of my successes and allowed failures to sneak into my space. Then those failures showed me the way to finding my rhythm again through regular practice.

So, it does not make sense gloating over successes or brooding over failures. What matters is giving it my very best.

I cannot ever ride on past successes. Every race is a new race that needs preparation and attention. If I follow the right process of training, success is guaranteed – almost. Wayward, casual attitude towards training is a sure path to biting the dust.

Like in a desert, or in a marathon or in life the trick as James Altucher says is:
“Consistency in words. Consistency in thought. Consistency in discipline.”

 In the end, consistency always pays when preparing for a marathon. As it matters in other fields of life. This quote by Arthur Blank is at the heart of all my running essays:
“I run because it’s so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can’t. But then you find your inner strength, and realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought

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