37,440 Kms later, I’m proud to say that I finished my 12th marathon (42,195 kilometers or 26 miles and 385 yards) in less than three hours. Many people keep asking me today for the reasons why after so long I face such a demanding challenge every year.
It all started in 2001. After thinking about it for several weeks, I decided to take my summer vacation on the beach to incorporate some healthy habits in my daily life and start doing some exercise. I thought it would be easy to start running as it is a sport that depends only on yourself. And as it didn't require any special infrastructure it was the ideal solution for my frequent business trips. That's how I run my first kilometer...
I gradually improved my fitness until, four months after I started training, I thought it was time to do my first marathon. I finished in 3 hours 56 minutes. Test passed! I realized that, as in professional life, defining goals and implementing action plans to achieve them, also work in sports. So, once recovered from this hard first experience, I set myself a new, a bit more ambitious challenge.
The importance of maintaining the discipline of training and of being fully committed to the goal became increasingly evident. Translated into the routine of everyday life, that means I must always be prepared to go running when I have free time, whether it rains or not, whether I feel like it or not.
That dynamic has given me really nice experiences. For example, I have trained in places as disparate as the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, on a timber transport path near Ohio or on the road between Maasmechelen and Maastricht (across the international border between Belgium and the Netherlands). It also allowed me to enjoy some moments of urban tourism during my trips (for example, I have run under the Eiffel Tower and over the bridges of the Seine River in Paris). Moreover, all this time I also had the opportunity to share increasingly this passion with my business colleagues. Jogging and chatting with a partner is a highly recommended experience.
Behind all this there is very much physical effort and, above all, mental strength. Many people say the sport is addictive and I fully agree. If I spend more than three days without running, somehow the body asks me to go out... Of course there is pain, tiredness or routine, but there is also time for reflection and introspection when I run alone, and for conversation when I run together with somebody.
The keys? Discipline, perseverance, patience and lots of willpower. You have to set ambitious goals, but at the same time, you must be realistic about your capabilities. Trying to achieve certain results too quickly or without having previously done the "homework," leads you to failure and discouragement.
This lifestyle allows you to meet the personal and professional challenges in the same way and builds your character. It helps you understand the importance of effort and discipline, and to develop a highly resilient personality.
I am often asked about my preferred running event. I always answer the same: my first marathon and last. The first because it was a real milestone for me. The last because it is the closest and that it is what I talk about more with my colleagues, friends and family. And I enjoy talking about it ... This year's result - 2 hours 58 minutes in the Madrid Marathon, was also a special accomplishment that everybody who knows me has celebrated with me.
Talking about my family: for me it is very important to count on them. I fortunately have the support of my wife and sons. They accompany me and give me courage in the most challenging runs, and they willingly accept that I have to spend some of my free time doing my training. It is certainly a privilege that I very much appreciate from the bottom of my heart.
Today, after running more than 37,440 kilometers (23,264 miles), I'm as excited and engaged as the first day. Running is a lifestyle I like and it makes me grow a little more each day. It is a pleasure that, for now, I will not resign. After all, I only have 2,635 kilometers left to complete a world tour. Not even a year...