Updated: Apr 25
By Katarina Terzić Conrad, Ph.D.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” - George Bernard Shaw.
As I was preparing to run the Great Wall of China Marathon, I didn't know the terrain, the climate and the general race setting beforehand. I was a total newbie to racing, with only one official 5k race under my belt. However, I made up my mind before I went, that I would not worry about it, but that I would go with the flow. And what a flow it was!
The day of the race had a record breaking Spring temperature of 97 Fahrenheit. The course was grueling, in fact it was considered by many runners to be the hardest organized marathon on the planet.
It started with a three mile steep climb that lead to the Wall and its 2,807 uneven ancient stairs that led us back to a paved road, with its asphalt so hot it made us feel like we were trapped in a desert’s mirage. After a few miles, the path transitioned into a dirt, and then a pebble, road, leading us into the villages, then paved roads into the mountains, and back into the valleys again.
And just when we thought that we could not get any further, there were more hills ahead, taking us away even farther from our final destination, the Great Wall with its remaining 2,807 stairs!
But instead of complaining and resisting the things I had no control over, I embraced them. At each corner I looked to find something to be grateful for, such as the opportunity to travel and connect with my sister-in-law, a chance to run in a beautiful setting, amidst an ancient wonder - The Great Wall, the majestic mountains, the friendly runners, the smiling villagers, and the joyful water boys.
I kept smiling the whole race, only because I decided that I would, regardless of the obstacles that day. I did not resist it, I embraced the uncertainty and saw it as a chance to create new experiences and learn new things about myself. A chance to widen my horizons and grow. And I did.
I realized that I’m so much stronger than I gave myself credit for. I realized that our hearts will carry us further than our legs, and that being mentally prepared is as, if not more, important than being physically fit. Those are the lessons I could have probably heard from others, but I would not have learned them had I not experience them myself.
Most of our life's struggles come from resisting change, feeling uncertain, and worrying about the future. The more we resist, the unhappier we get.
We like predictability, certainty, and stability. After all, we love to be in control. Fortunately, life's journey is not a stagnant man-made lake where we are like it’s static water, fixed in our ways and our ideology, predicting every step without much turbulence.
Life journey is more like a river’s flow. And we are like the water. There are times when we pass through a quiet meadow, gently cradled in the river bed, effortlessly moving forward, enjoying the pace. And there are other times we are encountering rough terrain, large boulders, and steep falls that leave us feeling rushed, restless, and tossed around.
If we stop resisting and begin to embrace the ever changing terrain and the flow, we can adapt easier and we can begin to appreciate each phase of our journey as the learning opportunity, we can begin to find inner peace in the noisiest of places. and we can find beauty in the darkest of hours.
We ought to be more accepting of change and acknowledging that we live in an ever changing world, and we too are very dynamic beings that constantly change. Even our whole bodies (cells) are replaced every decade! So, why are we so resistant to change when we and the world around us are dynamic?
Let's embrace the change and see it necessary in our lives in order to grow and progress.