Guest Post: The Rewards of Patience by Mike Bufano

When my sister told me she was going to start this blog, I was happy for her. I support everything Michelle does. It’s honestly the least I can do because she has always been my greatest supporter, my fiercest advocate, and the person who offers me the most honest and unvarnished advice (whether I ask for it or not!). In this case, Michelle is also a really good writer, so I was excited that she was going to share her writing with the world. Beyond sibling loyalty, though, I was happy for her because we’ve spent a lot of time talking about what she went through during COVID and wrote eloquently about in her first blog post. What she went through is something so many of us go through – we all have our own midpoint moments when we take stock of things and work through our midlife angst.

When Michelle asked me to write a guest post, something dawned on me about my own midpoint moment: it was the first time in our lives that a major life event happened to me before Michelle went through it. You see, Michelle is three years older than me and has always been the trailblazer in our family. First to go to college, to go to grad school, to get a job, to get married. Anything that has happened or could happen in my life, I could turn to Michelle and get her advice on how to handle it because she had already been through it.

That was true our whole lives. Until it wasn’t.

In 2013-2014, I realized I was in a marriage that wasn’t going to make it. Intellectually and logically, I understood that divorces happen. The Type A perfectionist in me, though, did not think logically or intellectually – I felt like a failure, beat myself up every way I could, and realized I had to take a hard look at myself. It took me a long time and a lot of patience to do the work to better understand and get comfortable with myself. Thankfully, I was able to rely on the love and support of family and lifelong friends who are like family, as well as a job that I loved and which made me feel good about myself.

During this time, I also started doing two things that helped me get through my midpoint moment and make me the person I am now:

I started going to therapy, and I started running.

Let’s start with therapy. It helps me understand myself better, unpack the messy stuff in my past, and recognize my own patterns and triggers. Therapy has given me perspective and the tools to navigate difficult moments in my life. Therapy has made me a better person, a better friend, a better family member, and a better leader at work.

More than anything, though, after years of work and patience, therapy helped me find peace, tenderness, and forgiveness. With others and with myself.

It’s not a coincidence that I fell in love with running at the same time I started therapy. I started running in 2013 primarily as a way to try to connect with my ex-wife. She was at the 2013 Boston Marathon and the bombings had a profound effect on her. I hoped that sharing her passion for running would help us work through her trauma from that day and the issues in our marriage. Unfortunately, that didn’t work, but along the way, I fell in love with running and turned into one of those annoying a-holes who get up at 4:45 AM to “get in their miles” and post on IG about their latest marathon.

My transformation into a runner is a shock to pretty much everyone who knew me before this time in my life. And I totally get it. I hated running. I was not an athlete. In 2012, if you asked anyone in my life if I would ever run a marathon, they all would’ve laughed. “Mike is too impatient, too wound up, too angry, too hard on himself.” My running journey started with building up to the eight-mile final stage of the One Run For Boston, and, from there, progressed to a half marathon and then eventually a full marathon. On March 5, I’ll be in Tokyo, running my ninth marathon and my sixth and final of the world’s major marathons.

Over the years, running has given me a sense of community and connection, new friends, a totally different connection with old friends, and an excuse to travel the world and go places I never would’ve gone to without running. It’s also given me structure, accountability, and a reason to get up in the morning and get the day started on the right foot (running pun intended). My Saturday long runs have become my happy place, where I let go of the stress and anxiety of the week and recenter myself. Since I started running, a lot has changed in my life. Actually, pretty much everything has changed in my life. Running has been my constant during that time. (Yes, that’s a Desmond & Penny reference)

My slow and steady progress in therapy has mirrored my slow and steady progress as a runner. Neither journey has been linear and up and to the right, but the more I let go of things in therapy, the more peace I found as a runner. Slowly but surely, I found a balance between my mental well-being and my physical well-being.

This all came together in the fall of 2019, as I faced another potential midpoint moment: A company I loved and had dedicated a decade of my life to was changing, and I was in the midst of a six-month transition out of the company and that great job I mentioned earlier. A prior version of me would not have handled it well. At all. But this version of me took it all in stride (yes…another running pun intended). I knew I had done great work, built a great team, created a lot of shareholder value, and built deep relationships that would last long after I left the company.

That November, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon. For years, I had been training hard to run a marathon in under 4 hours. Going into that race, I was 0 for 5 in achieving that goal, including missing my goal by 31 seconds, running Berlin in 4:00:30 the year before. Ouch!

The Philly weather on race day stunk. It rained sideways for most of the race and was windy and cold. That made a tough race that much tougher. I did have a few things going for me, though: The best cheering squad a guy could ever ask for, years of race experience, a feeling of peace and self-confidence, and most importantly, patience. After a mile 26 pep talk from the cheering squad, I sprinted to the finish.


After I crossed the finish line, I saw a familiar face giving out medals: Meb Keflezighi.

Meb is my running hero. For the non-runners, Meb is a living legend with a remarkable life story (just read his memoir, or for the time constrained, his Wikipedia). He’s most well known for his shocking and emotional victory in the 2014 Boston Marathon. Running with the names of the 2013 bombing victims on his bib, Meb became the first American in 41 years to win Boston and the oldest Boston winner in 81 years. During a difficult time for the city of Boston and the Marathon, Meb ran the race of his life.

During a difficult time in my career, I ran the race of my life, and Meb gave me my medal.

I’ve used the word “patience” a few times in this post. That’s by design. To work through our midpoint moments requires patience. Patience with ourselves, patience with those around us, and patience with the process of becoming who we want to be. Running and therapy have both helped make me a more patient person.

Which brings us back to Meb. In his memoir, Meb shared this pearl of wisdom which I think about a lot and is a good reminder for all of us to be patient with ourselves, especially in our midpoint moments:

“The marathon is a metaphor for life in how it rewards patience.”