I got back to properly running again last week and so it seemed like the perfect time to finally document and share the lessons (and reminders) that training for and running a marathon taught me.
In case you didn’t know, I ran my first marathon on June 22! And yes, I am incredibly proud of myself. What distance is a marathon you ask – it’s 26.2 miles or 42 kilometers. It’s been months and sometimes I still can’t believe I did it.
Reflecting on the months leading up to race day and race day itself, I found that my memorable takeaways are reminders and lessons that I need for everyday life – marathon training or not. Here are the 5 most relevant ones:
1. The body will not go farther than you’re willing to push it
Marathon training was HARD! There were days when I didn’t think I could do it but each day, I made the decision to stick to my training schedule and go out on my runs. I chose to keep going – putting one foot in front of the other always even when my body wanted to call it quits.
The people who came up with the phrase “mind over matter” were on to something; mental fortitude was the key to pushing past the wall of my physical limits.
2. Listening to your body is key
I know I just talked about pushing the body but it was also important for me to pay attention to every part of my body. I could push myself through tired legs and sore muscles but not a good idea to do that for pain. Sometimes, listening to my body meant I ran at a slower pace or took more walking breaks on my long runs.
I learnt that marathon training can be a wreck on the body so I had to start from a healthy place and paid close attention to my body every step of the way. This was a reminder that my body carries me through so much so I need to treat it with care and gentleness too.
3. Friends that remind you of your goals and your power are golden
I wasn’t strong all the time and I’m thankful that I had supportive friends and family to encourage and push me on the days when I felt overwhelmed. I remember venting to my cousin about 9 weeks to the race and she started by acknowledging my feelings and encouraging me by telling me how close I was to my goal before saying “so I’m going to allow you to feel overwhelmed and sick of it till Friday. But come Saturday – big girl pants for nine more weeks! You can do this!” Those words had such a profound impact on me and they rang in my ears as I prepared to go out on a long run that Saturday.
We all need that type of support in our lives but with that being said . . .
4. You are your biggest cheerleader
The journey to race day was lonely at times because I trained by myself for almost half a year. It’s also hard for people to relate to something they’ve never experienced so I couldn’t adequately involve people around me in my experience. There were also the people in my community who thought they were being helpful when they said things like “I am concerned about you running so much.” On most days, that was not an encouraging thing to hear. All of these meant, I had to constantly build myself up and remind myself of my strength.
I was reminded that I won’t always have my friends around so I had to truly believe in myself.
5. People are good
My race day experience is a tale in itself but let me share a small part of it with you: By Mile 22, my hip is KILLING me. I am in so much pain that I am close to tears. Somewhere between Mile 25 and 26, I ask a stranger next to me if the archway covered in balloons that we are approaching is the finish line and she says no. At this point, I am close to just walking the rest of the way. The stranger goes past me but later slows down so I catch up and then says to me “Let’s continue running to Mile 26 and then we’ll sprint the remaining .2 together.” I don’t think this person would slow down and run the rest of the way with me so I say “Sure, I’ll catch up” or something like that. But surprisingly, she says “No, I’m right here with you.”
That made all the difference and walking was out of the question. As we approached the mile 26 marker, she reminded me that we had a sprint coming up and we sprinted the rest of the way together. Our exchange really touched me because she didn’t know me, likely will never see me again, but she noticed that I was struggling and put her own needs on the back burner to help me. This was a timely reminder for me that people are generally good and I want to move through life expecting that.