The Five Things My One Marathon Taught Me
In 2016, I ran my first marathon. I say first like there were more. Nope. Unlike the potato chip, one is just fine, thank you. That’s not to say I didn’t gain anything from my one-and-only marathon. I learned a lot. Here’s what came across loud and clear on my journey to accomplish a physical, emotional, and mental challenge.
Get ready to change. For me, training for a marathon meant running 5 to 20 miles a day, 5 days a week. Recovery and fuel needs were my guardrails for action. That meant knowing and acting on my requirements for nutrition, sleep, stress reduction, and support. And higher performance demanded tighter boundaries, which affected every area of my life. A huge goal aligns and balances all behaviors.
Remember that no one crosses the finish line alone. While it’s true that the miles don’t run themselves and no one can run the miles for you, it’s also true that community is critical for a big event to succeed. From street closures to water stations, people from diverse backgrounds come together to pull off a race. A simple “thank you for being here” or “I couldn’t do this without you” brought smiles to faces and went a long way in filling my cup long after the water ran out. Encouragement is sustenance.
Be present. My training volume forced me to tune in and listen to real-time feedback from my mind and body. Thoughts, feelings, and sensations sometimes conflicted with one another, and it was up to me to determine the next right thing. Being curious about what was happening and evaluating all feedback as information helped me decide when to push and when to rest. Being in the moment yields good decisions.
We do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard. — John F. Kennedy
Take one step at a time. Look, running 26.2 miles is daunting. At mile 16, I was ready to quit. Thinking about all the work left and all the time it would take, all at once, might have caused me to give up. Instead, focusing on taking just the next step helped me finish.
Measure what matters. Knowing my finish time wasn’t going to be stellar, I relaxed around that particular result. Instead I assessed my enjoyment from day-to-day. Because I wasn’t riddled with angst about my time and had an eye on fun, I thought differently about running and kept going when things got hard. Choosing to measure joy supports desired behaviors and well-being.
Since then, I’ve continued chasing joy through physical activity. Running, yoga, CrossFit, hiking, you name it… Getting active helps me access the best within me to better contribute to others. Isn’t that what makes meaning?