Quick bonus lesson: 26.2 miles is further than you think. Why would so many people attempt this challenging distance? For every runner the reasons will vary, but I think all would agree, running a marathon changes your life in unexpected ways.
I can’t claim that I always enjoyed running. I found my stride in college when I ran the Cooper River Bridge Run, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Back in 2016, I set my eyes on a marathon as the next milestone to scratch off my running bucket list. I knew the time commitment and physical training required: 4 am wake up runs in the dark, long training runs on the weekends…not everyone’s definition of fun. I did not fully anticipate the mental aspect, how the long solo runs with my thoughts would teach me so much about myself and about life.
Don’t panic…you don’t have to run a marathon to discover these lessons. I’ll save you the time and trouble. Here are the 8 life lessons my marathon taught me:
- Dream big and set goals.
Any major goal or task can seem daunting, but that shouldn’t deter you. If you plan, take it one step at a time and work towards your dreams, you can get there. You are capable of more than you know. Set your sights high and celebrate even your small victories. When I finally realized my dream by crossing that finish line, I felt amazing – like I could do anything.
- Pain is temporary, regret is forever.
This is one of my favorite running mantras. I often think of this while running a race, with legs and lungs burning. You may want to quit, but whatever you’re experiencing is temporary. You will get through it, so don’t give up. Never leave a situation knowing there was more you could do – you will regret it.
- People make all the difference.
Everyone needs support and it helps – A LOT! From joining me on training runs to traveling to Myrtle Beach to cheer me along the course, my crew helped me cross that finish line. Who knew how much a marathon could make you feel loved? Even strangers cheer your name while holding signs of encouragement. Confession: my favorite sign was the one my sister held at mile 6 revealing I would be a first-time Aunt!
- There is no substitute for hard work and preparation.
587 miles of training,16 weeks and two pairs of running shoes later, the easy part of running a marathon is race day. If you’ve trained, put in the work and followed your plan, then aside from a few butterflies, you have nothing to worry about. This rings true in life as well. Dedicate yourself to your mission, passion, growth and transform the impossible to possible. Not every training run went as planned, but consistency was key.
- Moving forward can be hard, but it’s possible.
With running, it’s just one step in front of the other. When you feel stuck in a situation, ask yourself: what is one small step I can take forward? Don’t think about how far you have left to go; keep your focus on the next step. The silver lining of taking one step at a time? It allows you to pivot while keeping you moving.
- You can plan for everything and still be unprepared.
Expect the unexpected. With a hydration belt and fuel holstered, I packed an extra pair of socks, dressed for the weather, trained like crazy, and I still faced challenges along the course. Find workarounds and focus on your end goal. I had to unpin my bib while running to shed a layer I hadn’t planned to remove – made for great pics with a crooked bib number. You’ll experience setbacks, but you can still reach your goal.
- It’s a journey, not a race.
You have to pace yourself. It can’t be full speed ahead all the time. Take care and listen to your body. I made a pitstop in my run to change socks and walk a few yards with my friends who came out. Not only did I enjoy this, but it gave me the extra nudge I needed to keep going.
- Finish strong.
You don’t have to finish first, but you want to push yourself to be your best, right up until the end. The pure joy of knowing that you’ve done all you could do is like no other.
After 4 long hours, I finally reunited with family and friends to celebrate my victory. The realization that I had accomplished this huge goal representing countless hours and effort was bliss. My cheeks cramped from smiling for all the photos, but it was worth it – I never wanted to forget this memory.
We all have goals that we’re hesitant to say out loud. Maybe we don’t believe we can really accomplish them, or maybe we are just scared of failure. I could never have finished my marathon if I hadn’t first dared to believe I could do it, to will it into existence. I challenge you to be brave and state your loftiest goal – comment below or simply acknowledge it to yourself. Take the first step and see how far you go!