In June 2016 I decided that I wanted to run a marathon, at the time I could barely run 2 miles without feeling sick and dizzy, stopping to walk every couple of minutes. The idea of running a marathon filled me with a mixture of feelings; uncertainty, fear, excitement & self-doubt. The overwhelming feeling was one of curiosity and a repetitive thought of ‘Could I actually do this…’ In October 2016 I ran my first marathon.
I’ve since run dozens of half marathons, over half a dozen metric marathons, two full marathons and am currently training for my first Aqua-thon in May, followed by a
Tri- Athlon in the winter of 2018. I have created new habits and I am now… ‘A Marathon Runner’
So, yes, I run but it was not race day nor the finish line that taught me the real lessons, it was everything that happened between the 2-mile limit I had placed upon myself, and the realisation of 26.2 mile where the real lessons lay.
So, what did I learn on the journey through those initial 5 months, from sitting at my desk to reaching the finish line of my first marathon? What were the life lessons that I believe we could all learn from long distance running…?
Develop a strong sense of purpose – when you’re setting off on a long run you have to know ‘why’ you are doing it. A strong purpose and sense of meaning is exactly what will get you out of bed for an early morning training session, through those later miles when your body is tired and keep you putting one foot in front of another when those legs are starting to feel heavy all the way to the end.
Lesson 1 – Life is about facing into challenging situations and meeting them head on, when you feel defeated your personal ‘life mission statement’ will help you bounce back even stronger than you were before, the habit of purpose is a great one to have in life.
Seeking and accepting the support of those around you – There is a common misunderstanding that marathon running is a solo sport. In my experience it is not, long distance running requires the support, understanding & compromise of your family, friends & peers during your training period. It is that support that gets you through the training.
I recall a specific moment, on opening the door to a very cold, rainy and dark winters morning, just as I started to close the door and retreat back into the warmth of my house, I heard my sons voice behind me ‘Mum, what are you doing? You love running in the rain, and you have always told me the morning is the best time of day to exercise’ I just smiled, thanked him and left for my morning run.
Lesson 2 – Life is not a solo journey, it’s the people we meet and love along the way that make it special, so remember to let them know how much they mean to you and invite them in to support you. You will need that little extra support when things get tough.
You are capable of more than you realise – Remember I said I could barely run 2 miles without feeling sick and dizzy? never in a million years did I think I would be writing a blog which contains the statement ‘I am a Marathon runner’. Only a few nights ago I achieved a 10k PB, smashing my pervious race time by over 17 minutes! Long distance running has opened up an opportunity to bust so many beliefs I held to be true about myself. Even when you think the tank is empty there’s always a bit left in the reserve. Running is about continuous progression, pushing to go a little further and/or a little faster each time you go out there.
Lesson 3 – Embracing failure is a critical part of life. To be successful in both the long and short term we need to create new boundaries and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
To make friends with your Inner Critic – Over the past 20 months running has given me the time and space to make friends with my inner critic, the bullying voice in our heads that tells us ‘you can’t do this’ or ‘who do you think you are’ …we all have one. Every time I run I get to practice making the positive voice louder, and more dominant, that practice is and continues to strengthen the habit of positive self-talk and therefore turning my limiting beliefs into enabling beliefs – in fact, I have a lot to thank my inner critic for
Lesson 4 – Remember to talk to yourself like you are your biggest fan, thoughts plus action really do become things, and you can create the life you want and love. Tell yourself you can, and you will!
Long term goals – A participant at one of my workshops made a statement to me during a conversation we had about running ‘you can’t blag a marathon’ it has stayed with me ever since. Marathon training requires planning & time. We must celebrate the mini victories such as your longest, fastest or most runs in a week. It has taught me to stay focused on the goals and enjoy the whole training process.
Lesson 5 – We live in a world of instance gratification, a place where most of what we want is available 24/7, so remembering to stay committed, celebrating the small stuff and not giving up before the finish line allows you to not only stay committed but to enjoy the journey. Life’s is a journey, not just a destination
Look after your body and your body will look after you – We only get one body, and if I want that one body to help me achieve my running goals, I have to help it by fuelling it properly with healthy nutritious food, drinking plenty of water and taking time to allow it to rest and repair itself properly.
Lesson 6 – Take time out for yourself, to look after your brain & body health. Remember to put yourself first if you want to be the best version of yourself in work, as a parent, as a partner and as a friend. If you only had 1 car to last you a lifetime, would you treat it differently?
Leave everything out there – I am going out to run to feel great, stretch myself and I enter every run with an excellent attitude. I do not run perfectly, I am not the fastest, I have not run the furthest, I have never competed professionally – but I do have an excellent attitude – and that’s okay!
Lesson 7 – Perfection is somebody else’s idea of ideal, it’s a concept that exists only in someone else’s mind. If you strive for excellence in life you will live a happy and fulfilled one, if you strive for perfection, you may experience a very different existence. Remember, when you approach all aspects of your life with an excellent attitude, that is enough
Don’t compare yourself to others –Marathon running helped me know that I don’t need to compare myself to others, because I am not them, and they are not me. I will run my own race and be the best version of me I can possibly be in that race. My targets are always very simple, turn up with an excellent attitude and enjoy the journey not just the destination.
Lesson 8 – You cannot compare yourself to others, there is no comparison. You are perfectly unique, value the difference in yourself and the difference in others – the world would be a boring place if we were all the same
Life a Marathon, not a sprint