A full, 42.2 kilometer (26.6 miles) marathon is a remarkably difficult thing to do. In fact, in 2018, only about 1.3 million people worldwide ran an official marathon. Out of 7.6 billion people, that is less than 0.02%! When you run a marathon, you are in the elite company. Recently, I joined that tiny group of people and ran my first marathon. It was a life-changing journey, and the training was brutal. It is hands down the most significant accomplishments of my life!
- Find your purpose.
- Get a coach.
- Run alone.
- Stand firm on your purpose.
- Avoid the fashion and technology.
- Aim to finish.
- Reward your purpose
Up until the last 4 years, I lived life abusing my body. I had a pack-a-day cigarette habit, I ate junk food, and I sat a lot. I decided to do something about my life after a debilitating back injury reminded me of the damage I was inflicting on myself. So, I joined a gym.
It was at this gym that I met an incredible group of active and motivating people who liked to run long distances. I started off running a 5k run here and a 5k run there. Aside from my HIIT training at the gym, I never took any formal training on how to run. While I enjoyed the occasional 5k run, a marathon was never on my radar until last fall, and that is where my journey began.
Find your purpose or why you want to run a marathon
Last fall, we had a tough time convincing our son that basketball practice was a necessary thing to do to become a better player. He loved to play the game but loathed the practices.
Knowing that there is a life lesson for him to learn through my example, I took up marathon training to show him what practice can do. Running is not complicated, and aside from the time it takes to train, it doesn’t require many resources. While running a marathon is a very tough thing to do, it is not impossible. All it takes is effort and training dedication.
My purpose right from day one was to show my son how valuable practice is to achieving our life’s goals. On days I didn’t feel like running, and there were many, I pushed through the mental noise and ran to just be that example for him.
It is so important to have your purpose nailed down before you take your first step towards running a marathon. There are so many opportunities to quit and if you don’t understand why you’re running, you’ll find excuses to stop.
Get a coach
I knew that I could not do this alone. There are many marathon training programs online that I could have used, but none were personalized to my needs. Thankfully, I have a fantastic friend who has expertise in drawing up running plans. She knows my situation, my ability, so she tailored a running plan perfect for me.
As training ramped up and the demands of my time became too much, having a coach was a goal saver. In no time, I was able to get running schedule adjustments that kept me running and achieve better balance.
Unless you’re a professional runner, the demands of marathon training can become overwhelming to your social and emotional life.
As your miles rack up, and runs become more time consuming, and you will need the help of a coach. From helping you through your excuses to adjusting your running schedule, having a coach is an invaluable resource as you run along your marathon journey.
Be prepared to run alone
Right from the start, I knew I was going to run this marathon alone. I have many friends who run, and a few who run marathons regularly. It would be so easy to run beside them and train. But I understood that if I want to have flexibility in my schedule, I would have to train alone.
Accountability is a big thing when it comes to setting a goal. Knowing that I would have to run alone, I had to be accountable to myself and my purpose. Sure, there were a lot of lonely runs in the darkness and dead cold of winter. But in those moments of solitude, I built a bit of resiliency. This was purely my journey and it was up to me to fulfill it.
While many of us fall into comparing our pace, time and distance against others to bring validation to our effort. Ultimately, a marathon is a race against yourself. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with having a running partner along for the ride. But keeping your journey separate from theirs is vital to staying true to your purpose of running this marathon.
Stand firm but be accommodating
There were a few instances along my marathon journey, where my family became concerned about my training time. All of their concerns were legit. As the runs got longer, and minutes became hours, I was taking time away from the most important people in my life.
When my training time became a family issue, I could have easily given up. I had my way out of this. Nobody would have faulted me for it. But my purpose was unwavering, and I had to stand firm on my goal of running that marathon. I just had to find a way to be more accommodating by changing my schedule. I asked my coach to adjust my training days to allow for more uninterrupted family time. Ultimately, I sacrificed more personal time, but that’s the price I was willing to pay to find balance.
When you run down the training path to a marathon, the world wants you to stop. You are doing what 99.98% of the world isn’t doing. You are an oddball! And what does the world do with oddballs? They want them to stop, it’s not normal.
Having an iron-clad purpose is vital to standing firm on training for a marathon. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be accommodating to those around you by expanding your comfort zone a little. Eventually, once you’ve shown that you’re dedicated to this goal, and are open to change, they will come around. You’ll need their support along the way, so help them to help you by being flexible in your training.
Avoid the glitter
One thing I had to stay away from is getting caught up in the glamour of being a runner. While there are barely any marathon runners on the planet, there are a lot of runners. In recent years, running has become very popular, so merchandisers and marketers are taking notice.
There were times when I was tempted to buy expensive clothing or the latest smartwatch, but there was no need. Everything I had was servicing me quite fine. None of the new stuff would have made the runs any easier, or made my desire to run any greater. I had a purpose behind my marathon training, and if none of this stuff served that purpose, I didn’t bother.
Running is a simple sport. Yet, we have made it complicated. With evolving sneaker technologies, watches and food, it can be tempting to get caught up in buying new stuff to give you an edge.
You can really make the case of some retail therapy after you’ve had a bad run. Maybe new sneakers will make it feel better? The only way to get back at a bad run is to get out and do it again. You don’t need the latest Garmin or Nike sneakers to give you a lifeline. Your purpose is all you need.
Aim to finish
Thanks to a hurricane that blew through town the day before, I didn’t have a lot of jitters going into my first marathon run. My focus was on what kind of damage would be left in the storm’s wake. Surprisingly, even in the days leading up to the big day, I didn’t have butterflies. I knew, up to this moment, I did everything I could do to run a marathon.
All of my training was done. I had ran all the long and slow runs, the short and fast runs, and the uphill runs. All I had to do now was finish. Was I going to walk it in, run it in or roll it in? I didn’t care. It didn’t matter how fast or slow it would take me, it was finish line or death. Running a marathon is the achievement, how fast you do it is merely the cherry on top.
Accepting yourself is a lesson that many marathoners learn along the way. Finishing a marathon is an amazing feat. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes you complete it, that result is the best you had in you at that moment in your life. Keep your sights on your purpose and on that finish line, and you will get there.
Reward your purpose
I decided during my marathon to give my medal to my 11-year-old son at the finish line. My sole purpose of running was for him, so he should be the one who gets to keep the trophy. While I often try to convince myself that medals don’t matter, this one did. It is a token of growth through perseverance and practice. He asked me many times that day why I gave him that medal, he was surprised that I did. And each time, I was able to explain the purpose behind the journey, and why I wanted him to have the trophy from it.
As most marathon runners will attest, the final few miles are the most difficult to endure. The finish line is within grasp, but your body is depleted, your legs are cramped and your brain is numb. It turned out that my decision to give him the medal was vital to me finishing the run.
The only thought going through my head as I dragged my tired body towards the finish line was getting that medal to give to my son. My body had nothing left to give me, I had nothing left to give it. And as I learned throughout my marathon journey, the alignment of body and mind are crucial to running. In the final minutes, all my mind and body wanted to do was reward our purpose.
Rewarding my purpose was what got me home.