Sunday, November 13, 2016

5 Lessons Completing a Marathon (or 2) Taught Me

The journey of completing an event with 26.2 miles is not a small accomplishment.  I personally have ran more than one marathon and can tell you during the training and especially after the finish line I had personal growth moments that have shaped my life.  Below are just 5 of those lessons I learned along the humbling path that is a marathon:
  1. The less you know...sometimes the better!  I signed up for my first full marathon of the Detroit Free Press Full thinking it was only the next logical step after completing a few half marathons.  Little did I realize what I registered for on that New Year's Eve night (race was in Oct).  I was excited when others thought I taking a big leap of faith to undergo what few in their twenties or even fifties set out to do.  Call it my quarter life crisis, but 26.2 miles before I was 26 years old sounded like a good challenge.  Being young and without kids and a flexible work schedule made me feel confident I could do this.  The website had training programs to follow.  My dad also signed up which provided me a running buddy for those long run weekends ahead of me.  
  2. There is beauty and love all around us if we look hard enough.  Driving in a car you can miss this.  We are programmed to move quickly through our lives and get to a destination.  Running can help you notice nature.  It allows you to say "Hi" or join a new group of friends for what would be otherwise a lonely solo long run.  During my races I have been able to see the sunrise over the Ambassador bridge and hear cheering crowds both in Canada and the United States.  My body has gone just as far as a new mom, dog or blind man.  Running forces me to get in touch with my body and breath.  In those moments I feel more connected to the world as a whole.  More positive, despite having a few hours of miles ahead of me before I am able to rest and eat again.    
  3. If you have a "why" you will finish!  Working out for me most days is a way to care for my body and personal therapy.  So far, I have run two marathons.  Both helped me get through grief and allowed me to cross off a bucket list item.  Running forced me out of my comfort zone and showed me the inner strength that was always there.  If you have a purpose or charity cause for doing a race/event you will finish and find a way to pull through.  As comedian Steve Harvey would say, "Make your setback your comeback!".  You never know what you can accomplish until you take action to make it happen.
  4. Know you are normal if you have moments of wanting to quit or give up.  We all do.  During my first full marathon the woman running next to me tried to talk herself into dipping out at the half marathon finish instead of continuing on as her bib said she should.  I looked at her and reassured her we were in this for the full and to keep going!  Your mind is stronger than your body.  Your body will feel aches, pain, blisters, thirsty, tired and hungry.  Your mind and spirit are what keep you going (especially after 20 miles).  To focus on that next step or break the race down into one mile at a time will help you create little goals when the going gets tough.  
  5. Afterwards life feels simpler and you really notice what matters to you.  Simply put, you will grow as a person on the inside and out.  Despite any injuries or weight loss.  What really sticks with you is your accomplishment.  Some people will understand what you went through while others (even close friends/family) may wish you would never need to race again.  No matter what you do after, remember to listen to your heart and take care of you.  That may mean getting a massage, signing up for another race, moving onto another bucket list item, changing careers or even just placing some memento in your home with pride. 

So how did my life change after a marathon?  Well, honestly now I know the time, effort, dedication, sweat, meal planning, recovery and mental strength needed to get the job done.  I don't click those online "Sign Up Now" buttons as soon because I know some years (for me personally) its best to enjoy the half marathons and take some time to work on my running form instead of taking on a big hurdle such as a marathon (especially in my wedding/engagement year).  I am there to celebrate others and encourage them as they cross the finish line.  And it will always be a wonderful part of my journey in this life I am meant to live and share with the world.

Need more help along your running journey?  Read about proper hydration and Pilates exercises to help strengthen your core and leg muscles.

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