7 Things I Learned From Running a Marathon

Run to learn

RUNNING A MARATHON WILL CHANGE YOU FOREVER.

I am not a runner by trade or preference, though I used to be athletic–before marriage and children. However, running a marathon taught me some lessons–or reminded me of truths–that I will be forever grateful for.

Last year, in my 39th year, Leah tricked me into running a marathon. It started out harmlessly enough with, “Wanna go for a walk?” How could I refuse? Then it became, let’s just run a mile. Then there was a 5K, later followed by a 10K. The 10K was a stepping stone to the half marathon which would become a training day on the way to the full marathon (26.2 miles). Some people thought it was crazy, others simply said it wasn’t for them. Either way, it seemed a daunting task.

Though I don’t feel a great need to make marathon training a part of my annual activities, I can say with all honesty that the things I learned in the process changed me in a significant way.

1 .TRAINING FOR A MARATHON TESTED MY BELIEFS IN WHAT WAS POSSIBLE

Who would’ve though that I would ever run 100s of training miles over the course of a year and finish a marathon? Unbelievable, really, but not impossible. When you decide to do something and don’t care what other people think, your mind opens to the possibilities available to you–if only you choose them.

2. A GOAL IS FOR THE LONG HAUL AND IS NOT REACHED ALL AT ONCE

You can try and run a race without training, but it will most likely be very painful, disappointing and disheartening. If you take the time to incrementally up your training or your intensity in progressing towards a goal, you can see progress and feel confident that the time you have put in will carry you towards the finish line. Remember, it is the tortoise that always wins–not for his slowness, but for his steadiness.

3. YOU ARE AS CAPABLE AS YOU TRAIN TO BE

If you only put in the effort to train for a 10K, a marathon will  expose your limitations. Your training doesn’t end until you have reached the finish. Your training will expand your capacity and strengthen both your muscles and your resolve. Training for any goal requires a commitment to the plan and a perseverance to grow incrementally and with discipline.

4. YOUR THOUGHTS DETERMINE HOW FAR YOU WILL GO

In the book The Non-Marathon Runners Guide to Running a Marathon, one of the key points is that you have to control your thoughts and direct them, or they will defeat you. You have to imagine yourself finishing the race, pushing through obstacles, loving the flow. You have to conquer self-doubt, negativity and hopelessness. Running a marathon demands extreme mental training that manifests itself as physical training. Managing your thinking is the key to winning any race. You must have the discipline to think.

5. THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS

There were days that it seemed a break to only train a few miles instead of the rigor that the schedule demanded. The net result, however, left us falling behind and feeling behind. You can choose to not go the distance. But you can’t get the distance without going the distance. Whatever you take on requires that you put in the time and the work necessary to build a The race has only a beginning and an end. Everything in the middle is the struggle to get through it. There are no shortcuts, only falling short, in a marathon.

6. THERE IS NO MAGIC FORMULA: YOU MUST PUT ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER

When you are running a marathon, the only choice is to press on–running, walking, stumbling, crawling. The only way to complete it is to put one foot in front of the other, regardless of how you feel. You can fuel up and train to make the race less strenuous. But the only way to make progress is to go one step at a time.

7. YOU WON’T KNOW WHAT CAN BE ACHIEVED IF YOU DON’T TRY: JUST DO IT

Unless you make a decision to do something and actually take actions to do it, you will never know what you are capable of. Dreaming and thinking about doing something are a waste of time. If you want something, you need to be decisive and active in pursuing that thing–or it will fade away into the land of lost opportunities.

Next time you are faced with a challenge or an opportunity that requires work and commitment, ask yourself:

What have I got to lose?

What is a challenge you have taken head on that has contributed to your growth?

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).