Roughly 11 hours ago I crossed the finish line at the St. Louis, MO half-marathon. I ran with my sister, father, two cousins and an uncle. It was the kind of exhausting but exhilarating experience you are looking forward to until you’re in the middle of it. At that point the only thoughts that runs through your brain are “Am I insane?” “When is this over?”
I’ve conquered this insanity once before, running the full marathon in Chicago last October. And while it does include sore muscles, a sun-burnt face and tiredness, I can honestly tell you I think it’s an experience everyone should try at least once.
Marathon training and the subsequent run is not just about crossing the finish line. The battle to lace up the running shoes week after week and the test of personal endurance is one that teaches a lot of life lessons.
1. You have no idea how much the human body can endure. Running 13.1 miles or 26.2 miles is a true test of the amazing heights the human body can reach. It’s a pretty amazing experience when your shoes cross that finish line and you realize your body has just run on uneven pavement for miles and you’re alive to talk about it. (Brag about it even) If your body can move you that far, imagine what else you could do if you only put your mind to it.
2. Life isn’t always easy. For even the Olympic athletes, running 26.2 miles is not a walk in the park. Marathon training is no amazing experience either. There are the lost toenails, blisters, and undesirable climate conditions to contend with. But isn’t that how life is too? Sometimes it’s easy, most days we need to hold our head up and struggle through to the best of our ability.
3. Practice, practice, practice. Only the amazing athlete can get out on race day and finish a marathon without training. 99.9% of the people running have been gearing up for this for months. They have run in the sunshine, on the treadmill, up hills, in the rain; and each time it’s to see what they can accomplish. Any life goal is the same. We can’t just jump in and expect to be great at it. We need to work at it. Practice. Train.
4. This world is full of all sorts of people with whom you need to share the road. When you run a marathon you see women in bright pink tutus, 75-year-old men zipping past you, jugglers running while tossing objects, inspiring people with disabilities, overweight joggers, personal trainers, barefoot runners… you see it all. In life don’t we come face to face with a wide variety of people just as we go about our daily tasks? Just like us, they all share a part of the road, a part of the world.
5. Nutrition is important. A marathon contender can’t eat whatever they want moments before (or even the night before) the marathon and expect to sail smoothly through every mile of the course. It takes pre-planning to load up on carbs, liquids and energy-providing foods. Same with our everyday food consumption.
6. Every body needs a little encouragement from time to time. The best part about running a marathon (besides the ability to say you have) are the fans that stand on the sidelines. You watch out for them. You revel in their cheers, claps, clanging cow bells. It’s invigorating and it’s contagious. You’re cheered on and you turn to cheer on the person next to you who looks ready to collapse or give up. Life cheerleaders are always a bonus too. We can spread the positivity by saying something uplifting to another and they in turn can do the same.
I could go on all day…
But honestly if you have the ability to train and run a marathon of any length, you’ll find the reward far outweighs the pain.
Have you ever run a marathon? What would you add to the list of lessons learned?