11 Important Life Lessons Marathon Running Can Teach You

11 Important Life Lessons Marathon Running Can Teach You

At mile 20, I thought I was dead. At mile 22, I wished I was dead. At mile 24, I knew I was dead. At mile 26.2, I realized I had become too tough to kill.” – Anonymous

Running a marathon requires putting on your thinking cap as much as, if not more than, your running cap. Mindset counts for a lot in a 26.2-mile jaunt that is a solitary exercise. That’s where quotes like the above kick in.

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Had an awesome time at the @kodiakultramarathons this weekend! It was a great event, and the staff & and volunteers really went out of their way to ensure an exceptional experience for all the participants. Even though I “just” did the 50k, it was a very tough course; every mile was earned. The best part though, was having my “crew” along for the ride…#masterowen and @hidef7 killed it all day long and it wouldn’t have been the same without them there; an added bonus was having my parents visiting from New Mexico. Now…just looking forward to the 2019 Kodiak! #ultramarathon #50k #nottoooldforthis #happysucker #bigbear #visitbigbear #california #trailrunning #headsweats #keepacoolhead #headsweats20th #yetitrailrunners #runyoncanyonapparel

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The approximately 500,000 Americans who complete a marathon each year can probably relate to the sentiment. Months of preparation get you ready, the excitement for race day has you amped up at the start and the novelty of the experience can carry you through for a decent bit. But, eventually, whether it’s mile 15, 20 or after, you’re gonna hit the proverbial wall. It’s in those moments where mental toughness, stamina and a strong desire to finish what you started will help carry you over the finish line. If you’re able to soldier on, finishing the job is rewarding and relieving.

Seamless transition–this is where we segue into life lessons. The all-encompassing experience that is deciding to run a marathon, preparing for said marathon and running said marathon can help you in other areas of life. Here’s a review of 11 important life lessons marathon running can impart.

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Celebrate the good

Marathon Runners

We’ve all been in those life ruts where negativity seeps into many areas and prevents you from enjoying the good things you have going. Whether it’s work-related or an issue in our personal lives, sometimes it can be difficult to block out the bad and acknowledge the good–especially the good that comes with or out of the bad.

The same is true of running a marathon. Instead of getting frustrated with the training process or a perceived lack of progress, embrace the process. Realize that making the commitment to tackle 26.2 miles in the first place is an achievement you should be proud of. If you’re not getting faster or stronger as quickly or easily as you envisioned, don’t worry about it. Keep working and set realistic goals to get better at your own pace. In both running and life, if you’re unable to appreciate the good, it becomes very easy to let the bad consume you.

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You’re capable

Staying with the glass half full, glass half empty theme, convincing yourself you can and will run a marathon is a big part of actually doing it. When the idea of running 26.2 miles seems overly daunting and you’re wondering “why the heck did I sign up for this,” take a deep breath and focus on incremental progress.

Figure out how to get a faster 5k time, then 10k, etc. Figure out the best exercises to help with flexibility and strength. Figure out the best pre- and post-workout meals to have you feeling healthy and happy. Think about how all this will fit together to help you actually run the marathon, if you follow a sensible training plan.

The same can be true in many aspects of life. Years of schooling or years of paying your dues in a job to get the position you dream of can be intimidating. Don’t let it be debilitating. Believe that you can do it and mull over the steps you’re taking to work toward the dream.

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Embrace challenges

In life and in marathon running, there are going to be plenty of challenges. Plenty of things you didn’t plan for. Plenty of things you’d rather not have to deal with. But, it’s reality.

Plenty of Challenges

Take it for what it is and figure out the best way to tackle it. If an injury pops up during training, act quickly to care for it properly and adjust your training/goal time accordingly. If the job interview doesn’t go your way, think about what you can take from the experience to nail the next one. Meeting challenges head on and discovering ways to avoid them or beat them in the future is key to success in either arena.

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You’re worth the time

We find that a big reason many avid runners love the sport so much is the element of self-care it brings. A good run makes you feel better mentally and physically. If you’re disciplined enough to go for a marathon, all the work you’ll put into mind, body and diet should go a long way toward helping you be your best in every facet.

An added caveat to this thread is to avoid trying for perfection. Demand a high standard from yourself, but figure out what makes you tick and what you can realistically achieve, in the short and long term.

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Lean on others

Couple of runners training outdoors

Between consulting others who have run marathons, training with others, discussing your progress with family and friends and getting support from fellow runners and spectators on race day, a lot of people other than you comprise the experience. If you don’t feel like you have that kind of support system, develop it. A marathon requires a lot and most need some measure of help from others to see it through from start to finish.

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It’s all about preparation

Wearing a running hat celebrating the achievement of running a marathon is neat. It reminds you of a unique experience in your life and is a good conversation starter. But, for many, the preparation that comes before race day makes the actual day and aftermath feel like a reward for all the work.

If you haven’t gathered already, training is hard. There’s times you don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn to run, or put in a workout after work. There’s not spectators cheering and handing out water and high fives on that 15- or 20-mile long training run. It’s mostly on you. So, being able to actually do the things you need to time and time again requires toughness. If you’ve done the preparation, once the actual day comes, it’s likely to be more enjoyable and a little bit (stress a little bit) easier than you may have thought.

The same is true in life. When you study hard for a final exam, put in the legwork to land a new client or save up the money for a big personal purchase, the reward is derived from preparation. Be all about it.

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Consistency is king

Warning: A good way to spoil all that preparation is to start too fast. You’re gonna be amped up for the first few miles of the 26.2, but it’s wise to not get out of the gates too quickly. Stick to the pacing you’ve become comfortable with in training and conserve energy for the first third of the race, because you’re gonna be tested on the back end.

Dont start too fast

Pacing is also important in our work and personal lives. Biting off more than you can chew or picking and choosing spots to put work in can lead to a lot of stress and burnout. Trying your best to be as consistent as possible will give you a greater likelihood for success.

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Do your absolute best

Cliché as it is, it rings true. Some runners are capable of winning, some are capable of a sub-four-hour time and some are just barely capable of finishing. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, acknowledge your status, embrace it and focus on realistic goals.

In life, we all have certain strengths and weaknesses. Find the field that’s right for you and attack it with determination, but be wary of imagining things that are unrealistic. A lot of peace, contentment and happiness can come from rightly sizing up yourself and your situation.

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Self-belief goes a long way

Youre in a good place

If you find that you’re so set on running a marathon that you’ve barely even considered the possibility you don’t finish, you’re in a good place. Whether you typically have a lot of self-confidence or really need to focus on building yourself up, harness that positive energy. Much like winning teams, marathon runners who, well, run marathons, do it at least to some extent because they believe they can and will, no matter what.

In life, teaming that belief with a thought-out course of action normally makes a successful person. You need to believe in what you’re doing and figure out the smartest steps to take to get what you want.

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Find a greater purpose that drives you

Happy cheering woman in New York City

Find your why. Sorry for another cliché, but in all seriousness, finding your why is huge in running and in life. It doesn’t really matter too much what the why is, as long as it means something to you. Is it merely something you’ve always wanted to do? Is it something you feel will inspire others? Are you raising money for a charity? Are you hoping it will springboard you to tackle other challenges in life? Whatever it is, figure it out and use it as fuel.

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Showing up and trying is half the battle

When it comes to preparing for a marathon, deciding to do it and then doing it sounds simple in theory. In practice, it isn’t. When you feel sore or tired, you’re busy with other things or you merely don’t feel like doing it, overcoming all those things and actually doing it is hard. Keeping your commitment level consistent, though, will help you run that 26.2 miles.

Life is also similar. Sense a trend among the 11 life lessons? Show up each day, put in the work that’s needed, put in extra work to go the extra mile (get it) and you’ll likely be rewarded.

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