Lessons Learned from a First-Time Marathon
Last week, I mentioned that Jennifer was running in her first marathon on Sunday. Today, I asked her to share her story with all of us, including the “secrets” to her success and what she learned along the way. Yay, Jen!
Yes! I can officially check this one off my bucket list. I completed the Rock ‘n Roll St. Louis marathon last Sunday. How was it? It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. At different times it was fun, excruciating, exciting, daunting, easy, and impossible. And now that it is behind me, I am euphoric and also a bit numb. (But not physically numb. Ouch!)
I feel very fortunate that Aby asked me to write about it on the blog, and I’m honored to share what I learned from this! I have no secret weapons or super powers, but I think the following things were absolutely key.
I had a plan, or more accurately, I found a plan and followed it. Fortunately there are a lot of smart people out there who know far more about marathons than I ever will, and they’ve done all the groundwork. I just had to choose the one that seemed the best fit for me, which ended up being a training program by Hal Higdon, a renowned running expert and author.
I carved out the time. The very next thing I did once I had a plan was to actually put a schedule in my calendar. Having 18 weeks to get ready for something is great, but without assigning tasks to days, that time would have gone by and I would have been no closer to running a marathon. Having things on the schedule solidified my commitment, kept me on track, and also kept my family members in the loop with my training.
I had a team. Speaking of family members, it was imperative that they were on board. Before I even began training, we talked as a family about what it would mean for them. After all, they were not the ones signing up for this, and so I committed to do whatever I could not to take away from family time. This meant some very early runs and some late evenings on the computer mapping out routes and researching nutrition, but I was willing to sacrifice so that my family wouldn’t have to. I was also honest in letting them know there would be 3-4 long weekend runs towards the end that would take up a decent chunk of time and would likely leave me pretty wiped out for the day. I think it was critical to have them on the same page as me. They may not have run with me, but they were most certainly my team.
I also had coaches. Or, perhaps they were more like mentors. Either way, I have two seasoned marathoner friends who were gracious enough to train with me. I have told them I don’t know how anyone trains for a marathon without Julia and Emily, to which they smirk, but I am not kidding. They joined me for my longest training runs, coached me about injuries and recovery, answered my questions, and most of all believed in me. Emily even met me on the course at the bottom of the very worst hill and ran up it with me, filling me with encouragement the entire time. Their expert guidance was invaluable. I’m so grateful!
I had fans. (Hey, why should celebrities have all the fun?) I chose to be pretty vocal about my goal and shared it with many people. I know from past experience that having other people cheer me on keeps me going and keeps me accountable. Thank you to everyone who commented on this blog, the race day spectators and volunteers, and my family and friends. I think we often times underestimate the power our words have. But, I read the comments. I saw the signs. I heard the cheers. And, I believed you. Thank you for believing in me.
I celebrated my accomplishments along the way. I treated myself to the occasional piece of new running gear. I celebrated long runs with chocolate milk (because it is both a treat and a good way to refuel the body after a hard workout). But, I also celebrated in less tangible ways, and these were possibly the most meaningful. I celebrated running in different parts of the country, running through season changes, running through various types of weather. I celebrated beautiful views and encounters with nature. I celebrated starry nights and sunrises. I celebrated that not only was every run taking me closer to my goal, but was also allowing me to experience so much that I would have otherwise missed.
I changed my life. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t achieve this goal and then wake up as a different person in a perfect world. However, I learned important things about myself, and I gained new perspective. I think anyone who achieves a goal can identify with this. More than just checking the goal off a to-do list, it’s what happens along the way and as a result of reaching it that has the lasting impact. That’s how we truly change our lives.