In a few days I will, hopefully, complete the Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon, which will be my last full marathon. I did not sign-up for my first marathon until I was in my forties. I was never a runner and never really enjoyed running. But I have had a great time being a part of marathons. I do not call myself a runner, I am slow and I plod along but I finish.
I have established three goals for each marathon that I have entered and so far I have achieved all three every time. My goals are: 1) finish, 2) do not be the last person to finish the course, and 3) have fun.
Over the years I have learned a few things about running and a lot about myself. Here are some of the life lessons that I have learned from preparing for and being in marathons.
- Sometimes we need a push to get started, we can over think or rationalize our inactivity. It is always easy to get in shape tomorrow.
- There are really only two times that I need to run – when I feel like running and when I don’t feel like running.
- You have to train, but you also have to rest – don’t burn out. You cannot do it all at once or all alone. Preparing for a marathon is gradual and incremental process.
- Enjoy the solitude on the days you run alone. Being along with your thoughts while you run is a great time to clear your mind.
- No one can run for you. There are no vicarious marathon runners.
- Some days are just painful. Hopefully they are few and far between.
- Celebrate the little victories. Build up your mileage as you can. I think most people who start to run give up too soon and run too short. They do not allow their body to adjust or to get in a rhythm. It takes time, do not give up too soon.
- Be ready to adjust to the elements. Some days you need more layers, some days you need fewer, you cannot have the same approach every day.
- Along your route, know where the dogs live they look ominous and usually make a lot of noise, but do little else (a lot of people are like that too).
- On race day know where the cameras are and smile – even if it hurts.
- Enlist others to run with you – they say misery loves company, fun loves company too! Having someone to run alongside you makes it more enjoyable.
- Learn from the experience of others. Talk to those who have run the race.
- Encouragement along the marathon course is great, but not all encouragement is the same. The guy at mile 2 that is yelling “you’re almost there” is not very inspirational.
- Find your pace, not someone else’s – run too fast and you “bonk”
- Don’t pass up the water stations. You have to re-hydrate to keep going. Fuel is needed along the way even if it is not very appetizing (Would you expect something named Goo to taste good?).
- You really can go further than you think you can. Watch the mile markers and rejoice with each and every passing mile.
- As a friend told me, a marathon is just a 10K with a 20 mile warm-up. You really don’t know what will happen those last 6.2 miles, at that point you brain is just as important as your legs.
- The race is tiring and the aftermath can be painful for a while. But the feeling of achievement is worth it.
- A marathon is 26.2 miles, only those that start and finish receive a medal. You have to go the entire distance and you have to stay on the course. To me the hardest parts are the first two miles and the last two miles. In between is a lot of monotony, a lot of simply putting one foot in front of the other over and over and over again, but you have to stay at it and you have to stay on the course.
- Run with a purpose. The finish is what you were working for all along. Finish well, finish strong! Look up and smile the pain will fade but not the pictures.
Lastly here is my favorite marathon quotation: “The miracle is not that I finished, it is that I had the courage to start.” – John Bingham