That first marathon was the 2008 Country Music Marathon in Nashville TN.
The above photo is from the finish line area on that day. I remember being filled with both excitement and nervousness. When this photo was taken we only had two little kidos and Trevor was still a non-runner. I had purchased the hat I was wearing at the expo the day before because rain was in the forecast. It’s still my go-to marathon hat all this time later.
Fast forward 10 years and 52 marathons later, here’s what I’ve learned . . .
Three lessons I’ve learned in 10 years of running marathons
#1. You do you
What works for other runners may be different from what works for you. Don’t feel like you’re less-than as a runner because you don’t follow the same training routine, do the same amount of races that others do, don’t run a large number of miles, look different from other runners, or run at a different pace.
I’m reminded of the great quote by Teddy Rosevelt which says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” This is something I have to battle in my own life. Social media can be a great thing but if you’re not careful the perfectly polished lives that some people present can lead to discontentment with your own life.
Remember that no one looks perfect 100% of the time. They also don’t always have perfect training cycles, run in beautiful places all the time, or PR at every race. It’s important to keep learning and growing as a runner but to also keep in mind that you’re an experiment of one.
#2. Don’t neglect the little things
It’s often not the big decisions that make the most difference over time but the little things. The little things may include practices like: focused cross training to prevent injury, regular strength training to build up support muscles and address body imbalances, foam rolling, eating healthy, balancing rest with training, building back slowly from injury or time off, using stress management techniques like meditation, and being prepared with tested gear for your marathon.
Even tiny things like bringing safety pins to a race can decrease your anxiety level. True story- I didn’t get any safety pins for my bib at this marathon. I was able to borrow one from the hotel clerk and had two pinned to my race hat so this tiny crisis was averted, but I was kicking myself for not being totally prepared in advance.
Being diligent about the little things can go a long way to success in your running goals. Remind yourself of this the next time you’re struggling to find motivation to do your core work.
#3. Aim for progress, not perfection
This is a theme that I always come back to. You’re likely to struggle in certain areas because we all struggle. I can get down about the fact that I can’t run high mileage without getting injured or I can be thankful for the miles I am able to run. I could wish that I had the thin body type of an elite runner or I can be thankful for the strong body that I have.
Keep your goals in sight but know that progress is not always linear. The decisions we make now don’t always pay off immediately (like those little things I talked about previously) but our actions do go a long way to helping us progress in the right direction.
Remember that your goals and even physical and mental capacity for training and running will change over the years so it’s important to keep a long term perspective in mind. My goal is to be a runner for life.
We fall down (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally) and we get back up. Setbacks are just part of the overall journey and can help mold us into stronger people. I’ve changed so much since I did my first marathon 10 years ago and I know that I’ll continue to change and grow in the next decade.