Everything I Need to Teach I Learned in Marathon Training [Part 2]

As promised, my last three Lessons for Lifelong Learning, as taught by my good teacher, Marathon Training:

3. Something is 90% of everything.

There are so many reasons not to go on a run. It’s hot. It’s cold. It’s boring. My running partner bailed. I don’t have time for my whole run. I don’t feel like that route… So here’s my mantra: Just Go.

I’ve learned to do whatever I need to do to make my run happen. Too rainy? Fine, run on the treadmill. Nervous about a new route? Fine, go the same route you’ve done for every long run. Worried about being bored? Take the time to get the podcasts in order. Don’t have time for that 12-miler? Put on those sneakers and run for however long I can.

I used to think, I should run outside even if it’s raining – my race might be in the rain! I need to take different routes to mix it up! I shouldn’t need podcasts to keep me occupied – I should be mindful and enjoy nature!

Well, all of those might be true. And in another training season, I might even work on some of those. But for me, right now, I need to let them go. If I worry about doing it all perfectly, I will never get out the door. So that’s what I tell my students, Just start! Whether it’s a long run or a daunting assignment, a job application or a difficult conversation, taking a step is more important than waiting for the perfect conditions.

4. Effort is what counts!

I am not a “natural” runner. I was not one of those kids who never ran a day in her life and was “discovered” by the track coach during a mandatory 1-mile PE run. No. In fact, in that 9th grade 1-mile PE run, I ran around the track three times, literally trying to decide if it would be worth breaking my leg so I could stop running. I decided it was. Fortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to make it happen. By the time I finished my third lap, everyone else had finished their mile and the teacher either didn’t notice that I had another lap to go, or took pity on me and let me stop.
Yeah. That was me.

And guess what? I’ve now completed on a 20-mile run. Even someone who is a natural runner can’t go from no running to a 20-miler. It takes work. And as many times as I’ve told my students, Practice makes perfect! advice means something different when you’ve lived it. Now, instead of Keep trying and you’ll get there! I can say, Guess what? A few years ago I couldn’t run more than 2 miles and now I’m about to run 26.2! Aside from eating and sleeping, there is very little that any of us are born doing!

5 Find your own reasons

I’m kind of a praise-junkie. I was one of those kids with her hand in the air for most of the school day. I like to know when I’m doing well and (I have to admit) I like others to know it to.

Needless to say, I haven’t hidden my upcoming marathon plans. At all. My family knows, my friends know, my book club knows, my students know, my colleagues know, my doctor knows. Heck, the other day I told the clerk at the post-office.
In my head, here’s how the conversation will go:

“Guess what?! I’m training to run a marathon!”

“Wow, Jen! That’s awesome! Tell me every painstaking detail of your most recent long run because I just might decide to run a marathon now, too!”

In reality, it usually goes in one of four ways:

  1. The insanity plea: “Oh my goodness. That’s crazy. I can’t believe anyone would ever PAY to torture themselves like that!”. The Not Okay-ness of this response is pretty obvious.
  2. Worry-wort: “Really? Isn’t that terrible for your body? Someone died at a marathon last year, did you see that on the news?” We all know this person. I’ll resist naming names.
  3. Better You than Me: “That is so impressive! I could NEVER do that!” This always seems like a compliment, and it is probably intended as such. In fact, I’ve probably said it. But it always feels like such a let-down because then I feel guilty for making someone feel inadequate.
  4. Better Me than You: “Wow. You’re so lucky that you have all of that free time.” In other words, “I am a more important person with more important work/family/social commitments.” Hard to come back from that one.

So, I can’t do it for THEM. Thinking that someone is going to be impressed or give me a proverbial gold star is not going to get me through the rough miles. It won’t get me up another rep of that bleeping hill of doom. It won’t get me back on the track after an injury. And it won’t get me across the finish line. I have to do it for ME.

Now, I know I promised you a pop quiz, but the best test of knowledge is to put it to good use. So, let’s lace up those shoes and get out there.

Read Part 1 Here

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