A couple of years ago I was fed up with being out of shape and not exercising so I decided to do something about it. I went for a run around a small lake near my home. I decided to run all the way around this lake even if it killed me (about 6 kms).
Since I hadn’t exercised in a long while it felt like it nearly did kill me, but I managed to get around all the same. I was completely exhausted when I got back home but was also elated to have got all the way around without stopping. This feeling of elation got the better of me and I decided there and then to run a marathon.
I’m glad I did because over the coming months I found out that running a marathon is a fantastic exercise in learning about yourself, both during the training and the actual event. I highly recommend giving it a go, and to encourage you to do the same here are a few things I learnt from the experience:
1. You can’t do anything worthwhile without some self-discipline
In the early days of my training I’d come home from work and slump on the couch. Then I’d start thinking about how much I would struggle with the marathon if I didn’t train. I’d already paid my entry fee and told friends and family I was doing it so there was no way out. Thinking in this way would slowly get me motivated to get up and go for a run. Once I got into the swing of things I’d come home from work and get changed as quickly as I could so I could get out running before I had the chance to come up with any excuses, or get comfortable on the couch.
The idea of self-discipline sounds stern and severe but if you think about it, nothing in life can really be achieved without some kind of self discipline. If you want a University Degree you have to study for it, if you want money you have to earn it. You have to be prepared to pay the price. Nothing worthwhile in life can be achieved without some kind of self discipline.
2. Do the right preparation
I didn’t run a marathon at any point in my training so I didn’t fully know what I was getting myself in for. I didn’t appreciate how important drinking lots of fluids was going to be (stupid I know!). At about the halfway point in the marathon I noticed that I was slowing down and could do nothing to keep up the pace. I didn’t want to drink too much liquid as I was worried about getting the stitch. I realised later that this was a big mistake that I could have avoided by simply doing a bit of research beforehand.
When you want something, you need to do the necessary preparation. You can’t just decide to run a marathon one day and then run it the next. There are miles and miles of training runs that need to be put in first. It’s the same with all things in life. The fast paced way of the world these days is all about immediate results, but the reality is that you have to put in the hard work over a period of time to get results.
3. Believe in yourself, but keep your feet on the ground
As I felt myself slowing down, I noticed that I was getting passed by more and more people. At first these were people who appeared to be really fit. As time went on though, the people passing me became less and less athletic looking. I started to feel embarrassed as some of them didn’t look like they should be fitter than me. This was quite a humbling experience for me as I’ve generally been a pretty fit and healthy person.
I’m all for positive thinking and optimism but it has to be balanced with realism. My inexperience meant I overestimated my ability. There were other people who prepared for the event better than I did and this showed on the day.
4. You can do more than you think
It’s a bit of a contradiction to the previous point but when I first decided to run a marathon it seemed like a far away goal. I thought that I was physically capable of doing it. But I wasn’t confident I would be able to stick to the training for the time required to get myself into shape. I was pleasantly surprised that I managed to see it through and this gave me more confidence in myself.
None of us really know what we are capable of. Whilst I was pleased to complete this marathon, Dean Karnazes completed 50 marathons in 50 days, and 61 year old Cliff Young won a 875km race (which takes 5 days) because he didn’t realise you were supposed to stop to sleep along the way – he just kept going for the whole 5 days! So don’t doubt yourself so easily, go after a big challenge and you might just surprise yourself.
5. Encouragement from others helps a lot
During the last quarter of the race when I was really struggling it surprised me how much the support from the local residents meant. Their cheers and shouts of encouragement really did have an impact on me and I did better because of it.
Everyone can benefit from a bit of encouragement so find ways to get yours. Get together with others who are facing the same challenges, you can help each other along the way. Learning from the mistakes of others can stop you from learning too many things the hard way. You can do things on your own but you’ll probably enjoy them more if you do them with others.
6. It’s good to do things that really test you
I am so glad that I did this marathon for all of the reasons above. It turned out to be a really positive experience that I gained a lot from. I was really pleased with myself for completing it and the confidence boost I got spilled over into other areas of my life. Achieving something big makes you feel that other things are much more achievable. Even if they’re in different areas of your life. So if a marathon isn’t your cup of tea then find another big goal to work towards and go for it.
As I said, the people running this marathon were a surprising range of shapes and sizes so there are no excuses – sign up for one today!Image: bufferchuck