“Shoot for the moon and never come home!“
Running a marathon changes you in ways that you never could have imagined. After the excitement has passed and you hobble back to work a few days after completing 42.2 kilometres in one setting, the impact of your achievement quickly becomes apparent – You see and experience everything differently.
Growth Never Comes Easy
Personal growth requires mastering obstacles in your life. Whether at work or home, every challenge is an opportunity to learn more about yourself, affirm your patterns (inter/intra-personal dynamics), and learn new ways to navigate difficulty.
The marathon experience is a growth opportunity everyone should experience. Running a marathon places you on a path with numerous obstacles determined to bully you to the sidelines. If you take time to prepare and are able to navigate challenges along the way, the marathon is the personal development opportunity of a lifetime.
Six Lessons The Marathon Will Teach You
Completing a marathon requires a massive amount of preparedness and commitment in the face of profound self-doubt and personal obstacles. During the countless days of training and on race day, several lessons are realized. We capture six that stand out the most:
1 – Every Decision Counts
Marathon running is all about small decisions with big impact. If you have come to the table with a solid base and have allowed yourself enough time to train, completing the marathon itself might seem almost academic in nature….Right? well sorta…
During training, little decisions quickly accumulate into outcomes with big impact. If you stop eating properly, do not allow for significant periods of recovery between training runs, your body will eventually revolt.
Small impactful decisions also predict the outcome on race day. If you go out too strong after the gun, take in less than adequate fluids and nutrition during the race, you risk not making it the entire distance.
Our work and personal life works the same way. Running a marathon teaches you that little decisions, while seemingly minute in the moment, add up to big outcomes down the path. Treat every decision with the time and attention it needs. Dismissing impact has the power to derail efforts.
2 – Determination Is Bigger Than Pain
Every race has a period often called, the pain cave. When you enter the pain cave, your entire being is consumed by your physical experience. During these times, it is important to remember that pain requires the mind to perceive it. That means there is power in bypassing the mind when it decides to point out the obvious – it hurts!
Making it through the other side of the pain cave, as part of a race or in other parts of our lives, requires pushing past the difficult experience with determination. Determination requires that you know the end goal and are committed to achieving it, one foot in front of the other.
3 – Reframe Is Salvation
Running is a head game. Cognitive distortions get in our way every chance given. The most powerful mental tool you can use is the reframe. Let’s look at an example:
One distorted thought might be, “Running might not be for me. There are lots of people more suited for this shit. I think I should take up power walking.”
You can reframe that statement into, “Running is for everyone and there is no true running type. I’m as ready as anyone to master this distance.“
Every conflict we experience in our day-to-day gets filtered through our own interpretation supported by a lifetime of experience. The result is self-talk soaked in the foreshadowing of a murky future. Using reframe allows us to restructure our thoughts towards a realistic and positive outcome.
4 – Embracing Doubt Provides Strength
Self-doubt is a universal experience for anyone training for a marathon. Denying self-doubt, or using persistence to push through it, is more destructive than the doubt itself. Why? Doubt has a tendency to fester.
Embrace self-doubt – She is your teacher! For example, acknowledge the pain in your right knee – In fact, acknowledge that you actually might not make it to race day if your knee pain turns into a significant injury. It sidelines the most experienced runners.
Now that you have given doubt her due time, quickly move into prevention mode. Knowing that knee pain is leading to doubt, build a self-care plan that includes extra stretching, training day with slightly less milage, and increased recovery time between physically stressful efforts.
Doubt is seen in the workplace where performance is a primary metric for job satisfaction and advancement. It is important to not let doubt fester. Instead, use it to inform and prevent. Once you know the nature of the beast, have made a plan to prevent the emerging problem, put doubt on the shelf where they belong.
5 – Remember This: There Is Always The Option to Quit
Allow yourself the option to quit. It makes quitting the option never taken.
Think about a training session where you are doing hill repeats. This is a great strength building exercise and great for your Vo2Max! But, it’s tough, right?
Imagine that you are on your final hill. You are spent, but know that you can make it up the incline if you so decide. Typically, this is when we tell ourselves that we, ‘must’ get to the top running.
Self-imposed requirements cause us to feel horrible when we do not meet the goal in mind. In order to eliminate ‘must’ as an all-or-nothing approach to the outcome, it is helpful to instead say, “I don’t have to run this last hill, but I want too.“
Stating that you want something is a very different mind-set than requiring yourself too. Want insinuates desire. Accomplishing your goal is an amazing desire to have. You don’t, ‘have to‘ do anything.
This scenario repeats itself throughout our life. We set ourselves up with requirements that eliminate choice. Having no choice places us in the position of victimizing ourselves with perceived failure, and being victimized by others when they do not do what we believe is required.
6 – Completion Is Only The Beginning
After you finish your first marathon, within a short period of time, you will be ready to sign up for another. This seems rather wild knowing that you have squeezed every once of learning from your marathon experience. However, whether you run one marathon or several, the learning continues to unfold over the course of time.
After your experience, take time to reinforce the lessons you have learned through intensive self-reflection. You have a new set of tools that take practice. Over time, you learn where the lessons are applicable, and where refinement is needed. Mastery requires time.