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A Key Life Lesson I Learned From Running a Marathon

The marathon. The perfect physical challenge to test your endurance, resolve, and spirit. 42.2km (or 26.2 miles) of distance that can bring out the best in you. In fact, did you know that the oldest person to ever accomplish the goal of running a marathon was 100 years old? Or that a Chicago mother ran a marathon hours before giving birth to her second child?

These are just a couple of inspiring marathon facts that will help you realize the salutary effect this ambition can have on people.

Running a marathon is a great goal to set that remains high on many people’s bucket lists. And for good reason, it will push your limits, develop your character, and force you to grow beyond where you currently are — mentally, emotionally, and physically.

And to help validate this claim, I’d like to share my marathon story and the valuable life lesson I learned from it as a result. I’ve run two marathons, however, it was the second one that had the biggest impact on me. Keep reading to learn more.

Preparation for Running a Marathon

I set the goal to run my first marathon back in August 2019. I felt like it was the perfect challenge to test myself; to see what I was made of. So I set the intention to run the Scotiabank Marathon here in Calgary. I immediately began my training regime.

At the time, I would describe myself as semi-athletic: I ate healthy (most of the time), I hit the gym 3 to 5 days a week, and generally, took pretty good care of myself.

But never had I ever done anything of this magnitude. I was determined though. I trained 5 days a week, increasing my mileage — and as a result — my endurance with each passing week.

Soon, I began seeing progress and improvements as a runner. This both excited and encouraged me to continue pushing in my training…

Unexpected Delay

I was supposed to run my first marathon in May 2020. However, that never came to pass as the world was brought to a standstill at the beginning of the year.

The coronavirus and the resulting pandemic put my goal of running a marathon on hold. As upsetting as this was, I didn’t let it get to me. It was simply an opportunity to improve my running even more. So I trained through 2020, almost daily; knowing that 2021 would be the year for me!

But as 2021 rolled around, I was still unsure if the Scotiabank Marathon would be on that year. After all, the pandemic was still in full effect.

I wasn’t willing to wait to find out. I decided to run my first marathon on my own. Why not, right?

So in May 2021, that’s exactly what I did. With nothing but my shoes on the ground, my water bag on my back, and a few close family members cheering me on, I ran the full 42.2 km (26.2 miles) by myself. However, being my first marathon, I was ill-prepared.

Bitter-Sweet Ending

Things started off well. My body was hydrated, I was feeling good, and it was a warm beautiful morning. But that cheerful beginning was short-lived. A little over the halfway point (22.1 km or 13.1 miles), I began to experience the inevitable results of my ignorance when it came to running a marathon.

My body began tense up, my legs felt like jello, and my phone and keys inside of my pockets turned into jackhammers banging against my thighs with each stride.

Here were the ways I was ill-prepared for my first marathon:

  • Lack of Water: I was out by the time I reached halfway, dehydration set in very quickly afterward
  • Inadequate Running Gel Supply: This resulted in depleted energy levels
  • Starting the Race Too Late: I started the race at 11am (most marathons start at 7am or earlier to avoid the midday heat) These variables produced a poor performance. About 24 km in, I collapsed on a patch of grass. I felt defeated. Barely halfway through the race, I wanted to through in the towel. But I picked myself up and kept pushing forward, even if it meant a slow, monotonous walk…

 

May 30, 2021, me after running my first marathon.

My finish time was 5 hours and 42 minutes.

I was disappointed and ashamed. Don’t get me wrong, I was certainly happy I ran my first marathon — a goal that had been on my bucket list for nearly two years at that point — however, I just knew I was capable of doing so much better.

In that regard, it was definitely a bitter-sweet ending.

Redemption

My second marathon run was in September 2021. Just 4 months after the horrendous performance of my first marathon. I was determined to smash that previous finish time — I was out for redemption!

I ran this race with a few good friends, moreover, I had the bitter experience from the last race firmly fixed in mind. For this reason, I knew exactly what not to do.

And now, I was ready to redeem myself!

To prove my seriousness, I set a finish time to aim for… I kept repeating to myself… “4 hours & 30 minutes, 4 hours & 30 minutes.” After the abysmal 5 hours and 42-minute finish of my first run, if I could finish in 4 hours and 30 minutes for this run — I would be happy.

I set the timer on my phone and then started off!

And with my feet planted to the asphalt, my friends alongside me, and a welcoming clear blue sky; I felt it was going to be a good day.

As I progressed through the race, I refused to look at the timer. I trusted my training & didn’t want my mind stressed if I happened to be falling behind.

Instead, I just did my best to keep a steady pace and enjoy the run.
Consequently, I soaked up every minute of the run and had an amazing experience!

running a marathon
September 19, 2021. My friends and I (their first and my second marathon)

The result? I ran my second marathon in 3 hours and 45 minutes and 50 seconds!
Not only did I smash my previous record by shaving nearly two hours off my original finish time, but I also smashed my expected time as well. And that made the experience that much richer.

I was elated.

Running a Marathon: The Key Life Lesson I Learned

After running two marathons in the span of 4 months, there is a very important life lesson I learned. Simply put, it is…

We’re capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for.

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t realize how much you’re leaving on the table. There’s so much of you that isn’t being tapped into. You have reservoirs of potential just waiting to be awakened. And more than likely, you’re unaware.

Why? Because you haven’t pushed or challenged yourself to any great degree.

The only way to uncover your potential and realize your latent abilities is to stretch yourself beyond what you think is possible for you. Only then will you have the need to grow beyond your current realm of capability.

I could have let the failure of that first run sully my attitude toward running forever. That would have been easy. But I knew I was better than that, and I was determined to prove it to myself.

Similarly, you can also do much better than what you’re currently putting forth. You’re capable of great things. If you only gave yourself the opportunity, you’d be shocked and amazed at what you’re truly capable of.

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