5 Life Lessons From Running Your First Marathon

By Reece

April 25, 2015   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Running a marathon is for people who are either crazy, or ridiculously fit….right?

Well, so I thought, until I decided to run one. Was it because I was always interested in sporty and fit? Nope. Take that reason, turn it on its head, and that’s where I came in.
As a kid, I wasn’t interested in sports. I always got picked last, and I just knew that was my place…I’m sure you know exactly which kid I’m talking about. Hey, maybe you were that kid, too.
I grew up with a firm belief that I couldn’t run, at all. It was a genuine belief, except that it was founded on nothing except a lack of trying. One day, though, something inside my head changed. Call it an epiphany, moment of madness (probably more accurate), or some kind of breakdown. It happened.
I was out walking on my own, and I thought to myself- screw it. Why can’t I run?! Loads of other people can run. I’m not that unfit. Why the hell can’t I run? And I decided that I was not only going to run, but I was going to prove to the world that I could do it: I would run a marathon. And I was going to do it on my 21st birthday- 6 months away, just to make sure it was a memorable day.
So I started training. I was useless to start with. I couldn’t even run half a mile at a time, so I used to just jog part of my route, then walk when my lungs started to collapse. I was painfully slow, but I kept going. And going. And going. Before I knew it, I could jog a mile. Over a period of six months, I ran further and further.
I hit walls. Mental blocks. At first, it was the 6-mile-wall. I’d never run that far, and I wasn’t convinced I could do it. Somehow, I broke through that barrier with relative ease.
Then was the 10 mile mark. For me, this was the absolute, biggest obstacle I faced, and not even just in running- in life. I genuinely, truly didn’t believe that I’d ever be able to run 10 miles. Ever. For some reason, though, I knew that if I could run 10 miles, I could run a marathon (cos they’re totally the same thing).
I vividly remember the day I broke the 10 miler. It was hot and sticky, and I was out running with a friend. As we got to the 8 mile point, we hit hills. Up and down, for what felt like miles. There was no escape from the sun. My body started to give out on me. I was convinced I was going to lose my stomach contents, one way or another. I’d never gone this far, and my body knew it.
Somehow, kicking and screaming, and with a lot of encouragement from my friend, I kept going. It was horrendous- all this talk you hear of ‘running feels good’ went out the window. At that point, I wanted to quit. No dignity preserved- I wanted to stop where I was, vomit everywhere, then collapse in the road.
My friend pushed me through it, and somehow we got home. Then it hit me- I had just run ten miles. Ten whole miles. But that was impossible, because according to my brain I couldn’t run that far.
Crazy as it sounds, from then on, running the marathon didn’t scare me. My long runs got longer- from 12 miles, to 13, 15, 18 and eventually 20 miles. Never, after the 10-mile day, did I question whether it was possible. Never did it hurt like that 10-miler hurt. My mental barrier had been knocked down, and now anything was possible. I went on to complete the marathon, on my 21st birthday, in 4hrs 27mins.
But how does it relate to life?

Lesson #1
It’s all in your head. The painful day where I destroyed my 10-mile-barrier is a day that is now burned into my grey matter. To me, that day carries much more significance than the day I ran the marathon, because it was the day that I started to believe in myself.
We all know that we build our own barriers up in our minds, and that sometimes you don’t know how you’ll get past them. But if you just keep going, and make yourself push through the pain, suddenly the world will open up to you. Anything seems possible.

Lesson #2
Discipline. The only reason I completed that run was because, for the six months leading up to it, I’d trained 5 days a week. I’d done the short runs, the long runs, and all the boring runs in between.
Sometimes it sucked. I was tired after work- I didn’t want to go out and run. It was my one day off each week, and I didn’t really want to spend it doing a 15 mile training run. But I did. And I’m so incredibly proud of having done it.
Having discipline in life will allow you to achieve great things, even though, at the time, it’s the last thing you want to be doing. All of the small successes along the way are what build up to the ultimate achievement of you bigger goals.

Lesson #3
Achievement feels awesome. I can’t describe the feeling you get when you cross the finish line, but let me tell you this much- all your exhaustion disappears when you’ve only got 100 yards to push. You’ll be deliriously happy. You’ll be in disbelief. It’s an amazing feeling, and the reason it’s so great is because it was so difficult to get there.
That sense of achievement will stay with you for life. And it’s not just limited to sporting events- you get that same sense of achievement when you do well in any area of your life. The more work you’ve had to put into getting there, the more you’ll appreciate the end result.
And the best part is, no one can ever take it away from you.

Lesson #4
It’s just the start. Yep, once you’ve achieved something like running your first marathon, you want to do it again. You want to go on to bigger and better things. You feel like you can achieve anything.
You’ll realise that there’s so much more in life that you can do, if you just get out there and try. You’ll find yourself questioning everything, saying ‘surely I could do that’?

Lesson #5
My friend pushed me through that 10 mile run. Without her, I would never have broken through my mental barrier. The same is true in life- sometimes, we just need that one person to believe in us when we don’t even believe in ourselves.
Since that day, I’ve wanted to help people break through their own barriers. It’s one of the greatest gifts that you can give someone- to show them that they are capable of much more than they currently believe is possible.

You see, running a marathon is about much more than running. It changed me as a person, and made me question my whole belief system. Running a marathon is about overcoming your own mental barriers to success. We all make excuses- I can’t run, I’m not qualified for that job, I don’t have enough experience to start my own business. In reality, the barriers aren’t there. You’re perfectly capable of achieving anything you set out to achieve, as long as you take it one step at a time and keep moving forwards.


Reece is the 20-something creator of Adventures of Reece, where she writes about travel, personal finance, studying, and living an unconventional life.

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