I never thought I would run a marathon.
Sure, other people did it, but I wasn’t a runner and it just didn’t seem like something I could do. I had never run more than 2 or 3 miles at a time in my life, and 26.2 seemed a long way off. Even though it had an allure (my dad had run a couple back in the day), I just didn’t think I’d be able to do it – I just wasn’t a runner.
But I started running, largely as a way to prove a couple friends wrong. They gave me a 5% and 0% chance of taking up running in advance of our upcoming trip to Hawaii. Naturally I had to prove them wrong. I wrote about this in some detail a year ago, so check that out if you are curious to hear about my first steps.
The point today is that big takeaway that I got from it: I could do things that I didn’t think I could do. This changed my mind about a lot, and shifted how I see the opportunities out there in the world. Looking back now, there were three main takeaways that I hope I can pass on to you:
Lesson 1: You’ve created artificial limits for yourself that you can (and should) break.
I thought I was limited in how far I could run. A marathon seemed impossibly far for me. Of course, I was wrong, and that may be easy to say from the outside, but we all talk ourselves into assumptions that “place” ourselves somewhere. We tell ourselves, “oh, I’m just not a runner” or “I’m just not good at X.” You fill in the blanks.
At the risk of sounding like a self-help guru, question those limits that you’ve put on yourself! Breaking them won’t be easy – running is a great testament to this. But it can be done and it’s really empowering once you put in the hard work once and get a result that you didn’t think you could do.
Lesson 2: You need a plan AND a process.
Without a plan, any hard goal is indistinguishable from a wish. It is just too easy for you, me, and everyone else to fall back into their old habits anytime you are trying to make a hard change.
Fortunately, we live in an age where there are plans for *everything* available online. Running again works as a great case here. It’s easy to find a weekly training plan that can guide exactly what you should do to get ready for your first race. The plan is done.
But a plan by itself won’t do much unless you find a process that helps you stick to it. When I was training for my first half marathon, this was working out a schedule with my friend who was running the same race. Social accountability is one way to do it, but there are many others. If you are trying to start meditating it may be setting aside a specific time in the day and an alarm to do it. If it’s trying to use your phone less, maybe you start to keep your phone in a drawer. The list goes on, but you get the idea: figure out the tactical steps you need to take in order to execute the plan.
Lesson 3: Find people who inspire you to improve.
Among many things that I’m thankful for is that I know so many people who aspire to do great things. The friend who I trained with for the first half marathon is now off trying to run a sub 3-hour marathon in every state in the country. And other friends and former colleagues are off trying to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the Marathon, crushing 100-mile races through the Swiss Alps, and more.
Needless to say, if your goal is running, find some of these people! Seeing their 20-mile workouts on Saturday morning is an incredible motivator to get me out there when I don’t feel like it. But whatever your goal is, find someone who’s doing something similar.
This is one other thing that marathons teach you: achievers are all around you, just hiding in plain sight. They only come out when there’s a race and you see 20,000 other people wearing weird clothes wandering in the dark to a start line.
Bottom line: there are achievers everywhere, trying to reach for new heights. Find them and encourage each other to go to new heights!
Even with all that said, success doesn’t happen overnight. And if the goal is meaningful enough it will be hard, and you’ll go through highs and lows. Running my first marathon epitomized so much about reaching for any big goal – that’s in part why I think everyone should run a marathon. Both the training and the race itself teach you the value of discipline and execution.
It is coming up on 10 years since I started running to prove my friends wrong, and I’m also about to do my 10th full marathon this December. I’ve lowered my PR at the marathon by almost half an hour (over 1 min/mile). That, again, I never would have thought would be possible after I ran my first. But once you learn that one limit is breakable, you start to realize just how many more are out there for you to shatter.
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