7 Marathons Taught Me These 10 Lessons

I started running long distance six years ago, and I’m a few days away from my 8th marathon. Running has taught me so much, given me opportunities I never would have imagined (hello, Wanderlust), and introduced me to many of the most important people in my life.

My happiest NP pic ever for obvious reasons.

Everyone keeps asking how I’m feeling about my race, and my typical response is: “The usual taper feelings.” Some people nod and know exactly what I mean while others have no idea how you can feel excitement, dread, confidence, insecurity, and a general neurosis at the same time. But I’ve learned this is totally standard for a taper. So this got me thinking – what else have these marathons taught me? The list goes on and on, but here are the first 10 that came to mind.

Those “extra things” matter. I’m talking about sleeping, eating well, hydrating, foam rolling, core work, and strengthening. I haven’t been stellar at all these components recently but I’ve seen how much better they make you feel when you’re really upping mileage.

Find your tribe and love them hard. Everything changed when I started training with my November Project crew. I ran with people who I never thought I could keep up with and running became the most social part of my day. They helped me develop such a healthy love for movement and we get to experience so many fun adventures together through running.

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Do more of what makes you happy. I’ve tried the traditional programs with tempo, track, easy runs, long run, and hill work. These things are all effective but I burned out trying to do it all and hated running. So this time around I ran the stadium because the stadium makes me happy (and strong). And I didn’t run tempos because tempos give me anxiety. We’ll see how this pays off on Sunday but regardless I’ve had a ton of fun training the last few months.

Everyone is different. You’re probably thinking, “Well, duh.” But this is a tough one to accept. You could have one friend that performs incredibly well running six days a week averaging 50-60 miles a week. That doesn’t mean you should. Same thing with the way people eat. Some people feel awesome on high-fat, low-carb diets. Others do not and that’s cool too. Test different approaches and see what works best for your body and lifestyle.

There’s a difference between running a marathon and racing a marathon. Newbies, please run your first marathon. It’s way more fun and you don’t need that extra pressure of a goal time as you’re just getting into this. I had so much fun my first 5 marathons and they became significantly less enjoyable when I started racing them. There’s a different high in chasing aggressive goals, but I do miss the time when just finishing a marathon itself was a huge success.

Chip away at goal times. You learn so much with every race, and it’s tempting to set huge goals when you’re surrounded by people who qualify during their first attempt. (Note: some people are just freaks.) There’s nothing wrong with having reach goals, but be patient with your progress. This has been my progression – 4:11, 4:07, 3:53, 3:55, 3:49, 3:39, and 3:34. That won’t be everyone’s story but there is something to be said for the gradual improvements over time.

Everything that can hurt will hurt during your taper. We call these “phantom pains,” and they’re typically nothing to worry about. Your body does weird things as it’s recovering from all the work you just put in.

Trust in your training. By the time the race comes around, you haven’t been running much for a few weeks and you start to doubt your abilities. This is when a training log is helpful but whether or not that’s your thing, you need to trust in your training. The work is done and you are capable of so much more than you think.

You do not know how you feel until mile 18. That mile marker varies for everyone but it’s definitely in the second half and for me tends to be around 18. So many first timers defend their downfall by “But I was feeling good so I picked it up!” Stop doing that. I know you had an awesome 20 miler training run but the marathon is a different beast. Follow your race plan and then see how you actually feel once you’re depleted. If you still have it in you, pick it up then and cruise to the finish. (Ps – I’ve never actually felt like I was “cruising” in a marathon but doesn’t that sound nice?)

I am not normally this happy at 18.

I am not normally this happy at 18.

Respect the marathon. No matter how you prepare, there are so many factors out of your control. This goes back to my general commitment now to enjoy training and have fun running because race day is completely unpredictable. You might as well do what you can to love the process getting there.

What have marathons taught you? Or running in general? I’d love to hear! See you on the flipside of #8 :)

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