Two weeks ago I ran a marathon. 26.2 miles of pain, joy, self-doubt, reflection and accomplishment. Now that I am just about recovering physically and contemplating my next life goal, I wanted to reflect on my training/racing experience and what I’ve learned in the process. These are all things that I have explained and will continue to explain to my children, in more watered down terms. After hundreds of miles on the roads and treadmills, here are some of my key take-aways.
1. It’s important to have goals. Pre-children I ran two marathons. Since then, I’ve run countless 5Ks and 10Ks (pushing strollers!) and even a few half marathons. Running a “full” was one of the things that I did before having my boys that I needed to do again, to prove simply that I could. And, perhaps, that I could do it better. Along the same lines, I think it’s important to have different sets of goals – remember applying to college? Have a ‘safety’ goal, a target goal and a reach goal. I referred to them as my public goal (break 4 hours) and my personal goal (get closer to 3:45:00). Think of it as a midway point between realism and optimism. I love running because it isn’t a win/lose situation, but personal improvement is a focus.
2. Mix things up and trust the process. Run every long run :30-:90 slower than my race pace? Uhhh you must be cray cray. Track speed work helped mentally but it’s hard to believe in something that you haven’t experienced success with. It’s also SO hard to hold back on the first few miles of a race. The adrenaline gets you, you want some minutes in the bank but it’s not a smart approach. The taper (the last three weeks of decreasing long runs – 13, 10, 7 miles) really messed with my head too. I felt like I needed to prove to myself that I could go farther. But, obviously my legs needed the rest and I had to trust the advice of others.
3. “No one ever climbed a mountain alone.” I relied on my BRF (best running friend), Brenda, to push me through the hard miles, my husband to man the house for Daddy Donut Day, my running store friends (hi!) and my mom who drove to my house at 6am one weekend so I could go run 18 miles. It was truly a team effort. (Thank you!)
4. My own health and sanity should be a priority. They shouldn’t be THE priority in my family but in order for me to be a more positive, patient and calm mother I know that I need strenuous physical activity. I think running a marathon qualifies.
5. It is valuable to find and cultivate our passions. My husband loves tennis and paddle but running is not his cup of tea. (To be fair, he did run a marathon with me back in 2007 before we were even engaged). I can’t wait to discover what my boys enjoy as much as I love running. Whether it is drama, trombone, ice hockey, poetry, German or even running… I hope they find a passion and that no one stands in their way.
6. Moms can do hard things. I borrow this from my college tennis teammate, fellow running mom and Quad Cities Moms Blog contributor Abbie. I LOVE this post she wrote about how uses the language of bravery with her three (adorable!) little girls. It’s important to struggle. It’s important to fail. It’s defeating but necessary to have a bad training run and to still lace up my shoes next time. Check out her series of posts about running when you need some inspiration!
7. Chunk! Big goals are difficult to work towards – whether it’s running, nursing a baby, losing weight, driving a long way or cleaning the house. I thought of my 26.2 as a 10K (6.2 miles), and then another. Then, I was half way done and just had to turn around and go back. People talk about hitting the “wall” at mile 16 because you’ve been out there for so long but still have another 10 miles to go. In my experience, chunking (and knowing the route) prevents hitting the wall.
8. “Earn the downhill” has been my training mantra this go-’round. It applies to the actual hills I’ve been running (there are SO many here!) and with everything else in life. Without hills, there would be no valleys… Hills are also a good excuse to slow down just as long as you keep your eyes focused on the road directly in front of you, and not how far away the crest is.
9. You can only control so much. You can have the best training, be 110% prepared and have it rain on race day. Focus on what you can control but recognize that there are things that are outside of your realm.
10. Be proud. Take opportunities to feel satisfaction in your accomplishments. Enjoy when people give you a pat on the back and remember how hard you’ve worked to get to that finish line.
What goals are you chasing and what have you learned along the way?