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26 Lessons I Learned from my First Marathon

26 Lessons I Learned from my First Marathon
26 Lessons I Learned from my First Marathon

In May 2016, I ran my first marathon: BMO Vancouver Marathon. Read more about my experience here. Training for and running the marathon changed my life and I learned many lessons from the experience. Here are 26:

  1. Good quality sleep is essential: for recovery, for getting through the day, for not losing your mind during marathon training.
  2. Eating well is also key: you will want to eat everything and anything right now, especially the day after a 20 mile run. Scones are delicious, but you should also eat something nutritious. I learned the hard way the detriments of not eating enough (brain fog and terrible low energy).
  3. I need a training plan and I need structure: it is so satisfying to cross a workout off your list, see how you have improved, and know what you are doing each day.
  4. You need a support network: it takes a village to train for a marathon. The support of my family and friends during training, before, and after the marathon was huge and I couldn’t have done it without them.
  5. A good playlist makes all the difference: yes, it is boring running alone for 3 hours. That’s why you need a good playlist.
  6. Test out your fuel: because barfing during a race is not fun.
  7. Running in the pouring rain is only bad for the first 5 minutes: then you are soaking wet, so you might as well keep going.
  8. Always bring an extra gel: or you will find yourself Google Mapping the closest Running Room so you can stock up, while out on your 20 mile long run.
  9. Always bring money on your long run: see number 8 or if you need to bail and catch transit home. Also, every long run should end with a good coffee and something tasty. 
  10. You will go through highs and lows during your training and you may want to quit: 6 weeks into training I was exhausted, hungry, and ready to give up. After 1 week off, some helpful pep talks from friends, reevaluating my training plan and my reasons for running a marathon, I was ready to get back at it.
  11. Patience: whether it is patience to not rush through a long run, patience during the 12-18 week training cycle, or during the race itself.
  12. Long-term gratification: similar to patience, this was one of the hardest lessons to learn. Training and running a marathon is, no surprise here, long, but the rewards are extremely worth the wait.
  13. Consistency is key: similar to following a training plan, consistently running is the only way you are going to improve.
  14. Explore new routes: discover new parts of your city that you likely would never see otherwise, travel and explore new places through running, and help reduce long-run boredom.
  15. Be prepared for a lot of advice, solicited and unsolicited: if you have other runners in your life, online communities or in person, you will receive a lot of advice. Take it with a grain of salt, and do what works best for you. 

  16. Get a good pair of shoes that properly fit and are suited to your feet. This was key for me to avoid injuries.
  17. You don’t have to train in a group: I completed my training mostly on my own. But it is great to have a running buddy once in awhile, especially if you struggle with getting out for some of those training runs.
  18. Sign-up for a race during your training and prior to your big race: I ran a half-marathon 1 month before the marathon. It was a big confidence boost (7 minute PB!) and a good way to get into the racing mindset.
  19. Your perspective will shift and that will surprise you: what seemed hard 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months ago, is no longer quite as hard.
  20. Your mind quits before your body does: work on building your mental strength, especially during those painful tempo runs or long runs in the pouring rain. 
  21. Be prepared to make sacrifices during training: going to bed earlier, drinking less, spending less time socializing, napping on Sunday afternoons. The time commitment can be one of the hardest parts of marathon training.
  22. Push your limits: you don’t know your limits until you have tried to push beyond them.
  23. There will be bad runs and there will be tears: life sucks, you are never going to make it to the finish line, and you just want to walk home.
  24. There will be awesome runs: you are happy, the sun is setting, and you are so grateful that you can run. 
  25. The feeling of completing your training cycle and crossing that finish line is pretty unbeatable: completing my first marathon has completely shifted what I think is possible, what I am capable of, and my self-confidence.
  26. Remember to have fun: it is easy for running and training for a marathon or big race to take over your life. Remember there are other things in life and to have fun. This should be a rewarding experience, not an entirely stressful one. 

Has running or another hobby you are involved in taught you specific life lessons?


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