25 years ago on Sunday October 13, 1996 I ran my first marathon; The Royal Victoria Marathon in beautiful Victoria B.C. It was the culmination of many months of training and the realization of a dream I had held for many years. With so very few people ever finishing a marathon it was something I am so proud to have achieved.
I am not sure if you’ve ever run a marathon, but it’s a real test on so many levels. The success that comes with completing it comes with thanks to a number of things.
As I reflect back on that day so many years ago I can’t help but smile as I see each piece that came together for me, making the day so memorable, so cherished, and so rewarding to my life ever since.
I learned a few things that I have since been able to apply to my life and I’d like to share them with you.
3 Lessons Learned From My First Marathon
Know Your Why
I have been running on some level all my life. In the playground, throughout our neighbourhood, in sports of all kinds, in track and field at school, and then recreationally doing 5 and 10Ks. So it seemed a natural progression to build up to a marathon. I can’t really remember when or how it first entered my mind, but once it did I dove right in by designing a program to make it happen. I had a vision for what I wanted to achieve and the direction to realize it.
The training was some of the most challenging training I have ever done. I remember my 32KM training run. It was a double loop around the Glenmore Reservoir in Calgary. Normally it’s a beautiful and inspiring run in nature but on this early September Sunday morning the temperature was hovering around zero and it was raining/snowing. It was miserable. I came close to packing it in after the first lap when I stopped at my car to fuel up and hydrate. Oh so close… but I kept going and that got me over the psychological hump. I knew then that I’d be able to complete the marathon.
But as rewarding as completing the marathon was, it was also bittersweet for me. Earlier that year someone very special to me passed away suddenly. This was to be their first marathon too. It would never be. I ran that day honouring their memory and carried their spirit with me each step of the way.
With 7KM to go I realized I would need to pick up my pace to meet my goal, and break 4 hours. My training had prepared me but it alone would not and could not be enough. Going deep inside and connecting with a special running partner gave me the inner strength to push even harder.
That last 7KM was a blur. You’ve heard of the “zone” for runners. Well, I was in it. When the finish line first came into sight the tears began to flow and continued all the way through. I crossed the line in just under 4 hours, just as planned.
It was an absolutely incredible feeling.
Be Open To Support
I ran my marathon, and much of the training for this first one, mostly alone but I had a ton of support along the way. Even for an introvert like me, the incredible support I had made a world of difference in me achieving my goal and having an experience I will value for the rest of my life.
A group of close friends made the trip to Victoria to be there for me and this race. In the days leading up to the marathon it was wonderful having them around. Without them I’m not sure that I could get out of my head and keep my inner voice of self doubt quiet. Without them I might not have been able to take it all in and enjoy the moment.
Then, during the race, they were there strategically ready to cheer me on and encourage me to keep going just when I needed them most. Between those moments there were hundreds upon hundreds of people all along the course cheering everyone on. Even though I didn’t know any of those people their energy was palpable.
Towards the end of the race, my friends were there once again. One rode along side me those final 7KM. Another ran the final mile along side me. Each giving me the support I needed at those times. Self doubt through a powerful inner voice can have a very limiting impact on achieving ones goals. My support team on that day helped make sure that wasn’t the case.
When I think back on that day of my first marathon it’s the treasured memories with the people close to me that stand out most. The laughs and tears we shared, little moments along the way, and of course the celebration afterwards.
Build Off Your Successes
I have always embraced living a healthy active lifestyle. From the positive influence and support of my parents, to that of teachers, coaches and others, to the support and influence of so many amazing friends along the way, it is a part of who I am.
I recognized that training for a marathon helped get me in the best health and best shape of my life. I also recognized that actually running the marathon was a pretty punishing thing. So following that first marathon I needed to stay aligned with my knowledge and expertise in the health field and take care of my body while recovering from the stress of the event. Those recovery runs and the therapeutic steps I took made a big difference in the days and weeks that followed.
I also knew that staying active and healthy was not just something that would just continue to come. I would need to consciously envision what that meant and looked like for me. I would need to continue to nurture my healthy lifestyle mindset and follow it up with action.
That didn’t necessarily mean another marathon, but it could. Really it just meant my taking this success and building upon it to continue to deliver the health, fitness and well being I wanted. It meant doing the things in sports, recreation, and leisure I wanted.. and having the functional ability and conditioning to do so at the level I wanted.
It meant having a mindset on vitality and longevity like I focus on with my clients today. Embracing a mindset of adding life to my years while doing all I could to add years to my life!
Beyond My Marathon
25 years later, after 4 marathons, numerous half marathons, and even after I thought I’d have to give up running forever because of an arthritic foot issue, I find myself still resonating with these three lessons that I learned back then. I’ve applied them to exercise and sport, to business, and in many other areas of my life. Maybe you can too!
So is there another marathon for me? With the right why… perhaps!
One other thing I’ve always wanted to do is a triathlon. With these 3 lessons to pave the way maybe that will be the next finish line that I cross.
So What’s Your next Step? Creating the change you want can be hard if you go it alone!
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