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10 Life Lessons Learned During Marathon Training

I’m training for my sixth full marathon, which will be the Shamrock Marathon on March 18, 2012 at Virginia Beach, VA. I ran this race last year and had a ball – it was incredible running along the ocean!To run that distance takes me between 4:30 and 5:00 hours.

While training for a single marathon, there are hundreds of miles logged running and hours spent alone with your own thoughts. Nearly everyone I speak with thinks that’s a boring waste of time, but it’s actually when I do some of my clearest thinking.

I’ve learned some lessons on the marathon road that I’d like to share that can also apply to other areas of life – the benefit to you is that you get the insight without enduring the foot blisters, chafing and jammed, blackened toe nails from distance running!

10. You run the race you train for – if you don’t log the long miles it’s tough to finish, if you don’t prepare properly, success in a race and life is left up to chance.

9. It’s better to run with a buddy – it’s easier to get discouraged when you’re alone no matter what it is you might be doing. So find someone loyal who’s willing to run with you in both good and bad weather, the analogy logically extends to life as well.

8. Know why you’re doing what you’re doing – if you commit to anything significant in life it’s a certainty that it will require time, resources and isolation from loved ones. Make sure your reasons and motives for doing what you do are clear and honorable.

7. Take care of your body – we only get one body in this life, so feed, water and rest it properly to maximize its healthful usage all the years you’ll need it on this spiraling orb of rock and water.

6. It’s frequently the little things that slow or stop you – during long training runs the things that typically interrupt a run are small things like a pebble in a sneaker, a loose shoe lace or failure to gauge a change in the terrain which can lightly twist an ankle or knee. None are fatal, but little things are usually not planned for and can slow you down since its easier to plan and avoid big mishaps.

5. Find a plan or mentor to help guide you – when I first decided to train for a marathon I Googled “marathon training” and stumbled upon a web site by running guru Hal Higdon that had a variety of different running plans for beginner, intermediate and advanced runners for various distances. Whether training for a race, changing careers, pursuing a degree or starting a business – find someone who’s done it and learn from their successes and failures.

4. Enjoy the view/Find the moments-  some of the most breath-taking vistas I’ve ever seen have occurred for me while running along a beach, in a desert or a forest trail early in the morning as dawn breaks. At those moments I’ve felt totally engaged with life mentally, physcially and spiritually. Because of that deep connection with those moments, they have lingered with me and encouraged me during uninspired times. I could have missed those moments by sleeping in or skipping the run that day – but I’m glad I didn’t. Those moments of deep inspiration are waiting for all of us in our lives and families. Find them!

3. Help others along the way – on more than one occasion during an actual marathon event, I’ve seen runners helping other runners who are weak or limping get to a nearby aid station or staying by their side until a medic team arrives. These selfless individuals end up sacrificing their hours of training toward a personal record or “best time” for a stranger they’re competing against. It’s simply the golden rule applied to the rules of the road, but it’s profound when you see it in action.

2. Assign meaning to the pain – all athletes endure physical pain at some point in training and we all endure pain in life. If we assign meaning to the pain (e.g. the medal that awaits the winner of a marathon or the joy of a baby that’s delivered through the pain of childbirth) then the pain of life can be better endured or overcome.

1. Anyone can start a race, but not everyone can finish it – I think this applies to virtually every aspect of life. Before you start a thing make sure you know what it takes to finish it, and then do it.

Question: What life lessons have you learned from a hobby or activity?

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  1. Excellent, Tor. I especially like the reminder to know why you do what you do. That ups the probability of finishing the race. And thanks, too, for sharing what you’ve learned with those of us who will most likely never have a blister from running.

  2. Ah, Tor. Your lessons apply to writing as well. All the pre-publication writing pays off eventually. Writers need support for the journey. Know why you write, and it’s not for the money or the fame. Take care of your body and your mind! Little things slow you down…especially self-criticism. Find a mentor. Smell the roses. Mentor others. Everything is used, even rejection. Anyone can start a book, but not many end up with a completed manuscript!

    No running marathons for me, but I’m writing my 11th contracted novel. I’m in for the long haul.

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