What 26.2 Miles Has Taught Me So Far

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Sunday, my wife and I completed the Columbus Marathon — all 26.2 miles of it. It was my first full marathon. It was her second, because she’s twice as nuts as I am.

Full disclosure: we walked it, it took us 7.5 hours, and it was HARD! I’ve run two half marathons and I can say with total confidence that walking a full marathon takes the same toll on your body as running a half.

When we crossed the finish line, my only thought was “That was really stupid. I NEVER want to do that again.” But now I’ve had two days to process the event and I am actually surprised at how much I learned from it. And, of course, I want to share my wisdom/insanity with you. Take from it what you will.

Walking Together Is Way Better Than Walking AloneIMG_0411
Could I have walked 26.2 miles by myself? Sure, but it wouldn’t have been as “fun”. I use fun in quotations there because, well, it was NOT fun at all. That said, I was so glad my wife was there by my side. We pushed each other, we encouraged each other, we laughed at each others’ pain. Even during long periods of silence later in the race, just her physical presence was comforting. This was good for me to realize because I’ve always been a bit of a lone wolf.

When You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going
Around mile 18, we both hit “the wall” — an indescribable feeling of physical and emotional exhaustion. I honestly thought that was reserved for runners, not walkers. I discovered that the wall doesn’t care if you’re sprinting or crawling. The only thing that gets you through it is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, even if that’s all you can do. I even stopped talking for about three miles to concentrate 100% on moving one foot forward at a time. My wife probably thought I had suffered a stroke because I’m never quiet that long. The good news is that the wall doesn’t last forever and once you get past it, you feel much better. Hey, that’s kind of like most obstacles, huh?

Proper Fueling Is CRITICALIMG_0413
We planned to eat something every five miles. I gobbled an energy bar at the 5 and 10 mile marks even though I wasn’t hungry. I forgot at 15 and didn’t realize until I hit “the wall” at mile 18. I think I would have hit the wall either way, but I bet it wouldn’t have been nearly as bad if I had stayed properly fueled. This is something I need to keep in mind every day, not just on race days.

My Big Goals Are MINE and NOBODY ELSE’S
Sure, my wife talked me into participating. And the 100+ likes on Facebook for our finish line picture are kind of neat. However, none of that is why I participated. Certainly none of that is why I finished. Nobody but you truly understands your effort, challenges, and motivations. I believe we achieve our greatest success with anything when we do it for ourselves and not to live up to someone else’s expectation.

IMG_0414There Is SO Much More To Experience If You Simply Look Around Once In A While
If we had only been focused on the road and the finish line, we would have missed seeing some pretty amazing houses, a bunch of businesses we didn’t even know existed, some restaurants that we’ve always wanted to try, and some very funny marathon signs (like “You’re right behind the Kenyans” and “Run fast, Channing Tatum is passing out medals at the finish line“). We would have also missed the breathtaking view inside a completely empty Ohio Stadium. All of this made the journey a whole lot more interesting.

Never Underestimate Your Ability To Encourage Others
It is amazing — and totally awesome — how many people show up just to cheer on the runners and walkers. I know I was a nameless person they would forget within moments of passing by, but being cheered on by dozens of complete strangers along the way made a HUGE difference in my mood. As we neared the finish line, when we were literally some of the last people on the course, a few workers and volunteers saw us coming and stopped what they were doing to cheer us on. I almost cried. I’ll repeat the headline of this point: never underestimate your ability to encourage others (even strangers).

One final thought:IMG_0417

There Are Lessons In Every Life Event
Immediately after the race, I actually questioned why I had put myself through this experience. I was emotionally wiped out, physically exhausted, and stiff in some rather surprising places. I felt like there was absolutely nothing redeeming about the day except spending 7.5 hours with my beautiful wife. But now, a little more than 24 hours (and half of a bottle of Tylenol) later, I can already see everything I’ve written about in this article and more. I’m sure I’ll have a few more ahas over the next few days. The key to discovering these lessons is spending just a little time looking for them.

How about you? Ever run or walked a race of any kind? What did you learn from it?

 

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