01 Jan Life Lessons Learned from Running Marathons!
I began running in late 2010 after reading Christopher McDougall’s book, ‘Born to Run’. I read it as a physio who treated a lot of runners, especially marathon runners. I had NO interest or love for running. In fact, I loathed running and also had not been able to run more than 2km because of severe right shin splints for 15 years. I had previously only run on a treadmill inside a gym because it was a quick way to use up calories so I could eat more chocolate cake etc….
‘Born to Run’ literally made my legs twitch as if they wanted to run while I was reading the book and thus I began secretly running again, but this time in the minimal shoes described in the book or barefoot on my clinic’s treadmill.
I soon discovered that the running tips I learned from ‘Born to Run’ and my new minimal running shoes meant I no longer had shin splints and I soon began to develop a deep love for running. It became my moving meditation – a spiritual process as much as a physical exercise.
I slowly improved my endurance and worked through the tightness in the calves and feet that comes from learning to use those muscles properly when wearing minimal footwear. This took about 1 year to get my calves and feet muscles up to the task – strength & endurance wise. But I had to learn the hard way not to push too much too fast and often had calf soreness or foot pain, so much I had to take a week off running. Minimal shoes DEMAND a long slow transition phase to get the weak feet and calf muscles to adapt to their new task of actually working, as well as conditioning the fascia to do its job of providing elastic energy – this is especially true if you have lived your life in shoes and the usual standard running shoes on the market, (if you run barefoot or in minimal shoes already then you may already have the necessary foot and calf function strength, but always listen to your calves & feet and if they get sore during, after or the 2 days following a run – more rest is needed and possibly a slower transition.)
By 2012, I had competed in my first 10km & Half Marathon races and I was now hooked on the joy & fun of running the streets with fellow running enthusiasts. By the end of 2013, I had completed the marathon distance 5 times….now at the end of 2016 I have run the distance 10 times. Every race has been different and I have had to miss at least 4 marathons during this time due to illness or the unexpected.
These days, when I spend time reflecting, I discover the marathon has taught me a lot about how to navigate life better, or at least navigate it with more grace & understanding. I knew most of these lessons before, but somehow it just clicked into my consciousness with much greater clarity after running marathons.
12 Lessons the Marathon has Taught me about Life:
- Set your goals – decide which “race/races” you want to run. (Be realistic with your goals….you cannot run a marathon without doing the training…each step of the preparation is a part of the necessary ‘step by step’ process – just like the race.)
- Plan, with some flexibility, how you will accomplish this – few plans run completely smoothly. With training & life there are always unexpected obstacles. Learn to be adaptable/flexible.
- Learn to deal effectively with the obstacles that present themselves during the training phase.
- Learn how to listen to your ‘inner wisdom’ – this involves learning your limits & knowing when to persevere despite obstacles & also when to realise the obstacle is one that requires you to reframe/adapt/abandon your goal. (Sometimes life sends you obstacles that test your resolve to keep training & it is not always ‘giving up’ if you have to abandon your goal due to illness or the unforeseen. There is always another time to chase this goal….it may not be the right time for it!
- Respect your body by giving it adequate rest, hydration & proper nutrition – be grateful & thankful to your body for all the work it is doing. (Not a good lesson to forget.)
- Respect your mind – a successful accomplishment of your goal needs a balance between too much will power & too little motivation. Be grateful & thankful also for the proper balance of mind power you require to achieve your goal. (Also not a good lesson to forget.)
- Remember – a goal is a goal & a worthy one, but if the universe has other plans for you…accept it & let the goal go….this may not be the right time…
- Be thankful & grateful to the other people who help you along the way towards your goal. Nobody runs a marathon without some assistance whether it is your coach, running group, running books/blogs etc, the volunteers & organisers of the event and especially your friends & family that support you & lend you other forms of support.
- Remember – just getting to the start line is only one part of the journey…not the end.
- The actual marathon race is like a huge test of all the previous 9 points thrown at you again during 42.2km. Learn to accept all that occurs during the race & be prepared to overcome many obstacles thrown at you in quick succession. Remember a marathon is run one step at a time and it is filled with highs & lows.
- If you complete your goal – be grateful & thankful to your body, mind & spirit – celebrate your success & reflect on the lessons learned… But if you pull up short of the target goal – remember there are always lessons to be learnt & often a perceived ‘failure’ is a reason to find new & better ways to conquer the next quest.
- When you arrive at your destination savour the moment before you set off on the next quest. It is important to always treat yourself with love & respect after your goal has been accomplished/missed (more vital) – the post race reflection of your completed journey is important, before deciding which goal is next! Life is a series of journeys.There is no final destination until we die! We are always moving & learning & living!