I ran a marathon a few weeks ago. Here are three life lessons I learned.
“I signed up to run a marathon in February”, I told my brother and business partner last fall during the 2020. My brother, who has run marathons before, including Boston, thought this over for a bit. Then he told me it will be hard to do marathon training in Boise in February. Are you sure you are up for that?
As it turns out I was up for it. A few weeks ago I completed the Red Rock marathon in the desert outside of Las Vegas. Here are some of the lessons I learned.
Lesson 1. You can accomplish great things, but you’ll likely have to give something up.
This is as true for marathons as it is for about anything in life. For me I gave up a few things—among them sleep, warmth, and comfort. My training schedule required me to run a 20-mile run on February 6; it’s just not warm at that time of year. I ran 20 miles in 20 degrees; it was cold. Another morning it had snowed six inches at night. I somehow convinced my brother to come out with me at 5am to run the foot hills with me. I told him it would be fun. He actually showed up and we ran six miles in the foothills in six inches of snow. About two minutes into the running with snow stinging the skin between our socks and our tights, he told me. “You know what, this isn’t very fun”. By the end we both agreed it actually was fun and were glad we had not turned back earlier.
Is there something big you would like to accomplish in life? That’s great. Start thinking about what you might have to give up in order to get it—because that’s how life works.
Lesson 2. You can probably do more than you think you can.
I can clearly remember 10 years ago I did a little bit of running because my wife coerced me into running a triathlon with her. I was a sprinter in high school but had never liked distance running. Coaxed by my wife to run a triathlon with her, I thought I would give it a try. I recall running about 2 miles one afternoon and thinking, “Why would anybody willingly do this? Running is the worst.” My feet hurt, I was overheated, and I couldn’t breathe. During the triathlon (in Emmett Idaho) I clearly remember being humiliated as a 90-year old man passed me on the running portion while my family cheered for me with confusion on their faces. They were wondering why I was letting the 90-year-old pass me. I hadn’t prepared properly, I didn’t like running, and I was seriously questioning my life’s choices at that moment.
Fast forward a decade.
I was able to complete an extremely challenging 26.6 mile race that included 13 miles of uphill running. I ran for 4 hours and 35 minutes to complete the race, something I hadn’t ever dreamed was remotely possible.
The truth is we as humans can oftentimes do much more than we think is possible. We can be our own worst enemy because we impose limits on ourselves. We tell ourselves how far we can run, how much money we can make, what projects we are capable of accomplishing, etc. My high school wrestling coach used to tell us “whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right”. Just as we can be our own worst enemy, we can also be our own motivation. Take a moment and dream big, you can probably accomplish more than you think you can.
Lesson 3. Commit.
I committed to running a marathon six months in advance of the actual event. This was important for two reasons. First of all, I needed the time to prepare my body to be able to handle the 26.6 miles of continuous running. Second, due to Covid there was a limited number of seats available for the marathon. The race did run in person but as it turns out the government limited the race organizers to 25% capacity. Anybody who tried to get in less than three months in advance was locked out. I got to run the race because I committed early. Looking back on how hard it was, I don’t know if I could have finished a marathon if I wasn’t running in an actual event where there are people cheering and providing support along the way.
Do you have something important to you? Commit early, make a plan and go for it. Don’t half commit, it’s too easy to get out when things get hard. And if I have learned anything during my 43 years of life, it’s that nothing worthwhile in life is ever easy. If it’s worth accomplishing, it’s going to get hard at some point. Just remember these three things (and you can accomplish anything):
- You’re going to have to give something up
- You can do more than you think you can
- Commit early
President & Newly Minted Marathoner
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