5 Lessons Learned During My First Marathon

I realize yesterday’s recap was a bit … dark? And I do want to share that there were so many good things about finishing my first marathon!

The volunteers and crowds in Portland were literally the best I have ever encountered! Even at the back end of the race everyone was still clapping and cheering for runners by name! I liked that the race put our name so large on the bib so that spectator’s could easily read it!

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Also, while the last 8 miles or so were the toughest moments of my life (first world problem, for sure) they also made me feel really ALIVE.

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The emotions you feel during a marathon are intense. I know some runners who cry while running fast and BQ’ing while others, like myself, cry just knowing we’re going to finish.

Now that I’m well rested and have replenished my calorie deficit, I’m able to reflect clearly on the marathon and have a couple of lessons to share – I think most of these apply to any tough race, not just the marathon.

1. Rely on yourself, because YOU are strong.

You don’t need motivating mantras or upbeat songs to get you through a tough race. All you need to do is rely on yourself. Even if you’re not meeting your goal times, trust your training and KNOW that you’ll get to the finish no matter what because you are strong.

I never, ever thought about quitting during the marathon because I knew the only person who could get me to the finish was myself and I had to be mentally and physically strong for ME.

2. Your body WILL go where your mind pushes it.

Remember that running is a mental sport. Whether you are super fast, a mid-packer or a back-of-the-packer running requires inner strength and an incredibly strong belief that you can do things other people think are laughably impossible.

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(Photo: Best Race Signs)

When your legs feel like they can’t move your feet another step, you have to mentally shut out those thoughts and push on. I think in the marathon distance, that is something runners of all abilities can relate to.

Except for serious injury, do not stop. Just trust that your body will go where your mind pushes it because it will. At mile 18 my legs were like, “we can’t do this” but my mind said “you guys are liars” and to the finish line we went!

3. Get excited because it’s going to get better. 

Do you remember your first 5K? Half marathon? Those miles were really tough, right? The marathon is no different, but just like 5Ks and 13.1s I imagine it only gets better and easier with time.

Now that I’ve had some time to rest and stretch, I’m already really excited about tackling the marathon distance again! I think I even want a redemption run in Portland … just not for a couple of years!

4. Have something planned for after the race that you can look forward to.

Last night I had dinner with two of my favorite ladies on the planet. During the marathon there were plenty of times I thought to myself, “just think in two days you’ll be sitting down, eating good food, drinking Moscato and laughing about this with Bre and Peta.”

That is exactly what I did last night and it was great!  I’m really glad I had that to look forward to!

5. When you see the last (or second to last) mile marker … GO! 

When I finally approached the mile 25 marker I started running hard. At that point I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had enough energy to make it to the finish no matter what and I felt I owed it to myself to leave everything on the course.

The all out run that I was doing was really more of a slow shuffle, but it was faster than I had been moving the previous handful of miles and it felt good, okay, not too bad, manageable.

When you see that final mile marker tell yourself it’s time to give it all you’ve got – there’s no more reason to hold back!

(I hope I can follow my own advice and remember this during my next 5K!).

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from a tough run / race? 

29 comments

  1. Tina@GottaRunNow

    Picking it up at mile 25 is great and hard to do! When a race didn’t go as well as I had hoped it would, I focus on the fact that I did complete it. Congrats on finishing!
    Tina@GottaRunNow recently posted…Honey Running Fuel & 18 MilerMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you, Tina! I forgot that finishing my really my ultimate goal – it’s hard not to get sucked into the other goal types – but I am so happy that I did finish! I mean while I never wanted to quit, there’s never an guarantee that we’ll finish a race. I’m very grateful that I got to the end!

  2. Amanda @ Slimplify Life

    These are awesome! The best thing I’ve learned is that it is only running, and we do it for FUN. Sometimes I get too caught up in time / pace / intervals and forget that I do it because I love it, and to enjoy each mile.
    Amanda @ Slimplify Life recently posted…Banana bread + my top 4 running songsMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      So true! During the very end of the marathon I’m not entirely sure how much fun I was having, BUT the truth is I wouldn’t have stuck it out to the end if I didn’t know that I normally LOVE this sport and enjoy it completely!

  3. The running Schlub

    Hey #3 sounds familiar lol.

    #2 is great advice that is totally true. Even after a few great long runs under my belt, I’m still worried about our 10k this weekend lol. The body does what the mind tells it, I need to remember that.

    Btw I took nothing but positives from yesterday. Can’t wait to see what you have planned next.
    The running Schlub recently posted…Are You Down for a Great Cause??My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Yes!! You will do great at the 10K! You’re so competitive and a really strong runner. I can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  4. Lauren @ The Foodie Runner

    I feel ya on #5!!! When I ran Boston I walked a crapload the last half but when I saw that 24 mile marker I ran the whole last two miles and sprinted (although I’m not sure it can be called sprinting) the last .2 when I turned the corner onto Boylston Street!!
    Lauren @ The Foodie Runner recently posted…iFit Fitness Band ReviewMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      I am not sure I believe that you walked a lot because you still finished in a ridiculously fast time!!! 🙂

      Can’t wait to hear all about Chicago next week!!

  5. Hanna

    I literally just left a comment on your other entry but again, so proud of you! I LOVED how you took your recap, which was raw emotion and I loved reading it, and turned it into a positive. You just keep showing us your inner strength! I look forward to seeing the progress you make on the next leg of your running journey 🙂
    Hanna recently posted…Race Recap – Lakefront Marathon 2014 – my FIRST MARATHON!!My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you!! Now that the third day of rest is over and my legs are starting to feel almost normal again I cannot wait to go for my first run back. I am planning to hold off for a full week, but the first run back will feel so good… and it will officially kick off the next part of the journey!

  6. Megan @ Meg Go Run

    #2 is my favorite. Having the right mental framework can make or break a race!
    Megan @ Meg Go Run recently posted…The shoe crisis is over! (And I feel like a douche.)My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Absolutely! Without the right attitude I would have quit at mile 16, I’m sure of it!

  7. Kim

    Glad that you already have such great lessons you learned from your race. Awesome that you had fun plans with friends to look forward to – Moscato and friends is a perfect combination.
    Kim recently posted…Do NOT Google Pictures of Skin CancerMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      I knew you would pick up on the Moscato reference! I hope all that yummy wine Chris brought home for your bday is going to good use 🙂

  8. cheryl

    That is good advice for any distance runner. I have already been thinking about what I will EAT after the marathon…
    The best thing I have learned from a race…I am stronger than I think.
    You did a great job. Thank you for sharing your first marathon with us. I can’t wait to continue the journey…
    cheryl recently posted…Midweek rambles…My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Yes! I had a very nice, big, delicious cheeseburger at the airport! It was perfect!

  9. Kristen @ Glitter and Dust

    I definitely experienced #2 on Sunday. When my body was ready to stop or slow, I just had to let the mind take over and push forward. I also agree that the last mile should be an all out best effort mile. Nothing is more gratifying than knowing that there is still fuel in the tank and you are almost to the finish!

    I learned from this marathon that nutrition is SO incredibly important. I would have done a few things differently, including drinking the Ultima on the course and using salt tabs (or something similar). I really want to focus on nutrition and pacing during my next marathon!

    Isn’t it amazing how quickly we forget about the pain and how overwhelmingly rewarding the experience becomes. Love this sport!!!
    Kristen @ Glitter and Dust recently posted…Portland Marathon and a Ticket to BostonMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      I had never had Ultima either, but I really liked it … a lot! More than any other sport drink I’ve ever had!

      I think I will bring salt tabs next time as well. When I finally found Adam after crossing the finish he goes, “you have all this sand on you” and I was like, “um nope, there’s no sand around here, that’s salt!” I was craving salty food to eat afterwards too.

  10. Ali @ Hit the Ground Running

    I hope I can bear all these in mind next month during my race. I’m so glad you learned so much and are eloquent and articulate enough to share it haha! I’m favoriting this post…it’s so helpful and meaningful.
    Ali @ Hit the Ground Running recently posted…Wednesday is SneakyMy Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      These are all things YOU totally already know! I am very excited for your marathon. After the injury setback last year, your time for glory is arriving! 🙂

  11. Lou @ Running Through China

    You know, I didn’t find your previous post that dark hey? Your positivity always shines through I reckon, perhaps you sounded a little tired mentally or annoyed about not hitting your time goal, but hey – you just completed a full marathon AND then wrote a detailed race recap within not long after the race! You’re allowed to write and feel whatever that may be at the time!
    I love the fact they print your name on the race bib, so spectators can shout your name. I’ve never had this before. Great idea.
    Best thing I learnt from a hard race? To take fuel and hydration seriously. And to know that I did it, I got there, and so: “If you can do this, you can do ANYTHING!”
    You are seriously an inspiration mate. We are all SO happy for you! 🙂

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Thank you, Lou! I really appreciate all of your support and kind words. I really will work hard on becoming a stronger runner so we can do a marathon together someday! 🙂

      The name in big letters on the race bib was genius – the the first mile until the very end people were cheering for me by name and that was really cool!

  12. Karen

    I didn’t think of your recap as dark just very truthful!! This is a great list of things to read again and again before a race 🙂
    Karen recently posted…Not So Long AgoMy Profile

  13. Staci @ Hoosier Running Mom

    Dark? For someone that just finished a Marathon(that did not go as planned)to still be talking about running again I would say that is not very dark. You gave insight and true feelings in your last post and vented. We ALL need to do that when things happen in ways we aren’t happy with! The fact is you finished and took away some AMAZING lessons! You have proven to yourself and others how tough you actually are and that you aren’t going to be broken by any race! Keep that positivity, it’s awesome!
    Staci @ Hoosier Running Mom recently posted…Tapering can be fun!!My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Hi Staci! Thanks so much for seeing the positives in my race recap! No single race can break a runner, we’re a resilient and determined bunch!

  14. Jennifer

    I loved both of your marathon posts – very inspiring and insightful. I did not even think about #4 – that is a great idea. I took Monday off to travel back from NY to DC (marathon start time is Sunday 10:55am for the last corral – which I assume I am in). I think I will book a massage haha. It would be fun to plan something with my family or friends. Two of my favorites will be in NY with me – so I am happy they will be there. I am excited to plan out where they will be throughout the route, will def put a smile on my face.
    Jennifer recently posted…Wineglass Half Marathon Race Recap Part 2My Profile

    1. Kristina @ Blog About Running

      Wow, I am surprised that it’s so late in the morning!

      I took the Monday after the marathon off too and slept ALL DAY. We got in on the red eye at 10am and I slept from 11am until 5pm, got up and had dinner and then slept all night long! 🙂 I don’t think my legs could have handled a massage that soon after, they were … tender! haha

      That’s so great that your friends will be spectating around the course! I am sure that will give you a big boost and something to look forward to between miles! HAVE FUN!!!

  15. Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    All great things! I am so glad you were able to get so much out of your marathon. The mind will definitely take you far when your legs are ready to give up!
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted…What Does Turning 31 Mean To Me?My Profile

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