What running a marathon surprisingly taught me

Every year I complete a fitness challenge and raise money for a worthy cause. In 2016 I did the Oxfam Trailwalker of one-hundred kilometres, in 2017 the Sydney to Gong Ride of ninety kilometres and in 2018 the Blackmores Sydney Marathon of forty-two kilometres.

My marathon journey began at the start of 2018. The day after new years day I decided to commence training and went for my first run of six kilometres. By the end of that run I was out of breath thinking, “How the shit am I going to run a full marathon of forty-two kilometres?” (Yes, I swear in my thoughts and out loud.) From a measly six kilometers it felt like it would take months of training to reach a marathon.  

Each month I had one goal. January was six kilometres, February was eight kilometers, March was twelve kilometres and so on. By the time I got to May I reached twenty kilometers and ran my first half marathon of twenty-one kilometres. Gradually increasing the kilometres served me well as because I finished the half marathon without feeling awful the next day. My first half marathon was done! 

There was no kidding myself that a marathon, that’s forty-two kilometres, was going to require serious training. To set myself up for success I joined a running group and found an expert physiotherapist. I joined a marathon program with Can Too Foundation, who are an independent charity that run fitness programs to support cancer prevention and research. Armed with my running coach of twenty-five years experience and a physiotherapist who runs races of one-hundred kilometres I knew I was in good hands.

Through the course of the program I found a supportive community of inspiring individuals. People of all ages and backgrounds. It amazed me how Can Too had crossed so many demographic barriers. As a team we trained together Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings over twenty weeks. The long runs in a group setting helped to increase motivation. Getting up to thirty kilometres was hard work but as a group we got there.

In week fifteen I was overseas in Indonesia doing my running training in ghastly humidity. There was no choice because I had to keep up my fitness. On holiday we spent a few days trekking. The trek was tough as we literally crawled up mountains but this was great for my fitness.

Just when I was in top form, five weeks out from marathon race day I sustained my first serious injury. My right knee was in excruciating pain and attempting to run three kilometres was agony. At that point my heart sank as I thought about the prospects of getting to the marathon start line. How I was going to improve in three weeks? I went straight to the physiotherapist who prescribed daily exercises that began releasing the tension in my body to relieve the injury. Every day I did my exercises in the hope that come race day I would be okay to at least make a start. 

Race day rolled around and I was feeling as ready as I could be. The first thirty-two kilometres went to plan with no pain however after that point the injury kicked in and a sharp pain took hold of my right knee. I spent the last ten kilometres alternating between a fast walk and slow jog to the finish line. Although I’d liked to have finished the marathon in better time under the circumstances my competitive streak humbled itself and I was happy to be crossing the finish line at all. It was an epic feeling sprinting the last fifty metres to reach the end, finally!

From my marathon journey I learnt three valuable things:

  • Get support in the from of experts. In my case a running coach and physiotherapist specialist.
  • When the going gets tough call in your crew. These are people experiencing the same journey so they can relate when you feel shit. Group support is motivating!
  • Knowing why helps us achieve any what. Simon Sinek knows this well. If you haven’t watch “Start with why" I suggest you do.

These lessons may not come as a surprise however what surprises me is how easily we forget to ask for help or to truly understand why we're doing what we're doing. Reflecting on my marathon journey I’m convinced that if I can run a marathon anyone can! But I’m not convinced marathons are for everyone or that I’ll do one again. For me half marathons are where it's at. Maybe my next fitness challenge is five half marathons in one year? Or maybe I’ll take a year off and write more here instead. In the meantime here are some great running resources that might help you if you decide to take up the challenge. Good luck!

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Do you have any crazy ideas for my next challenge? Share your ideas in the comments section below.


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