7 Psychological Lessons from Running a Marathon
Running a marathon is something more than just putting off your body to the most extreme limits. Here are the life-changing psychological advantages of running 26.2.
The marathon. What is it about this particular race distance that draws so many runners (and sometimes non-runners) into it’s mesmerising course? Whether it be the cold and windy New York City Marathon or one in the tropical islands of Hawaii, race entries for the 26.2 distance have skyrocketed over the years.
While the idea of running 26.2 sounds exhausting and mundane to some, the rise of marathon running gives proof to the fact that there are many people who have undertaken the venture and not only lived through it, but learned from it.
What is it that people see in the grueling training, the pushing of their bodies to the most extreme limits, that causes them to chase after new PRs time and time again? Perhaps it’s not as much the physical reasons that draw runners in, as much as it is the psychological ones.
Below we’ll take a look at 7 psychological lessons learned from running a marathon.
You get out of life what you put into it.
When you arrive to the start line of a marathon, you have either trained properly, or you haven’t. There is no guess working your way through a multiple choice test or sweet talking your way into a position you really want. You have either put in the hard work - logged the miles, cross trained, carbo loaded, or you haven’t. When the lactic acid starts to build in your muscles and they get sore or cramp, your body will know how to respond if it’s been pushed like this during your training runs. If you haven’t trained properly, it will do what it’s been trained to do, shut down.
Life is the same way. You can’t cheat your way into good shape, a good job or good health. If you want to be successful, healthy and happy, you have to work for it. You have to earn it.
The journey is easier if you enjoy it.
The marathon, like life, is really a journey more than it is a destination. Think about it. Do you live life waiting to die or do you try to live it to its fullest? A typical marathon training plan lasts anywhere from 12-20 weeks.
That is almost 4 months of your life! To have the best experience training for and running the marathon, most people put a lot of thought into who they will train with, what they will wear, eat, etc. They want to be comfortable while undertaking the big task of training.
College, preparing for marriage, pregnancy - all of these are huge life journeys that we try hard to enjoy. It’s practically impossible to enjoy the end game - graduation, the wedding, the birth of a child, if you didn’t enjoy the journey leading up to it.
Logging mile after mile, week after week, is a lot easier if you have a good time while doing it. When you cross the finish line of the big 26.2, you will enjoy that moment so much more if the journey leading up to it was enjoyable.
Pain is temporary, but pride is forever.
One of the most amazing lessons the marathon teaches us is that while pain comes and goes, the pride you experience from achieving such an accomplishment, doesn’t really ever fade. Whether it be quitting a job and having to live on little money for a few months while you pursue your dream job, or pushing your body to accomplish a new venture in life, sometimes you just have to take the leap. Push through the pain or discomfort and challenge yourself. It will be worth it!
You’re capable of more than you think you are.
Most people have no idea what they are actually capable of. A wanna be artist, struggling author, professional dreamer. Sometimes we get so lost in the mentality that it’s too hard or just not possible, that we forget that we are incredible human beings capable of more than we know.
The marathon teaches us this lesson time and time again. 26 miles is a brutal, painful distance to cover, yet we do it, we survive it, and we thrive from it.
Someone is always there to support you.
No matter how fast or slow you are running, whether you’re at the front of the race or back of the pack, there is always someone at the ready to help you during the marathon. A volunteer to hand you a water or Gatorade, a fellow racer to help pick you up if you fall, spectators to cheer you on and give you the encouragement to keep going. Life is the same way. Even when you feel down or alone, you’re not. There is always someone - a family member, friend, co-worker and sometimes even a stranger, to support you.
You’re always going to have setbacks, and that’s ok.
An sore IT band from all the training, blisters on your feet, fatigue from weeks of logging a ridiculous number of miles, bad weather that prevents you from training for days at a time - these come with the territory. You’re going to have setbacks in your training, but you rest and you recover and you come back stronger than you were before.
Your response to the obstacles will always be more powerful than the obstacles themselves. Life works the same way. You have to climb through the valleys to make it to the mountain tops.
The marathon is like a metaphor for life.
If you have enough drive and guts to successfully cover a 26.2 mile race, you can accomplish anything in life. Identify your goals, put a plan of action into place and get moving.
There will be great days and there will be hard days, but you will always be moving in the right direction. You can do it!
What has running a marathon taught you?