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  • Writer's pictureMindy McCarthy

Lessons from Running a Marathon

Sometimes I think back to running a marathon in 2017 (seriously already 3 years ago!?) and honestly wonder how I accomplished that goal. I still consider myself a runner as that is my primary and preferred form of exercise, but thinking about running 26.2 miles all at one time does not seem like something I am capable of doing right now.

This got me thinking about what mental skills I had used in order to accomplish this goal. Here are some of the tips that I came up with that can certainly be applicable in many different areas of our lives.

1. Find what motivates you

When I trained and ran the marathon, I was also raising money for breast cancer research. I specifically chose this particular race in order to use the fundraising aspect of it as a motivator for me to continue training and pushing through each difficult run. My thoughts when I felt like quitting revolved around those who are battling a cancer diagnosis and do not have the option of giving up. Although you certainly do not have to think about these serious terms when you are training, think about what truly motivates you. Are you wanting to achieve a certain goal? Are you showing off your love of the sport or competition? Does training help you relieve stress from things going on in other areas of your life? What keeps you showing up every day?

2. Focus on progress over perfection

One thing that I did do before beginning my training schedule is tell myself that every run will not be perfect. I know, I know, you are probably thinking, “But Mindy, you tell me to be positive all the time!” Going into a new training program can feel overwhelming at first, and our motivation can certainly begin to decrease if we have some sessions that do not go as we had intentionally planned. However, telling myself mentally ahead of time that not every run will be perfect and will feel as good as I want helped me prepare for those moments where I may have turned to quitting if it didn’t go my way instead of wanting to keep pushing through. I focused on making progress over being perfect throughout training. One specific example is when I was supposed to run 18 miles per my training schedule. I set out with the intention of finishing every single mile. However, about mile 11 my body was just not having anymore of this running stuff. I actually did stop at that point to take care of my body and prevent an injury from occurring. The thoughts that would have run through my mind originally would have pointed to stopping or thinking that this is something that I could not do. I mean if I can’t even get past 11 miles that day, how was I going to run more than double that distance? However, I knew going into the training that this may happen every now and then, so that gave me hope to keep pushing through and focus on what I could do the next training day to help my cause.

3. Trust the process

I first started running after undergrad to stay in shape and find a new form of competition as I was competing against myself each run. I began training for a 10 mile race and thought the best method to train for this race was to simply run further than I did the day before. Anyone who knows about running knows that this ultimately led to a slight injury that sidelined me for a little bit. After I was ready to run again, I began looking into actual training plans showing the increase in mileage each week instead of each day. It also focused on running shorter distances, too, instead of just focusing on longer runs every single day. Training plans have been designed to help your performance, so trust the process and follow them as close as you can to see your results. Even if it does not necessarily make sense in your mind, these plans have been thought out specifically for people with similar goals, and if you have your own personal trainer, they are based on your history.

4. Make sure to have a great support system

While I did all of my training runs by myself and ran the actual marathon without anyone else that I knew personally, I had a great support system checking in with me after each run. My family was also able to be there when I crossed the finish line making it even more memorable for me as I accomplished this goal. I felt very successful raising money as well knowing that a lot of people were counting on me to finish this race in honor of a dear friend of mine and her fight against breast cancer. Whether you want to train with someone or use a kind of accountability partner, find a way to use other people to help support you as you move closer and closer to your goal.

5. Stay focused on YOUR journey

There are many other people who run marathons, and I certainly thought about how I wished I could run faster like others in the world. However, it is helpful to focus on your own journey and understand that you are truly competing against yourself finding a way to be better than who you were last time. While you can certainly find yourself actually competing against other people, focus on your own journey and how far you have come in order to reach your goals.

6. Remember why you started

When we set goals, our motivation is typically the highest that it is going to be to achieve those goals. As you endure a training process, especially ones that are over a long period of time, it can be hard to remember why you essentially set out to achieve this goal in the first place. Think back to that moment where you set this goal for yourself and remember how you were feeling then and why you ultimately decided to get started.

As I said, these tips can be applied to many different areas of our lives. I am always here to help with your mental skills training if you are feeling as if you’re in your own kind of marathon!

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