At the beginning of the year, I decided to run a marathon. Up until that point, the longest race I had run ever in my life was a 5k, which is slightly over 3 miles. Even counting the 5k races I’ve done, I think the marathon was my 3rd or 4th race ever. While I dont consider myself to be out of shape, I never thought of myself as a runner. I didnt like running all that much, and because of that, I never ran to stay in shape – I did other things like swam or went to the gym and lifted weights. Needless to say, running a marathon was a huge goal. I had never run anything close to that amount, in a race or not. This goal was a huge step up from anything that I’d ever done, and honestly I wasn’t sure how it was going to come out in the end. I finished, but not in the time I would have liked. Overall though, I’d still call this goal a success.
After the marathon, H and I focused most of our energy on the house and remodels, and have been moving along swimmingly. Now that we are mostly through the woods (we dont sleep on a heroin mattress in the basement anymore, we have electricity and heat) and it’s almost thanksgiving, it’s time for our thanksgiving day run. Every year we visit my aunt, uncles and cousins in Montana for turkey day. Last year, we started a tradition to run a thanksgiving day race, called the turkey trot. Everyone in my family did it, as well as H and most of the extended family. I knew we were doing the race a few months in advance, and while I watched what I ate in the days leading up to the race, I didnt train one single lick for the race. I attribute this to the length of the race – it’s just a 5k, basically 30 minutes of jogging – something that I could do without training, so why use my time training for that, if I can finish in a respectable time no matter what I do. I think the marathon worked for a few reasons, and here they are:
- Running a marathon was a huge goal for me. I’d never run anything that long in a race format (or other) in my life. In fact, I’d never run half that distance, or even one quarter of that distance. Knowing this, I developed a healthy fear of what would happen if I missed a training run. I’d tell myself that if I missed one training run, I’d probably not be able to finish the whole race.
- Small Steps were key – At the beginning of the training program, the runs that I had to do I knew that I could do already. Most of the early training runs were distances that I had run. I was easily able to put the marathon out of my mind everyday, and focus on my training run for that day. Even though the goals were big, the chunks were manageable.
- Big goals will set you up for even bigger goals. Now that I know that I can run a marathon, I’m looking at other totally crazy goals that I can train for. I could do the death race, an ultra marathon (something longer than 26 miles), the leadville 100 or there’s standard length triathlons, Half Iron mans and even full iron man triathlon.
- You will develop positive habits – there’s nothing more fun than working towards something for months on end and finally being able to complete it. Working hard for a long time at something with a distant goal will help you continue to set goals further out in the future, and keep you working harder for longer without the reward. This would have helped me a lot – Training for 4 months was nice, but I wish I was still training for something right now.
- Big Goals will help you get started – the beginning of my training was easy – it was fun training to run for a marathon, even if I was only doing 4 miles that day. As I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to get excited for training for a 5k. Where I live, there are 5k runs in the area basically every weekend, so it’s not like they are that special. Marathons dont happen every weekend, and require a lot more planning. Working backwards from race date, you can easily find a start date.
- People around you will be super impressed. In all seriousness, I didnt think the race was that big of a deal. People that asked me what I was up to lately (answer being marathon training) they were all pretty shocked. They know I’m not a runner or anything like that, so I got a lot of questions. It was a great conversation starter. Some simply said “I’d never put myself through that”. I was happy to forget about those people, because they werent going to know what it felt like crossing the finish line anyhow.
- Big goals are relative. Running a marathon was a big goal for me, but perhaps it’s a small goal for you. Maybe it’s way to big of a goal for you, perhaps a half marathon will better suit you. Point is that no matter what your goal is and how others see it, as long as it’s a big goal for you, that will allow you the time to focus on the goal and eventually succeed. Put the fear of what will happen if you dont train/practice/whatever into your head!