What I learnt attempting to run ‘couch to marathon’ in just 21 days…..spoiler alert, it feels a lot like life.
You might firstly be wondering why on earth I would do such a thing? Well the start of the story started back at the beginning of September, it was dark and early morning, I had come off my ElliptiGO (a stand up bike) and as I later discovered, had broken my jaw. It had meant that my usual yearly sponsored kindness challenge (find out more at www.sunshinepeople.org.uk) that I was training for would not be possible. As my recovery continued, eventually I was given the go ahead to start fitness again on the 1st December, but now I was also pretty unfit and having not completed my yearly sponsored challenge I started to think what I could do to remedy the gap? I had heard of the 21 day challenges and had never done a marathon, I couldn’t find anyone who had done this so thought I thought I’d combine the two and give it a try and more importantly; this is what I learnt.
Running in the bad weather is not as terrible as you believe it will be
How many times have you stopped yourself from doing something because of the very thought of it? The fear of failure. The fear of it feeling uncomfortable. What I actually found was it was always a little better than I expected. The light snow was cooling when I needed it. The feeling of coming in from the rain and warming up was always so enjoyable, almost worth waiting for the rain to run in next time.
Most of the things that stop us are simply impressions in our mind and how we choose to react to them.
Distraction can be an answer
I wanted to avoid the thoughts of inadequacy. I knew I needed to keep one step moving in front of the other so I used distraction. I listened to long podcasts that drew me into a story, it made me want to get out of bed at 5am and it made me want to go on further so I could listen to the the end. I stopped thinking about the running and the pain and the weather, I was just thinking about the podcast. If I had focused only on my lack of fitness, the scary darkness of the trail ways I occupied, I am not sure I would have made it. Distraction is not always avoidance it is the vehicle by which we can get to the destination.
What we say to ourselves matters
If we tell ourselves we can’t do something then that is the reality you make. I spent the time talking to myself kindly leading up to challenge and beyond. Telling myself that ‘I can run a marathon’, it wasn’t a race, I just had to do the miles. Even when we doubt ourselves, when we change the story in our heads to, ‘I can’ rather than ‘I can’t’ you are starting on the right foot to achieving anything you want.
People will always have an unsolicited opinion
We make a choice to listen or simply let the opinion pass us by. People carry their own story and they want to impart that upon you, unless their opinion is anything but supportive or inquisitive it is usually not worthy of validation. The same is true of so many areas of our lives. We have to consider it but then let it go or it can become a weight you have to carry and stops you achieving your goals.
You’ll go faster and feel easier when you do it with friends
It was amazing how much easier and faster I went when friends joined me on any part of the training. It got me thinking about life, the power a conversation with a friend has to heal so many a situation. Equally when we attempt a new goal the encouragement of good people around you will drive positive outcomes. Find the tribe that tell you “Oh, you’ll do that easily.” “you want me to run with you?” “Wow, that sounds interesting, why are you doing that?” Your tribe will encourage, show interest, question and clarify and they sure do make everything easier.
On the 21st day I ran a marathon. The first 16 miles were surprisingly good. I set off at 5.30am and the first 9 miles was completed in the dark and as the sun rose. Met a friend and ran 7 mile with them which was glorious, then ran the last 10 miles home alone. The last 10 miles was the hardest and prior to them I had been kicking a pretty good time. In the end, I completed it in 6 hours 11. I would have been happy with 7 hours so this was good, I could have done it in 5 and half.
Conclusion - Truth is, it doesn’t matter how long it takes as long as you get there in the end.