Running a marathon is a challenge. It’s difficult because it’s beyond our physiological range so once we’ve run a beyond 20-miles, we'll be both physically and mentally fatigued, our legs generally struggle to operate, and our brain is screaming at us to stop! To finish will take all our resilience.
But that’s only one part of the story. Just making the decision to run a marathon is a big deal as it’s way outside our normal comfort zone. However, most of us make the decision to run one on a whim and it’s only later that we start to think “what on earth have I done?” when we realise that it’s probably going to be hard and scary!
At some point during training, most of us will suffer from self-doubt, thinking “I can’t do this” and you’ll find yourself listening to all the negative comments from friends and family… “you’re doing what?” … “don’t be daft you’ll never be able to run a marathon!”
But if we take the bull by the horns and approach this as we would any other project, if we have a training plan that’s realistic and allows for good progression, if we’re patient and consistent, then we will succeed.
I’ve had many experiences of operating outside my comfort zone, one in particular comes to mind….
I was a former British Mountain Running Champion but had moved to mainly running on the road. However, I was selected to run in the Mountain Running World Championships. It was my first experience of a major Championship and I was petrified! In fact, I just wanted to run away. Instead of focusing on how fit I was, the excellent training I’d done and how I was going to execute my race plan, I was a bundle of nerves. The race itself was hard and I had to use all my resilience and resolve just to finish. I was disappointed in my performance and my preparation; I’d let the atmosphere and expectation get the better of me; but that experience taught me so many valuable lessons.
It taught me that I needed to be better prepared so that when I stood on the start line, I knew I was in the best shape specifically for each race. It taught me that I needed be mentally tough enough to control my emotions and adjust to the external and internal pressures.
Running a marathon is a very personal challenge, it’s an intrinsic struggle with all the self-doubt and fears I’ve mentioned above. The training and the race itself can be tough and at times uncomfortable, but the reward and the feeling of achievement, the exhilaration, self-satisfaction you get when you cross that finish line…. Well, this is what you feel in your soul and it will live with you forever.
My experience taught me the real meaning of resilience. I “bounced back” from a difficult experience and successfully adapted to the demands. It made me mentally stronger and in fact I went on to run Major Marathons and The Commonwealth Games. Thereafter I ensured that I was always well prepared, both physically and mentally, I leant how to stay calm on any race start line so that I could to execute my race plans perfectly.
You’ll also find times when training is tough, or in a race when it just feels hard to keep on going, it’s then that you’ll need to dig deep and allow your own mental toughness, your own resilience and determination to rise up from within. Take control and show yourself what you can achieve.
Resilience is what we all need for marathon training and for marathon racing - the good news is that we can train ourselves to be better at it. It takes time and strength to develop new skills; you’ll probably experience some setbacks along the way but by ‘keeping on’ and ‘bouncing back’ and maintaining a determined focus on your goals, you’re demonstrating the resilience you’ll need to train for and run your marathon. They are also attributes that will empower you for the rest of your life.