What I learned from running my first (and last) marathon.
I never considered myself a runner. Whilst serving in the British Army, I ran because I had to. I was required to pass a fitness annually which meant I had to run consistently enough to maintain a decent level of cardiovascular fitness. When I retired from the Army in January 2021, we were in the thick of the COVID pandemic. There was nowhere to go, nothing to do, and I found myself running numerous times a week as a means of getting me out of the house for some fresh air and headspace.
In February 21, a friend had signed up for the Virtual London Marathon, and after a week of persuasion I signed up too. I then convinced my sister and 2 cousins to get on board too, and the 7 months that followed were dedicated to training. I had run a few half marathons previously, but the idea of a full marathon had never appealed to me. And to be very honest, I didn't think myself capable.
On 3rd Oct 2021, I proved myself wrong. Along with my wonderful little cousin, Zara, I ran 26.2 long miles. And my sister, Laura, and cousin, Kayla, ran the second half of our route, completing their first half marathon.
It was a slog, but we all finished on a high.
The couple of months before "race day" were hard. I wasn't enjoying the longer training runs, and it was increasingly difficult to fit them in. I was demotivated, and was no longer enjoying it.
I didn't run much in the weeks and months that followed the marathon, but now I'm reinvigorated and back in the game. Following some reflection, here's what I learned.
Just because you CAN do something, it doesn't mean you SHOULD. Granted, I wasn't sure I had 26.2 miles in me, and I'm proud of myself for getting to the finish line, but in response to the numerous "will you do another one?" questions, it's a hard no. I've ticked that box, and have no desire to repeat the experience. Running a marathon takes a lot of time and effort.
It's important to find a way to move your body that you enjoy. I found that while I really enjoy 10-12 miles, I definitely do not enjoy running more that 15. Beyond that, it gets really REALLY hard for me, and there is no enjoyment. None. So that's good to know.
I'm capable of much more than I realise. In training, I ran 13 miles more quickly than any of the half marathons I've run in the past. I was training hard, and it showed. I always thought I was just crap at running when it turns out I just wasn't training properly.
My kids are always watching. After watching me train for and complete a marathon, my 4 year old announced that he wanted to go for a run. He then asked Santa for "running kit" for Christmas. That was the first time I realised how much of an impact my life decisions and behaviour have on my kids.
Running a marathon is hard in so many ways - physically and mentally. The training took time away from other aspects of my life, including my family, which isn't something I'm in a rush to repeat. Completing it made me feel like Super Woman (albeit a broken Super Woman in the days that followed), but that feeling soon waned as life returned to normal.
So, although I don't regret it, I can say with certainty that I won't be running another one. Not any time soon, not ever. I'm glad I did it. I thought I knew myself pretty well. My strengths and limits, but this experience taught me things I didn't know about myself, demonstrating that I still have lot to learn. It offered me an opportunity to bond with family, and a reason to celebrate our achievement at a difficult time of great uncertainty and restriction.
And despite my certainty that I won't run another marathon, I'm keen to keep pushing myself and am
already looking forward to my next challenge...did somebody say 3 Peaks Challenge?