26 Lessons I Learned From Running A Marathon

Written by Gilberto Rosas on February 12, 2017

8 min  read

lessons from running a marathon

Have you ever thought about the moments in your life that fundamentally changed you? I mean truly engrained a significant change in your psyche. For me, it was the day that I ran the marathon and the months of training that led up to it.

I was 13 at the time and not the skinniest of my peers in middle school. In fact, I was 40 pounds overweight yet so had this crazy idea that I would run the LA marathon.

Initially I did it because I was told that there was no way I could do it. Ironically it was by my very own friends.

That brings me to the first lesson I learned about myself:

1. Proving someone wrong is the best motivation….in the beginning

I remember that this was the very reason that I actually went to the first day of training. Some girl in my class told me that I could never do it. That’s all it too to get me to make the first step. I love it when people doubt me because it’s an excellent opportunity to prove them wrong but that motivation doesn’t last long and in fact, it dies down once the hard part begins.

2. Be naive in how big you dream

Running a marathon was a thought that I entertained for a while. In fact, i thought about with a lens of curiosity. I never saw it as possible. I just decided to do it until I quit. Then I realized that I had much more in me than I thought. That’s when the real curiosity set in because I realized that if I could do this then what other things are possible for me.

3. All you need is you

I realized very quickly that all I really needed was one person to believe in me and that was me and me only. If you become dependent on other for your own belief in something that what happens if they lose hop in you after the first few failures? Exactly, the belief has to come from you.

4. The hardest part comes right before the best part

We had trained for close to 6 months and the last couple weeks leading up to the marathon were the hardest. The miles got longer and my willpower got shorter. Still, I knew that the accomplishment of finishing the marathon would be forever with me whereas the temporary pain would subside.

5. Physical challenges are more so mental challenges

I remember running along on that hot day in LA and my body feeling absolutely tired and I began to really wonder how I was able to keep going. I mean, I had never ran this far in my life, ever. I quickly realized it was my mind pushing me forward. Throughout the whole 26.2 miles, I only had one dominating thought: FINISH! I had made it clear in my head that the only way I was leaving that marathon was right after crossing that finish line and not a second before.

6. Being healthy is a way of life

I grew up a very big kid. I absolutely loved eating and if you’ve ver had Mexican food, then you know why my eating habits were the way they were. No one had ever taught me about nutrition but as I began to eat healthy I noticed more energy, better breathing during cardio, and I just felt better. I’m not going to lie and tell you that from that day on I quit unhealthy eating for good because that would be false. Rather, that realization was the catalyst for the road to a healthier me.

7. If you want something, work on it every damn day!

We trained almost every day. It was necessary and everyone there understood because 26.2 miles is no joke and I think everybody could agree with that.

8.Work a little harder than last time

That’s how progress is made, by taking one step further than last time. Progress is a result of how much you’re willing to push in that moment when you feel most uncomfortable, feel the most pain, and your body is screaming at you to stop and come back to your comfort zone.

9. Stop comparing yourself to the fastest guy

For much of the time that I was training, I would compare my performance to the fast guy. The same guy who ran the marathon two years prior and had played soccer as well. Looking back on it, I don’t know why I’d kept comparing my endurance and speed to his. I guess it’s a natural inclination to do since our brain categorizes everything. I guess I had put myself under the category of not fast and placed my efforts on becoming “the fastest” in a relatively short amount of time.

10. Take it one day at a time

Honestly, I never thought the marathon would actually come, as silly as that may sound. I never thought about it. I told myself that I would go until I no longer can. I found myself going every day with that mentality and sooner rather than later, the month of April came along (the same month as the race) and reality hit me hard that I could actually do this!

11. Keep going, you never know who you’re inspiring

I was at the 18th mile and by this point, I was treading along and I felt really tired. My biggest urge was to just sit down for a second or two. My whole body was begging me to but I kept going and I guess one of the volunteers had seen me and she decided to just tag along. She was very helpful in keeping my mind off the pain in my feet and my body. In that time, she began to ask me questions and get to know me. I had told her about my training and the days leading up to the race. After crossing the finish line, she had joined me, gave me a big hug, and told me how inspired she was by my accomplishment. I had no idea I inspired her. All I did was talk to her but it goes to show you, that it in the road to your dreams, you’ll end up inspiring others to reach for theirs.

12. Never underestimate others

I never would have guessed for myself to finish up until that last month. If I had not truly believed in myself, despite being capable, how could have others believed in me. It was then that I realized that anyone could have finished, had they put their mind to it. Having said that, I decided that I would not underestimate the true strength of others. Instead, I would encourage like others have encouraged because to put them down and say they can’t would be to lie to them and that’s something I wouldn’t do.

13. Just show up

A lot of the times I really didn’t want to train but I showed up and I put on my training clothes and began to stretch and warm up. At that moment of jogging the first mile, it was as if my body got the message that it’s go time. Eventually, not instantly, I got into the zone.

14. Become a finisher

I sincerely believe that finishing the marathon really engraved into my brain, the concept of becoming a finisher. I always finish what I start.

15. Become obsessed

When I try something new, I obsess over it. It’s something I’ve always done. I try to learn every inch of it and then some. At the time of training, I obsessed over trying to improve. I was always trying to evaluate where there was room for improvement.

16. It doesn’t matter if you’re last

What was important for me since the start of the nag marathon was to finish. I had committed to finishing and I was going to follow through on that commitment no matter what. No matter how much pain I felt, I was prepared to endure.

17. Hard work always pays off, always

This was perhaps the biggest lesson I learned and it has made all the difference because sometimes we might do something but not see the fruits of our labor for quite some time and this experienced really solidified into my mindset the fact that you always get what you put in. Always. It might not come in the form that you wished, but because of the hard work, you put in you can’t not produce a result. It’s one of the most fundamental laws of success, for every cause, there has to be an effect. The cause being the year of training and the effect being the medal.

18. Success is like a marathon

It’s a steady progression. It’s almost like building a never ending wall with each day being the brick that you lay. The journey there is more so about trying to lay the best brick on hopes of building the best wall.

19. Keep the promises you make to yourself

Every time that I had told myself to go to training when I didn’t want to, I felt much more certain in my ability. Perhaps that is why I didn’t give up when marathon month came along because I had created a track record of consistent practices that made me believe in myself and my ability.

20. Be too naive to quit

In a way, I ignored reality. I was 40 lbs overweight and I hadn’t exercised much. On top of that, I had never ran for more than 3 miles. The odds of me finishing were overwhelming against me, and had I listened to the reality of the fact, I would have never crossed that 26.2 mile mark. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have started but I decided that I want something and I’m going after it regardless of what others say, what reality says, or what own doubts say.

21. Take it one mile at a time

Had I thought about the 26th mile on the first mile, I would have done myself huge disservice. Instead I focused my attention on enjoying this moment that I had awaited for a whole year. I was happy to have made it and I was going to make the most out of this experience which doesn’t include thinking about the very end while still at the beginning.

22. Let the prize pull you

Throughout my time practicing and my time running in the marathon all I could think about was how that medal would look around my beck and in my room.

23. Make the potential regret push you

I knew I would regret it forever. Even if a I decided to give it another try down the line, it wouldn’t be he same as doing it then and breaking the mental barriers and limiting beliefs that I had.

24. Pain is temporary, who you become lasts longer

The person who first stepped on that track in the first day of practice was not the same person who crossed that finishing line on April 25, 2009 and that person who finished is not the same person who is writing these words you see in front of you but it would not have been possible without that decision that was made to take a crack at going to train. Even if I lose my medal or any evidence that I ran, I will still have that work ethic and discipline that I built up during that year.

25. Never give up on the 20th mile

It’s crazy because in many things that we do, the most resistance is always experienced right before your triumph. In life, it might not come in the form of physical resistance but it may come in the form of mental resistance such as doubts and fears. The important thing to remember is to stay focused on the process because it is what will get you where you want to be.

26. your body is capable of so much more

The human body is a magnificent organic machine. It is the result of thousands of years of trial and error. It is the product of many ancestors who have fought to survive. Now we have the resilient body that can do so many hints for us that we don’t even think are possible and it isn’t until we are pushed to our limits and we think we have nothing left that our true strength and power reveals itself.


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