5 Valuable Life Lessons You Learn From Marathon Running

Training for a marathon, and then running 26.2 miles, is as much a mental journey as it is a physical one.

It can be gruelling and unrewarding, then euphoric and life-affirming all within the same single run.

In many ways, marathons are a great metaphor for life: it’s long, there’s often discomfort, but perseverance and your mindset make all the difference.

Here are our 5 life lessons you learn from running a marathon!

5 life lessons from running a marathon

1. Re-frame Discomfort As Delayed Gratification

life lessons from marathon running 1

Mentally, marathon training is all about delayed gratification. 

It’s about suffering a little in training every day and getting used to being uncomfortable, in order to work towards a distant goal – the marathon.

It’s definitely similar to the conditions we find ourselves in these days – when we are often unable to go about our lives as we’d like to.

By being disciplined and working towards a future goal – be it physical, work-related, or otherwise – we can tap into that ‘delayed gratification’ idea and give meaning to our current situation.

2. Focus On The Self, Every Day

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A huge part of marathon training is looking after yourself; taking steps to protect your immune system, and prioritizing downtime.  During marathon training, a cold or infection can derail all your efforts. 

Sometimes, a recovery run is more appropriate than an interval run.

In these uncertain times, it’s particularly important that we all continue to look after ourselves. That includes considerations about diet, exercise, and mental health – all of which affect and can help boost the immune system, and keep us strong in these uncertain times.

3. Structure and Routine Create Balance

life lessons from marathon running

The best marathon runners-in-training use a structured marathon training plan, and stick to it.

They adopt the plan in their daily routine and show up every day.  Sticking to this structure gives them a roadmap throughout their training, and means their lives are more balanced than someone just winging it.

This concept applies well to life in a time of crisis; when our lives have been upended, following a set daily routine can give our lives structure, calm us, and keep us focused on what’s truly important!

4. Know When To Rest

life lessons from running a marathon

An important part of marathon training is recognizing when you’ve been pushing yourself too hard, and when you need to take an unscheduled pause for some RnR.

In other words, it’s paramount that we all know our physical limits.

And while it’s important to maintain good exercise habits, pushing too hard can compromise our immune system, or leave us weakened and demoralized.

Maintaining balance is key.

Related articles:

How To Rest Like An Elite Athlete

The Key Brain Chemical For Run Recovery

5. Community = Strength

life lessons through marathon running

It’s been shown that marathon runners who train with friends or running groups are more likely to follow through on their training schedule, and complete their race.

Other people provide us with all kinds of encouragement and emotional support – something we all need to bear in mind during times of crisis. 

While social distancing might change the way we interact, we each have the opportunity to contribute to our friends, family, or neighbors and help each other get through this together!

Your Life Lessons From Marathon Running!

life lessons from marathon running?

Marathon training and running is a personal experience – everyone takes their own lessons from it!

What have you learned from marathon running?

Share below!

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Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and playing with his two tiny kids. More at his bio.

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