Have you ever wanted to, or dreamed of running a marathon. Well, I did it once and only once. It is one of those, and I hesitate to use this word, monumental goals. Running a marathon is not an undertaking to pursue lightly. However, the approach is that of any other goal you may choose to go after.
1. Define the goal. My goal was simple. I just wanted to enter and finish a marathon without walking. I made no expectations with respect to my finishing time. Yet even to just finish a marathon requires a great deal of training. To give you a brief background, I dislike running but I run (jog) to maintain a healthy body. I rarely ran more than three miles at a time with maybe an occasional five mile run a couple times a year. A few years before my first and only marathon I ran a half marathon and was thoroughly unprepared. I should also mention that my significant other was the catalyst behind this pursuit and would accompany or more accurately lead me.
2. Make a Plan. As this was our first marathon attempt we did some research as to which marathons had the flattest terrain and most spectators for moral support. We decided on the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. In addition to the favorable geography and support it was a virtual site seeing tour that could help keep our minds off of the agony at least in my case. Once the location was identified we perused a few books on running a marathon and settled on book by Jeff Galloway to use as a blueprint. We basically followed the book’s training routine verbatim. I don’t remember the specifics but we generally ran a short distance, three miles, working up to, five miles, five days a week with a long run one day a week then progressively increased every other week culminating at 20 miles. The theory was that if you could run 20 you could run 26.2 miles. The day after the lengthy run was for recuperation. It was a given in the plan that we would run together. I only mention this because I would recommend having a training partner in your plan.
3. Execute the Plan. As I mentioned before, I do not love running. Having a partner was certainly needed in my case to motivate me to get up early and go running. The only real execution necessary in this case was the discipline to consistently get up and run according to the plan outlined in Jeff Galloway’s book. We began this training routine six months before the race. As with most goals there will be unexpected challenges along the way. For me it was hydration. I am one of those people who require a drink of water every few miles. I could handle the three mile runs but once we started increasing the mileage on Saturday for our long run I had to make some adjustments. When we were measuring the distance for our long run I would have to look for areas where I could get a quick drink of water. I tried a camelback which is virtually a small backback filled with water with a long straw but it was too heavy and cumbersome for my liking.
We executed the plan flawlessly and ran our two 20 mile runs. Now it was time to run the marathon. It was a beautiful day late October day in Washington D.C. to run a marathon. My wife and I ran together for a couple of miles when I told her to take off and that I would be OK. I did just fine until around mile 13. Let me make a general statement about marathons. There is no dignity among marathon runners in the middle of the race. People will meet their needs whenever and wherever necessary. In my case, at mile 13, I became very hungry and knew I needed something to eat. There was a station where U.S. Marines must have been that morning to set up for the race. There were literally over 100 empty donut boxes. I started rummaging through all of them when I came across two uneaten donuts and inhaled them. That was all that I needed to get moving again. At mile 17 when the route traveled down and back a small peninsula and the crowd was sparse I began to feel the pain. I ended up walking about ½ mile to get back to the main route and began jogging very slowly. I ran at this pace for about 3 miles until the end was in sight. I could see the Iowa Jima memorial, the finishing point. There were a great many of spectators cheering us on at this point so I picked up the pace a little until I crossed the finish line. I was utterly exhausted yet felt a sense of accomplishment that kept my mind off of the pain. I could barely walk the next couple of days but I did not regret running the marathon. It was something that could never be taken away from me and reminded me of what I was capable of accomplishing if I put my mind to it.
4. Evaluate the Adjust the Plan. I wouldn’t say that we had to reevaluate our plan in this case, however, if I ever had to do it again I would recommend running more than a 20-mile run before the race. I know many people that run the full 26 miles in preparation for a marathon. I felt that the extra six miles that I had not trained for put additional strain on my body during the actual marathon that it was not prepared for.
So there you have it, the 4 steps to accomplishing anything you desire in life:
Define the goal, Make a plan, Execute the plan, Evaluate and adjust the plan
Your goal(s) may require a much more complex plan. If so, your plan should be broken down into manageable steps. The most important component of achieving your goal is to take action towards it everyday.
So get out of bed, put on your running shoes, and hit the pavement everyday to run the marathon of your life. You Won’t Regret It.