I learned a lot from my experience in the 2011 NYC Marathon. From the training, to the fundraising, and, of course, from the actual race itself, there were lessons at every turn. The marathon truly tested my mental, physical, and emotional well-being and it's safe to say that I am a stronger person because of it.
Here are the top seven things I learned from finishing my first marathon:
Generosity: I can't say thank you enough to all the people that supported me: financially and emotionally. Family, friends, and strangers were overly generous with their donations, kind words, and inspiration.
Just Ask: When I first signed up to be part of the Arthritis Foundation's marathon team, I had just wrapped up participating in the NYC Arthritis Walk with the Sick Chick Club. I had raised over 1k for that event, and felt guilty going around to the same friends and family members for more donations. I developed a plan to reach out to businesses and organizations that I truly loved and supported and asked them for donations in creative ways. I was amazed at how generous some of these companies were! Monetary donations, shout outs, articles, free goods - I am still humbled by the outpouring.
You Can't Train Enough: Somewhere at the end of the summer, I stopped taking my training seriously. This was a big mistake. You cannot train enough. I should have been running more, running longer, stretching, cross and strength training. But I was tired. And had other things to do. And a million excuses. There are no excuses. You need to train. 26.2 miles is a lot longer when you don't train enough. Trust me, I know.
Inspiration: I can't tell you how much it meant to me to read the comments left here on this blog by individuals who said I've inspired them. It's hard for me to believe that I could be an inspiration, and this was a role that I did not take lightly. I thought about every comment I read during the course of the marathon, and also the kind words of encouragement from family and friends. I hope I can continue to inspire you all.
You Can't Train Enough (Part 2): Ignore what I wrote earlier, you literally cannot train enough. Nothing can prepare you for 26.2 miles. Nothing. At some point, it becomes less about the physical test and more about the mental games you play with yourself. Just keep one foot after another and cry if you want to cry, or laugh if you want to laugh - just keep going. (I both cried and laughed numerous times on the course.)
It's a Mind Battle: Whether you want to admit it or not, when you are training for a marathon, it is on your brain - constantly. I can't say that a day passed from the time I signed up until, well, today, that I have not thought about the marathon. Some days it weighed heavily on my mind, other days it was just in the back of my head somewhere. But it was always there. Always. This giant, looming monster of the unknown.
No Regrets: When I first finished the marathon, and for a few days after, I felt ashamed by my finish time. I had expected to do much, much better than I did. However, my toes ceased being toes and became blisters. The pain was unbearable. My sister struggled with runner's knee, which she was in physical therapy for prior to the marathon. But we stuck with each other and we finished. I am growing more and more proud of that accomplishment as the days and weeks pass - after all, not many people attempt this, and even less attempt it when they live with an autoimmune disease like RA.
I have no regrets about the marathon. I am grateful to have learned these lessons. Why? Because I am ready to apply them to marathon #2... (in a few years).