20 Takeaways from 10 Marathons

I love to run.

I love waking up early. I love the clarity that it brings. I love the culture that surrounds it. And I love that a lot of people hate it.

But more than anything, I love it because of the lessons it teaches about resolve, grit, patience, and hard work. There are no short cuts. There is no easy way out. At the end of the day, you cross the finish line or you don’t. And in pushing your body and mind to the limit of what you are capable of, you are exposed to truths and realities that transcend the sport. On December 28th, I ran my 10th marathon. Here are my top 20 takeaways. Whether you are a runner or not, these lessons carry a message that can apply to any and every part of life.

  1. There will never be a better time to sign up.

If this is something you REALLY want to do, the biggest mistake you can make is to wait for it to be convenient. That will not happen. Get registered and get to work.


  1. A goal without a plan is a wish.

There will be days when you don’t feel like it. There will be days when your emotions tell you to stay in bed. The great thing about your plan is that it doesn’t care about your emotions. Put pen to paper and then share that paper with people that will call you out.


  1. If you have a pair of shoes, you have everything you need.

I’ve seen enough people finish these things to know that the phrase “I’m just not built that way” is a lie. Don’t say you can’t do it. Maybe you don’t want to do it… and that’s fine. But the idea that you have a genetic predisposition which will keep you from reaching the finish line is ALMOST always a cop-out.


  1. Your body can do this. Your mind is the variable.

Go to a finish line of a marathon some time. You will see men and women of all different shapes, sizes, heights, weights, backgrounds, and fitness levels. I am CONVINCED that anyone in relatively decent shape has a body that can physically handle twenty six miles. It may not be pretty and it certainly won’t be comfortable but the greatest limitations aren’t physical in nature. It’s all mental.


  1. Social Media Accountability is POWERFUL.

The day you post your registration on Facebook is the day it becomes a LOT harder to quit.


  1. Sometimes, the best way to keep from stopping is speeding up.

It was Mile 22 of my 3rd race. I was hitting the proverbial “wall.” My mind wasn’t right and I was moments from walking. In an act of desperation, I decided to try speeding up. I can’t explain it and I certainly don’t understand it but for some reason it worked. Often, the hankering to stop can be countered by a simple change in rhythm.


  1. Be the person that says thank you to everyone.

It lifts your mind and demeanor to thank the police officers, race staff, and volunteers. It’s cheesy but it momentarily takes your mind away from your reality. I think it’s a powerful affirmation that gratitude for others is a POWERFUL force.


  1. The greatest strides are made on the mornings when you don’t feel like it.

It’s cold, dark, and windy outside. It’s warm and comfortable in bed. These are the choices that make you better. And every time you make the choice to forgo immediate comfort for a greater gratification


  1. Peanut Butter at Mile 25 is a terrible idea.

Have you ever seen a dog get peanut butter stuck on the roof of his mouth? That was me.


  1. Mental dialogue is your best friend or your worst enemy.

The greatest variable in the fight to finish is your mind. If you can train your thoughts to remain positive, upbeat, and forward focused after 20 miles, you’ll be golden.


  1. You never walk once.

Anyone who loves distance running knows that an initial decision to walk serves as a foothold inside your mind and resolve. It’s a lingering reminder that you are willing and able to stop. One walk becomes two…becomes three…becomes 4. Be relentless in the effort to keep running.


  1. A friendly face makes all the difference.

It never ceases to amaze me at how powerful it is to see someone you know. Regardless of how you feel, your spirits, pace, and attitude are always lifted.


  1. Running your race requires you to say no.

In training and on race day, you cannot keep up with everyone. You cannot say yes to everything. The worst mistake you can make is to try.


  1. Discomfort is the greatest indicator that you’re getting better.

When it’s a Saturday morning training run and you hit the point when you are running further than you ever have before, DO NOT STOP. This is where the magic happens.


  1. Good music matters.

This is another testament to mental variable. The ability to keep your mind occupied is a game changer.


  1. Not all who wonder are lost. But I was…

It was mile 25 of my first trail marathon. I hadn’t seen people for a while. The path I was on turned a corner that led to a dead end. I had gone about half a mile in the wrong direction. And for the record, they don’t sell 27.2 stickers…


  1. When you want to stop, evaluate.

When you feel the urge, hankering, and craving to walk, take a deep breath and evaluate. Is there something that actually hurts so bad or is so tired that you can’t run another step? Almost every time, the answer is NO.


  1. Embrace the Suck.

It hurts. It’s cold. You’re tired. You’re ready for it all to end. Your ability to finish strong will not be defined by the way you ignore these realities. It will be predicated upon your ability to enjoy them. You set this goal knowing that this would be part of it. Suck it up and get after it.


  1. Your performance on race day is the result of what you repeatedly do when no one is watching. The things you do repeatedly, routinely, and regularly will define your race. While the goal is finished on race day, it is achieved on the countless weekends when you choose to follow the plan, put in the work, and


  1. Nothing beats a good finish line.

There is something insanely powerful about turning a corner to see the tangible result of months of work.

I hope you enjoyed this. More important, I hope it inspired you. Maybe marathon running isn’t your thing. And that’s fine. But, don’t miss out on the lessons you can learn and the experiences you can create by taking on something that scares you. Commit to a goal that is bigger than you are. Get started. Do something.

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