4 Lessons from Marathon Failure (NAAB)

About three years ago I completed a half marathon. I did it on a whim, signing up just nine days before the event because a friend of mine asked me to run it with him. I completed it, even managing to never slow to a walk. It was definitely a slow time at 2:16:04, but I was proud of myself. The euphoria of finishing encouraged me to set the goal of completing a full marathon. I trained for a bit afterwards, but eventually started slacking. Add in a deployment, a marriage, and a career change and life just took my mind off the whole marathon thing for a while.

Earlier this year my boss told me he was signing up for the National Guard Marathon in Lincoln, NE. He told me it was free for all National Guard personnel. I figured that was my chance so I jumped on it. I couldn’t keep putting off this goal. I signed up approximately three months before the race. Even though I hadn’t been running, I was sure three months was enough time to train. How hard could it be?

learningFast Forward to May 6, 2018. I can be found lying on back around the 20 mile mark of the Lincoln Marathon after 3 hours 50 minutes of running, waiting on my wife to pick me up. It was humiliating. I knew that I may have to slow to a walk a finish with a slow time, but quit? Four hours earlier I was SURE I could at least finish. Now I was lying down defeated, unable to even walk because of the pain in my feet and calves. My sweet wife consoled me on the way back home, assuring me 20 miles was still an accomplishment. It didn’t feel that way then, and honestly doesn’t feel like it now. There was no euphoria of finishing, no sense of accomplishment, not even a darn runners high. Before I go any further in this article let me give you a brief summary of my race.

Mile 1-3 – Let’s Go!

Mile 4-6 – Feeling good, better slow down though, pace is a little fast

Mile 7-10 – Still feel good, which is encouraging considering I didn’t feel good at this point during my half marathon

Mile 10-13 – Ok now I’m a little tired, push yourself to the halfway point before you break

Mile 13.1 – Halfway! … only halfway

Mile 14-15 – The pack thinned out quick. I take my first walking break, only a couple blocks then I’m moving again

Mile 16-17 – Ok now this really sucks, holding even a light jog is incredibly difficult, it’s stop and go

Mile 18 – Legs buckle at a water station, cramps begin immediately. As far as exhaustion goes this is my low point of the race

Mile 19 – I’ve been walking for a mile, given up on jogging. Not as winded but everything from the waist below is in pain

Mile 19.2 – Stop to stretch

Mile 19.4 – Stop to stretch

Mile 19.6 – Why is it hurting so bad all of a sudden. I call the wife for some encouragement

Mile 19.8 – I’m walking hunched over like an old man

Mile 20 – That’s it, I’m tapping out. I call the wife and end my race

And so there I was. Defeated and Exhausted. 20 miles for nothing. Now I was pretty down in the dumps for like a day, but I decided to not let this beat me. I started looking for what I did wrong and what to do next time. I think I learned a few things and that’s what I would like to share with you now.

Lesson 1 – Train like you mean it: You can not willpower your way through a marathon. I thought I could. You have to will your way through every training session as well. You can’t just show up the day of and expect to finish because you want to really bad. Training isn’t just for your legs. Jogging day in and day out for weeks in preparation is also training your mind. Strengthening your willpower muscle is key to race day success.

Lesson 2 – Take your Time: Persistence is key to a marathon. It’s also key during training. Training must have slow and steady progress. Which means if you haven’t been running (like me) it’s going to take you six months minimum to get into marathon shape. Check out some training programs online a stick to it.

Lesson 3 – Buy the Good Shoes: Good running shoes cost money, and you’ll probably have to buy a couple pairs. It’s worth it. If you try to skimp on this cost you could wind up with blisters and set back your training. Not only that you just wind up wasting money because they don’t last. I wish I didn’t have to learn this lesson the hard way.

marathon 2Lesson 4 – Partner Up: This one isn’t completely mandatory, but it certainly helps. Keeping each other accountable during training is probably the most helpful aspect of this point.

These lessons are not the whole picture, and there are plenty of more experienced runners out there to learn from. I still hope these help, I know they will help me.

… Thankfully I’m the kind of guy who can get over stuff pretty quick (usually). So the day after failure I started looking for marathons to sign up for. It looks like I’ll be going to Tulsa, OK this November to run 26.2.

over and out,


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