5 life lessons I learned from running a marathon

Last Sunday I lined up with nearly 6000 others to run the Melbourne Marathon. It’s been a dream of mine to run it for a few years now. I used to live in Melbourne before I had kids, but back then I never even thought I’d run 5km let alone a marathon, so it wasn’t even on my radar.

But since I started running after my youngest child was born five years ago, it’s been on my list. Not only do you get to run through the iconic Melbourne landscape, around Albert Park Lake, along the esplanade at St Kilda, and up around the Shrine of Remembrance – you also get to finish by running inside the MCG, in front of a giant crowd of people.

It was my second marathon – after running Gold Coast last year. I was feeling excited and prepared going into the run (you can see my pre-marathon chat with Gillian here).

I finished Melbourne in four hours and five minutes – about 40 minutes faster than I ran the Gold Coast! It was thrilling to see what I was capable of, after curtailing my training runs this year due to the time demands of single parenting.

5 life lessons I learned from running a marathon

I feel like setting these goals and running these distances has unlocked something in me. A calmness and a wisdom that I didn’t know I was capable of. It’s taught me lessons about my life and in the hope that I don’t sound like an enormous wanker, I thought I’d share them with you.

Here are the life lessons I learned from running the Melbourne Marathon:

  1. If you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, eventually you’ll get where you’re going. It might not always be pretty, and it could hurt, but you’ll achieve what you set out to achieve. Having that certainty at your core adds amazing confidence.
  2. Everybody hurts (REM were sages of our time). Yes, you’ll go through suffering, but if you look up and across at those around you, they’re all going through stuff. In life, and in running. Pulling your head out of your own arse to throw your support behind others can give you some perspective, lessen your own suffering and bring you closer together. In the run, I encouraged runners around me, struck up conversations and checked on people that looked like they might need help, and I felt like I was part of something greater than just my little running self.
  3. Nothing is permanent. After sucky bits come awesome bits – and after awesome bits come sucky bits. Enjoy feeling great, and ride out feeling bleurgh because neither lasts forever. The Gu Chews I was using for fuel didn’t agree with my stomach on the day and I felt nauseous for a good portion of the run, but each time the nausea abated, I ate another one, knowing I needed the energy they could provide. It was a dicey dance at times, but it helped keep me going.
  4. Doing cool stuff alone is good – but doing it with a bunch of rad birds is way better. I had the privilege of staying with some fantastic ladies from the Operation Move community, and it just made the whole experience so much more fun. A big group of us went out for dinner the night before the marathon, and then we gathered before the big event to nervously chatter on about everything and nothing, and then we celebrated our victories and compared battle scars at the end. Oh, and then we ate all the food and drank a fair amount of champagne together too. There is a beautiful camaraderie that comes from going through tough stuff together, and people you barely know in real life become close friends. It’s wonderful.
  5. If you put too much stuff in your pockets, your skirt will fall down. A lot.

5 life lessons I learned from running a marathon

The question I keep being asked since I crossed that line on Sunday is: what next? If you’d asked me on Sunday I would have slapped you hard and asked you to give me a moment to enjoy that feeling. But now, I want more. I’ve signed up to run a 50km Ultra Trail in the Blue Mountains next May, but you can be sure I’ll be doing more marathons too. Now that I’ve run so close to that magic four hour mark, there’s no way I’m going to let it get away from me. Because in running, as in life, it’s nice to enjoy your achievements, but there is always another goal to drive you forward.

Written By

Carolyn is the editorial director of Champagne Cartel and a freelance writer. In her spare time she is a long-distance runner, peanut butter enthusiast, and single mum to three incredible humans.

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