Lessons Learned from Running My First Marathon & Tips for Yours

At five years old, I was diagnosed with asthma. I couldn’t participate in P.E. in middle school because my asthma was too severe – it would act up at the slightest physical activity.

As a teenager, I was not a “runner.” In high school, I often admired the more physically fit girls on the track team and cheerleading squad. Still, I was both too shy and too lacking in physical ability to attempt joining groups like that, at least in my own mind. I didn’t have the resources to overcome the mental obstacles.
Instead, I gravitated toward unhealthy activities, drinking, and partying. I felt more comfortable with myself when I forgot who I was, leaving social anxiety at the bottom of red solo cups and empty shot glasses.

It took me a long time, six years to be exact, before I worked up the confidence to enter a gym on my own, to hold a dumbbell, or use a weight machine, and it took longer than that to get out of my head. I could run on the treadmill but didn’t enjoy running outside. I was focused on how I looked, what others saw, and what they thought. It didn’t matter that I didn’t judge others when they were running or working out. The judgment for myself existed in my own head.

More than anything else, the thing holding me back was waiting for myself to “find” some sort of confidence. But the first step couldn’t just be “found” – I had to create it. I had to build my trust, faith, and understanding of myself. I wasn’t going to stumble upon it. That type of foundation can only be crafted in the doing.

The uncomfortable version of myself seems far in the distance now. Sometimes, I feel the ping of uncertainty, but mostly, I’m aware of my abilities. My confidence is built from attempting and failing, learning and doing, living in embarrassment, and persisting through. And yours is made in these places, too.

It is not overlapping. I feel confident in one aspect of my life and get nervous about new, unexplored things… like scuba diving. But the knowledge I’ve gained, the knowledge that stems far beyond the brain’s understanding and deep into an emotional knowing, helps me remember to keep going. Do the things you love. Life is too short to be uncomfortable all the time. To let your dreams die with the what-ifs.

I pushed past the mental barriers and the uncertainty I felt in my own body. I trained and fostered the enjoyment of running, and my body adapted, too. I went from being unable to catch my breath after a few jogging steps to crossing the finish line of my first marathon. Some of the greatest lessons derive from what we teach ourselves, the place beyond the doing.

The Tough Two

There are two aspects to a marathon run that pose a challenge. The first, and perhaps the most obvious, is the run itself. It is a daunting 26.2 miles from start to finish.

You trained for this, and your body CAN do this, but your legs ache and feel like jello; you’ve run 10, 15, 20 miles, stopping would be easier than continuing on.

In these moments, you need your spirit. It is your spirit that won’t give up. This is when determination and your want-to-factor collide. Running a marathon has to be something you want to do. Period. Otherwise, what is the point?

So, before running a marathon, determine the following:

So, before running a marathon, determine the following:
What is your purpose? Is this something YOU want to do or think others would like you to do? Because if you don’t want to run, you won’t get enjoyment out of the experience. That sentiment rings true for most things in life, particularly with strenuous physical activity, because it’s hard – mentally and physically.

Having a few mantras or words of encouragement keeps you motivated. I used a mantra while hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail and during my long runs. When times get tough, it’s all about how you talk to yourself. What is your mind saying? Can you do this? Of course, you can. Find words, sayings, phrases that keep you going, spark something inside, and push the negative thoughts away.

The second challenge is in training. Again, it takes a great deal of self-discipline and commitment, which I fully grasped after registering and the first week of training went by. People will tell you training is the hard part, I’m telling you now, but perhaps you will only fully grasp the truth in the words once you’re in it, too.

Commitment to training means running even when you don’t feel like it, and there will be days you don’t feel like running, trust me. Pushing through that mindset and tackling the run are accomplishments in themselves, whether they are long-distance or not.

Training is vital for your body’s health to avoid injury from any distance running outside your norm; you want to push, but never to the point of injury. Always listen to what your body is telling you. If the barriers you face are mental, not physical (risking injury), then the post-run feeling of achievement is worth the discipline.

I loved training. I love the routine and how I feel when I run consistently. I crave those regimens; in part, I believe the training will keep me returning to races/runs.

Marathon Playlist: Top 10 Songs

I am a rap girl at heart. There is truly nothing like a solid Eminem playlist to get me in the mood to sweat it all out, but for the sake of reaching others, I wanted to share my Top 10 Songs (with only 1 Eminem listed, in no particular order).

Also, Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love I want Power album, the entire album, is perfect for a long run.

  1. Tick Tick Boom – Sage the Gemini
  2. Leviathan – G-Eazy
  3. The Lighthouse – Halsey
  4. WHATS POPPIN – Jack Harlow
  5. Take You Dancing – Jason Derulo
  6. Hip to Be Scared – Ice Nine Kills
  7. Glitter & Gold – Barns Courtney
  8. Unholy – Our Last Night
  9. Higher – Eminem
  10. Straightjacket – Quinn XCII

Race Day Checklist

  1. Shoes
  2. Socks
  3. Sports bra
  4. Running top
  5. Running shorts
  6. Watch (if running with one)
  7. Headphones
  8. Sunglasses
  9. Hat
  10. Hair tie + 1 extra
  11. Waist belt (if running with one)
  12. Water
  13. Energy gels
  14. Chapstick
  15. Sunscreen (apply before run)
  16. Pain reliever
  17. KT tape (I taped my knees, ahmazing)
  18. Bandaids (incase of blisters)

Favorite Yoga Videos

I am ashamed to admit I was not a routine stretcher. It took me years (I cringe at that concept) before I realized how important pre and post-stretching is for your body. I’m now paying the price in tight, sore hamstrings and strained back muscles. Do not be like me – stretch, stretch, stretch!

Honolulu Marathon | Sunday, December 11, 2022

During one trip home to the island of Oahu, I saw an advertisement for the Honolulu marathon. There was no designated running time, so I could go as fast or slow as needed. There was no pressure; it was solely about being able to cross the finish line, not how quickly you could get there. I knew this was the perfect opportunity for me. I enjoy running. I’d accomplished three half-marathons and felt ready for a new challenge.

I pushed through training. It was challenging and nerve-racking as the date approached, and before I knew it, race day was here. Overwhelmed with excitement – I was finally running a marathon. This had been on my bucket list for the past eight years.

I woke at 2 a.m. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to drink water (and coffee), have a light breakfast (toast and banana), and get in a good stretch. My stepdad drove me to the race; what a trooper, waking at 3:45 a.m. and hanging out in town all morning while I ran.

The air was cool and heavy. The benefit of running a marathon in Hawai’i, among the views and many other reasons, is that the weather (especially that early) isn’t freezing like other run locations I’ve experienced.

The sun had not yet awoken. The moon was in full effect, made for a nightly morning, a setting more attuned for sleep, but here I was – at the start of something that had been building for nearly a decade.

Fireworks broke the sky. The race began with hundreds of exhilarated runners dashing and darting about. I kept a steady pace despite my adrenaline pulsing. This is a distance game, and I couldn’t risk pushing too hard and burning out early.

The sun began to rise just as I reached the cliffside, looking out to the Pacific. This was no accident. I reviewed my course map the night before and knew this lookout was coming. I purposely paced myself to be there when the sun slowly swept the night away along the coast. It was breathtaking. Bright, deep, turquoise ocean waves rolled onto the shore. The sky was peach-pink, and white light rolled into the night sky, fading to daylight blue. I could feel the intensity of nature around me. A little shot of motivation, or as Matthew McConaughey would say, Greenlight.

When participating in high-endurance activities – whether running or not – it’s vital to anchor yourself in positivity. It’s why I don’t just love running; I love running in beautiful places. I don’t want to run a Spartan Race. I want to run a Spartan Race in the heart of Jurassic Park. Finding these moments of beauty amidst challenges creates an explosive combination of pure joy and delight – a challenge contrasting life.

I felt I could keep running forever. But this was only mile marker seven, and I still had a long way to go. Long-distance running discombobulates time. Time moves in a flash, and simultaneously, the miles slow perspective. It was never about finishing time. It was always about finishing.

I have completed a few half marathons in the past. So, around mile marker 13 (the finish line for a half), my mind was flooded with thoughts of repeating the process for another 13 miles. If this was a half, I would be done already. The thought echoed in my mind. I had to remind myself that it was only a few steps at a time, a few miles at a time; take each second as it comes and think about crossing the finish line. Picture how that feeling will be worth all the effort along the way. So, I changed my mindset from another 13 miles to only another 13 miles. I’d done this once; I just have to do it once more.

Then, at mile 15, everything seemed to change. I was both exhausted and exhilarated. Undoubtedly reaching my own personal brand of runners high. My pace slowed significantly since the start of the race, but my body felt capable of continuing for the first time since a few miles back.

I realize now that I’d tapped into something more extensive than the physical challenge. I had to continuously shift my focus from breathing and keeping the pace (physical) to a state of knowing that I could do it (mental). The fact is, like many things, running a marathon was 70-80% physical and 30-40% mental. Those percentages may be different for you. When I started, my mental fortitude had to make up for the physical. It was 90% pushing myself to show up, pushing out of my comfort zone and fears. Whatever way you work out your percentages, find your 100. 

It’s incredible how far you can go when you set your mind towards achieving something. Completing that first marathon was an exhilarating triumph – not only because I just ran over 26 miles! But because Hawai’i is such an inspiring place for me.

I didn’t grow up in Hawai’i, not in the traditional sense of the word – I grew up there. I became me there. I faced challenges and became someone I liked there. I know myself most when I am home. Now, pushing past all those adolescent preconceived limitations, I completed something I once thought impossible. Full circle.

One last tip: Make sure you have an idea of what you want to eat post-race. If anything, that will keep you motivated for the finish line. As you can see, mine was Thai food from only the best Thai food truck in the world – pure joy.

Additional Resources

  1. The Complete Guide to Crushing Your First Marathon article by Ally Spiroff and Dave Holmes
  2. How to Start Running if You’re Not a Runner by Molly Hurford
  3. 5 Lessons from Running my First Marathon by Genevieve Padalecki
  4. Novel with training plans: Marathoning for Mortals: A Regular Person’s Guide to the Joy of Running or Walking a Half-Marathon or Marathon by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield

Marathon run resource

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