Lessons Learned from Running Marathons

Lessons Learned from Running Marathons

My interest in long distance running began in 2007 with the completion of my first half marathon. In that moment, I couldn’t fathom running another mile, much less 13.1 miles! But nonetheless, I decided to add “running a marathon” to my bucket list. Fast forward to October 2014 and I was finally able to check that item off the list. I was a marathoner. The feeling of crossing that finish line was more magical than I ever imagined. One of my favorite running quotes is, “I dare you to train for a marathon and not have it change your life.” – Susan Sidoriak. I completely agree with this. In fact, I triple dog dare you. When I registered for my first marathon, I assumed I’d run one and be done. Now, I have nine marathons and two ultramarathons (50Ks) under my belt. It truly changed my life. And not just in the sense that my Saturday mornings are usually reserved for a long run or that my toenails will never be ready for sandal season. From running marathons, I’ve learned many lessons that I think can be applied to any area in your business or life. Here are some:


1. Set Goals & Create a Plan

To be honest, I first had the goal to run a marathon before I was 30. After that didn’t happen, I switched it to “in my 30s.” I may have even changed it to “at some point in my life” just to be safe. For all my marathons, I’ve followed some form of training plan. It’s helpful to have a guide to keep my training on track and get to the start line prepared for the race. For my most recent marathon in February, I had the goal to finish in less than four hours. My running paces and workouts were all based on accomplishing that goal. In January I ran a half marathon as sort of a practice race to gauge how my training was going and my fitness level. Happy to report, I finished in 3:46!

It is important to have goals – they help motivate you to do better, be better. It is good to set your sights on something. While having goals are great, a plan is also an important element to actually accomplishing those goals. Whether your goal is to learn a new skill set, hit an annual sales target, receive a certification, etc., set an action plan. Also check in with yourself and evaluate your progress.


2. There are Going to be Good Days and Bad Days

During the course of marathon training, I have runs that go awesome – I feel strong and it gives me reassurance I can do this. I also have runs that don’t go so well. It can be quite discouraging when what should be an easy four mile run is anything but. However, that’s life – there are good days and bad days and you have to chalk it up as so. I try to make a mental note of anything I did or didn’t do on those particular days that could help me on future runs. Whether it be sleep, fuel before/during the run, stress – so many factors that can contribute to the outcome.

This translates to life and the workplace as well. For us at DGC, we are going to both win and lose bids. There are projects that are going to run perfectly smooth and there are going to be some that have hiccups. All of which provide experiences that we can learn from.


3.  Find a Support Circle of Experts

My running club, Minnesota Distance Running Association (MDRA), is a great group of runners of all levels, ages and paces. While training for my first marathon, I found myself often seeking advice from those more experienced than I. Even now, I’m continuously learning new things that help me improve as a runner. I also greatly appreciate all their encouragement and support. It’s nice to have a team rooting for you.

I think it is a great idea to consult experts in your field who have a wealth of knowledge and experiences of which to learn from. They could serve as a mentor; supporting your professional growth. There are also many associations and groups one can join and use as a resource.


4. Take Risks

To be fair, I’m not the biggest risk taker. It’s something I’d like to work on. However, I joined my running club not knowing anyone in the group or what I was doing. It was nerve-racking that first group run – who will I run with? Should I bring my iPod to listen to music? Will I get lost? Thankfully they were a welcoming bunch and have since become some of my best friends. Running regularly calls on me to be brave, push myself and go for it.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

“Only those willing to risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T.S. Elliot

“Don’t be afraid to give up the good and go for the great.”  – Steve Prefontaine

“Outside of your comfort zone is where the magic happens.” – Anonymous

I’m taking the risk of having this sound like a motivational poster, but I’m okay with that. I think these quotes say it better than I can, and hit the nail on the head of the point I’m trying to make.


5. Attitude is Everything

I once came across an article about tips to make running more enjoyable. One of the tips was to smile while running as it’s a natural mood booster. If anyone saw some of my race photos you’d know I don’t always employ this method. However, I will say it does come to mind when I’ve hit a low point in a run or race. Smiling helps switch my thoughts to more positive ones and I think spectators are more responsive to runners with a smile on their face.

Your attitude (good or bad) affects not only yourself, but others around you. Not to say you need to speak in unicorns and rainbows, but a positive attitude is infectious – it improves productivity and morale.


6. Importance of Volunteering

All of the races I’ve participated in wouldn’t happen without the MANY volunteers who help out at water stops, packet pick up, finish line, etc. I’m very grateful and like to pay-it-forward and volunteer at races whenever possible.

Similarly there are so many associations, community programs, events that require the assistance of volunteers. Giving back and helping others (without getting paid) makes you feel good and is incredibly rewarding.


I understand how running 26.2 miles may sound a little crazy to some people. But when you break it down, it’s clearly not just about running, it’s way more than that. In the event I inspired anyone, Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth is in June and Twin Cities Marathon is in October. 🙂



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