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Marathon Running: Donuts, Blisters and Life Lessons


Deciding to train for a marathon usually generates the following questions from people closest to you: Why? Are you mad? Are you doing this so you can eat more chocolate? My responses: For the medal, obviously. Yes. But of course — chocolate is king!

In the Northern Hemisphere, marathon season has started, and this month in the United States is the biggest of them all, the New York City Marathon. According to the New York Road Runners, which organizes the race, more than 51,000 runners crossed the finish line in 2016, making it the largest marathon in the world.

Commitment and Dedication

An avid runner, I always had NYC, as well as Chicago and the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C., on my to-run list. I’ve done all three now — and nine others — and seen people of all shapes and sizes on the course. Yes, the typical marathoner is usually lean. But I have seen more than my fair share of not-so-lean people participate in and crush the marathon distance, so if you have aspirations of crossing that finish line after 26.2 miles, don’t be put off if you don’t think you fit the mold. There isn’t one. Jane Holllman finishes NYC Marathon 

Training for a marathon typically takes five months and requires a level of commitment and dedication that non-runners just can’t fathom. Try pinning down a marathoner to anything social during this time, and you will see them mentally trying to work through their training week to figure out how they can fit you in because giving up a training session is unlikely to happen and is often why you see them heading home early the night before their long run or not going out at all. My message to non-runners: Don’t try to get your marathoner to shift their long run to another day to make brunch — it’s not going to happen.

Amazing Highs, Crushing Lows

Generally, training plans start with the shorter, easier stuff up front, building to longer runs of up to 20 miles a month out from the race. During those 20 weeks, marathoners will get to experience the joys of blisters, sore legs, chafing (which we always seem to discover in the shower — ouch!) and the questioning of their own sanity. On the plus side, marathoners get to casually say, “I’m training for the marathon,” when asked why they ran 15 miles over the weekend and can relish in the self-satisfaction of declaring, “Yes, I am going to eat five donuts — I just ran 15 miles!”  

But training for a marathon is more than that. It is a challenge you don’t walk away from unchanged. You learn new lessons about commitment, mental strength and finishing what you started. Marathoners will go through amazing highs and crushing lows training for and participating in a marathon. When I was at Mile 14 in New York in 2014 and everything was falling apart, I could have walked off the course. Instead, I stuck with it. I finished slow, but I finished.  

‘If you go on, you win’

As Ironman triathlon creator John Collins famously said, “You can quit and convince everyone except the very back part of your head that you had a good reason to stop. But if you go on, you win, and if you stop, you lose.” Training for a marathon teaches you to persevere, to never give up or doubt yourself — lessons that can be applied to any part of life.  

So get out there and train for a marathon. You won’t regret it. And whether you come in under four hours or over six, you get that shiny medal and the honor of calling yourself a marathoner.

Jane Hollman

About Jane Hollman

Jane Hollman has more than 25 years experience in senior human resources roles at large multinationals and sports across Asia Pacific and the United States. Currently a career coach, she helps business leaders and university students think through their career paths. Hollman is passionate about creating flexible, innovative work places and mentors women looking to start their own businesses. She is also a freelance writer covering the business of sports for publications such as Women Talking Sports.

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