3 Things Running a Marathon Teaches About Succeeding in Anything

Have you ever finished a task so overwhelming that, at the time, you couldn’t believe you’d done it? For so many people, the act of completing a race is a lot like that. Whether it’s your first 5k, a marathon, or an Iron Man Triathlon, there’s something almost surreal about the experience of pushing your body to its limits and actually finishing a race.

I feel like I look at challenges in my life differently after I started endurance running.

Running is this arena where you earn mastery over mind and body. It's where you have total discipline. It’s a fight. It’s both agonizing and awe-inspiring.

I realized I could learn a lot about struggle and success and apply it in other areas of my life just by looking at how I train for and run in marathons. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned about success as an endurance runner.


3 Lessons About Success from an Endurance Runner

1) Sometimes it’s hard to see the difference you’re making.

Exercise is fascinating. We’ve all seen before and after transformations of bodybuilders and insane weight loss success stories. But usually, it’s just that we’re seeing: before and after. It’s the between that really strikes me when I think back on my earliest days as a runner. The transformation of the body from not-so-fit to fit isn’t always clear.

Sure, you usually feel the ache in your muscles. But there are days when the scale doesn't move, the muscles don’t seem any bigger or leaner, and you just can’t tell all that much of a difference. Maybe it might even seem worse some days.

There are times where you’ll want to quit halfway through because it just doesn’t seem like what you’re doing matters.

But I’m telling you when you stick will it, there’s always going to be an "after" to show everyone. The difference is there. The struggle is worth it. Even when you can’t see the fruits of your labor, even when you can’t call your work a success just yet, even when things seem like they’re all going wrong—persevere. One day you’ll look up and you’ll be looking an “after” in the eye.

2) Success means being all in.

I’m not sure how successful of an endurance runner I would have been if I hadn’t dedicated to it 100%. What if I had started running, but didn’t change my diet? What if I didn’t stick to my training schedule? What if I did it all half-heartedly?

I can tell you, I probably wouldn’t have finished as many races, if any.

Success demands dedication. It requires commitment. Sure, we can squeak by for a little while with less than our best. But it won’t last. Eventually, something is going to ask more from us than we’re willing or able to give.

Then what will we do?

Success demands our all. Be willing to give it.

3) Leave room for recovery.

Runners have to be enormously kind to their bodies if they hope to run a good race. A marathon can be punishing. Training can be tough. We have to be so in-tune with our bodies and what it needs. It’s a constant struggle to balance and listen so that we’re not only healthy and hydrated but staying well-rested and injury-free.

It’s tough, especially when you want to push yourself. When you think that just a little bit more is going to make the difference between your average and your new best.

What we fail to understand time and time again is that taking care of our bodies is critical to running a good race: before, after, and during.

What does this mean in the professional world and in our personal lives? For me, it’s come to mean stepping back. It tells me that there are more important things than pushing and driving forward all the time.

If I want to do the best work I can, I have to be at my best. That means leaving room to take care of my health and my relationships. It’s a matter of keeping my priorities straight and not getting so caught up in a desire to win that I neglect what actually enables me to win in the first place.

What life lessons can you take away from your experience as an athlete? Share with me in the comments.