10 Life Lessons from Training for a Half-Marathon

Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree.
–Haruki Murakami

This morning, I'm running the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville. It's the longest distance I've ever run in my life.

Half Marathon Training Lessons
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Creative Commons)

I could not have done this without training for the race ahead of time. In fact, I tried to train for a half marathon several years ago and hurt myself due to lack of proper training and preparation.

During my training, I've done a lot of things wrong, but one thing I've done is stick with it. “All the hard work has been done,” a friend told me. Now, I get to enjoy the fruit of my labor.

Reflecting on my training, I realize there are many parallels between running and writing (and the rest of life):

  1. There are no mulligans. You can never regain a lost day of training. Once you've squandered a day, it's gone forever. Manage your time wisely. Because once it's gone, it's gone forever.
  2. Slow and steady really does win the race. Training for a half marathon is more about consistency than a strong, short-lived sprint.
  3. Perseverance trumps passion. On days when I didn't feel like running, I did it, anyway (and eventually felt better about it).
  4. Use the right tools. When I tried training two years ago, I didn't bother to buy running shoes and instead tried to train in hiking shoes. Around mile 10 of my training, I severely hurt myself. This time, I made the investment and bought some nice running shoes. They were worth it. (The same is true in writing, but the tools are different.)
  5. Don't make it too complicated. I don't have any special socks or underwear. I'm not wearing a watch or fanny pack that will give me magical powers. It's just me, my legs, and some Star Wars band-aids. I've learned that the most important equipment to have is me. Everything else is gravy.
  6. Follow in the footsteps of predecessors. I followed a simple training regimen recommended by a friend, and it kept me on track where I would've otherwise wandered off course.
  7. Give yourself grace. There were plenty of weeks when I didn't get all my mileage in. I didn't let that stop me from not dwelling on my failures, moving on, and trying again next week.
  8. Never give up. (This is self-explanatory, but if you need a reason, here are some.)
  9. Community is essential. While I didn't have a group of runners, I did have a community of people that knew I was running the race, and they held me accountable to meeting my goals.
  10. Just finish. This may sound noncompetitive, but I have no desire to win the race or run a decent time whatsoever. I just want to finish. I'm such a fickle, noncommittal person that if I actually follow through on this, it will be a success. (Maybe I'll worry more about time my next race, though.)

As I think about these things, I realize that they not only apply to writing and creativity, but to all aspects of life.

What have you learned about life from a discipline like running? Share in the comments.