My First Marathon was disappointing. Now What?

Given now that I am three weeks into another marathon training season, I’ve come to terms with my first marathon race. After giving it some thought and looking back at the mistakes that I made and the things that I’m doing differently this time around, I’ve concluded that I was disappointed with my first marathon. Why? You may say,’ it was your first marathon you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself, or, At least you were able to finish the marathon when many others can’t even imagine getting through one’. Yes, I understand all that but only now under the heavy light of scrutiny. One thing I shouldn’t have done was put such a high expectation on the outcome of the race, and rather, put more value on the effort I put through the training process.

One of the things I remember most vividly during that race was the thought, “I can’t keep going, I should just drop out.” I remember I was getting emotional because I was thinking about how much time and effort I had put into the training, only to have to walk most of the second half because of injury and the pain radiating through the soles of my feet all the way into every inch of my body. Every step was agony and torture and I thought, “what was I thinking?” I remember how lonely I felt through the last five mile stretch down the beach, looking around at the people cheering the runners on and feeling embarrassed when they would tell me to keep going because every inch of me wanted to stop. I couldn’t though. There was no way I was going to let all that training come to waste. there was no way that I wouldn’t cross that finish line no matter how slow I went. so I kept going.

In retrospect, I expected too much from my first time. I wanted the pride of saying, I ran a marathon in 4 hours my first time, that I let it cloud my judgement and push myself too hard even as it got tough and I could feel the pain beginning to form around my feet. Pride comes before the fall and that’s exactly what happened.

So much of running is a lonely sport. It’s you, your mind, and the next step in front of you. You’re constantly evaluating yourself from head to toe. If there’s pain developing somewhere, it’s magnified three times over because you are constantly thinking of that pain. With each step you take you are trying to find the the most comfortable way to land. As I trudged through the last few miles, I thought. And as I thought, I thought about all the things I should’ve done, all the shortcuts I shouldn’t have taken, and the injuries I should’ve taken care of before they got any worse. But one thing remained clear to me as I jogged the last mile to the finish line. I would do this all over again, but better.

The marathon is no joke. its hard, it hurts, but being disappointed in my first marathon isn’t a bad thing. I think it’s actually a measure of success. I learned how not to prepare for a marathon, or what to expect now that I have. I learned that I can push myself past my own physical and mental limits, and I learned that I needed to be humbled to realize the most important thing of all. I still have a lot to learn.

When I crossed the finish line, I didn’t finish thinking about how proud I was for the effort. I finished sad and disappointed that all that training had gone to waste. I was glad to be done, I wanted it to be over with. This time around I’m not looking to boast about my times, I just want to do it better. I want to cross the finish line having never stopped. I want to feel good about my effort and finish healthy and happy.

One thing I know I can take away from this is that mentally I am a lot stronger than I thought I could be. As a kid, I grew up cowering behind the pain of failure and disappointment, now I know I can take that and make it into something better. One moment doesn’t define who you are and what you are going to be. It’s what you do next that defines you. Failure is not the end; Sometimes it’s only the beginning.

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