What I Learned from Running Marathons

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

Hey there!

I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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Ok, my post title is a little misleading. I’ve only run two marathons, so I don’t have a ton of expertise in this area, but I can tell you what I’ve learned from training and completing those two marathons. Here are some lessons I learned about myself from running marathons:

I love running, but not for 4+ hours.

I love running. I really do. A nice easy run with some good music is my favorite way to relax, but running for hours and hours and hours just isn’t that much fun for me. Once I pass the 2-hour mark, I start to get bored. If I have running buddies or some amazing scenery to keep me entertained, I can usually stretch out my motivation, but, for the most part, running loses its “magic” if I do it too much.

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I love running more than my body does.

This one (literally) hurts to admit, but I love running more than my body does. I’ve known for a long time that my hips are misaligned from scoliosis, but I’m now starting to realize that I can’t run long distances without some pain. My body just wasn’t built to endure that kind of running. At one point, I tried working with a running coach, which helped keep my body healthy for awhile, but once I increased my mileage, injuries started popping up everywhere. It’s hard to admit that my body can’t do what I want it to do, but I can honestly say I am happy to just be able to run, so shorter distances are in my future.

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I’m a dog runner.

I always thought I was a cat runner, but I learned that I’m a dog runner. I love running with other people, especially on long runs, and I can’t stress enough how important it was to have running buddies to get me through my first and second marathons. I couldn’t have done it without their support. Plus, running with other people makes the time fly by and you really get to know your running buddies”” no topic is off-limits when you run together for 3 hours! I’m actually thinking about joining a nearby running club, so I can run with people more often. I enjoy it so much.

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Marathon training makes me gain weight.

I learned a long time ago that training for a marathon doesn’t mean you’ll lose weight””or even maintain it. I gained nearly 10 pounds during my first marathon and a few pounds for my second one. Of course, I know plenty of marathoners who are slim and trim, but I’m not one of them. When I run long distances, I burn a lot of calories, which, to me, means eat a lot of calories. I eat more than my body needs, so I gain weight. Lesson learned.

Running improves my body image.

Even though I’ve gained pounds while training for both marathons, all of that running actually improved my body image. I wanted my body to be as fit as possible in order to cross the finish line, so the number on the scale (and even how my clothes fit) were secondary. Even though I knew I was gaining weight, I didn’t bother me that much. Of course, I’d rather not gain weight, but knowing that my body could do amazing things and run 26.2 miles made me very proud of it.

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I’m tough.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on the morning of the New York City Marathon. After being sick and battling injuries, I knew I was undertrained for it. Running a marathon is obviously a physical challenge, but also a mental one, and I didn’t realize just how mental it was until about mile 24. At that point in the race, I had NOTHING left, but somehow, I kept going. I still can’t believe I didn’t stop running in Central Park. I honestly didn’t think I had it in me to push past the pain to achieve my goal, but I did it! I’m tougher than I thought!

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If I do my best, I won’t have any regrets.

I’m not the fastest marathoner, but I did the best I could and finished Arizona and NYCM without any regrets. There were a lot of things that I couldn’t control during my training and on race day, but trying my hardest was the one thing I could control. Giving it my very best effort was all I could ever ask of myself.

What has running taught you about yourself?

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93 Comments

  1. I learned many of the exact same lessons during my training! I also learned that it takes a ton of sacrifice to train for such a distance, and at some points in my life it isn’t the right time to make those sacrifices. I also gained weight but was happy because it helped power me through the finish line.

  2. Oooh great post Tina! I too, have learned a lot about myself from running, and like you, I love it, but am not so sure I love the marathon. I’ve learned that sometimes you have to listen to your body, not your training plan, and that even though I love running, like all good things, sometimes I need to take a break.

  3. I learned that I can do anything I want. I never thought I could run but I was inspired by all my friends around me.

    I also learned that I am too hard on myself and that I don’t give myself credit. I always assume that what I’ve done isn’t special or impressive, but then people shock me when they describe me as a “beast” or “a crazy runner” or “running queen.” I feel weird even typing those things about myself because I feel like I’m working so hard to catch with everyone else (literally and figuratively) that I don’t realize that I’m doing just fine as I am.

  4. That I am not a 4 hr runner either! Love the half’s but not the fulls. Saying that I still hope to run one more full and beat my current PR 🙂
    I also gain weight in marathon training, not my tool for weight loss that is for sure! But it is also a-okay with me! Means by body wants the extra weight to keep me strong.
    I like running because it is my “me” time, time I can have to myself and reflect on life but in training this disappears and my love for running starts to disappear.

  5. 1. I’ve never felt as accomplished in something as running has made me feel.
    2. I’m capable of way more than I ever thought.
    3. I’m a total cat runner (and nervous b/c I”m running the philly half this weekend w/ someone for the first time!)
    4. I’ve had the best relationship with myself (body & health) since starting to run 🙂

  6. I’ve learned that I can actually run! When I was younger I always thought it was impossible for me, but now I know that’s not true.

    I’m still slow as a turtle, but I like getting out there and being a part of the “runner’s club.”

    I’ve also learned that at this point in my running career, 26.2 holds no appeal for me whatsoever, and while that may change down the line, I’m not going to feel bad b/c I’m a runner who doesn’t want to do marathons. 1/2 marathons will be just fine for now!

  7. Great post, Tina.

    I’ve learned that when I focused on running, the rest of my life seems to fall into place.

    I have to admit, your bit about having scoliosis makes me a bit nervous! I have scoliosis and misaligned hips too and I’m training for my first marathon. Any cross training/stretching tips you’ve learned as you’ve increased your mileage? LOVE your blog! 🙂

  8. I love these, Tina! I am training for my 5th marathon (Boston woo hoo). I had to promise myself to back off after this one as I have battled way too many injuries and pushed through them. Considering I am only 23- I want to run forever and marathoning all year really isn’t the best answer for my body- it’s tough to admit but also very honorable and brave.

  9. Thank you for sharing this. I also do not think I am built for distances longer than 10 miles. More than that and I get injured or sick. After I completed my first (and only) half marathon, I was proud I did it, but never wanted to do that again.

  10. Hi Tina,

    The number one thing that I have learned from running is that I underestimate myself. I have realized that I am faster and stronger than I had ever thought I could be…

    I have scoliosis too! My hips are also misaligned but part of this is because I have a leg length discrepancy (my right leg is longer than my left). I learned all of this after I trained for my first marathon and injured myself partway through. I ended up in physical therapy and eventually got a pair of orthotics which partially corrected my leg length issue (one orthotic has a heel lift incorporated into it). Long story short I have run three marathons since then without any injuries! I just have to make sure I do exercises to keep my hips, quads, hamstrings and core strong. I wonder if a heel lift could help you?

    1. My legs are the same length and my pelvis is rotated, so I’m not sure a lift would help. Plus, I’m happy running shorter distances, and I can do that pain-free! 🙂

  11. I love running so much. It truly is the one thing that I feel is totally mine and that I do completely for myself, body and mind.
    I never thought I could be a runner, but once I started doing it, I realized that I certainly was. I’m not fast, I’m not particularly good, but I’m a runner because of my love for it and my desire to do it as long as my body allows.
    I’m 10 weeks pregnant right now and plan to keep running as long as it is safe and comfortable and then picking it back up after the baby is born. I want to be a good example to my kid and I think having a mother that does what she loves will make me a better mommy and teach him/her that to be happy we have to pursue the thing we’re each passionate about.

  12. Having never done any sports or exercise my entire youth, running showed me that I was, in fact, athletic. Not at first, of course, but I was able to push myself more and more. I peaked with two half-marathons 2 years ago though. Since then, I run only for fun, ~5 miles is “fun” for me. The stress of race day really took the fun out of it, and they never went well (re: barfing on the finish line) and made me think I couldn’t do what I had obviously shown myself I could on training runs, without the pressure. It’s all mental!

  13. I had already learned that I love racing more than running. From my marathon DNF and then my successful marathon a week later, I learned that I want to always work on improving and training hard and being the best runner I can be. Never knew I cared so much about that before.

  14. I have to chime in about your body not being able to handle long distances. A lot of people think this, but with the right shoes, training, and patience, almost anyone is able to run marathons without much pain. The problem is, it does hurt for a while! For the first year or two that I was running marathon distances, it was really hard, but then suddenly it got easier. My body leaned out, my endurance increased, and I got used to the mileage and was able to run more. If you’re running <35 miles/week, it probably is going to always hurt. You need to be able to run more and then those long runs are a piece of cake and even a marathon wouldn't leave you that burned out. Anyway, I just want to say, don't give up on distance running just because things hurt. That's totally normal and it will go away if you are able to increase your fitness 🙂

  15. I learned that running is not for the elite – I always thought running was “out of my league.” I never became fast, and my marathon took 5+ hours. But my TNT coach said something I’ll never forget – “You ran the same 26.2 miles as the winner of this race.” It was about the journey and life lessons for me, not about the clock.

  16. What has running taught you about yourself? = Great question!

    That like you, I am not made to run super long distances. I like to run more than my body likes it..so half marathons would be my max distance and really, 5 and 10k’s are just dandy by me. I don’t feel I have anything to ‘prove’ to myself or to anyone now that I am older and that’s a gift of maturity and that running has taught me. Just do what I can do and if it’s too much, back off. Common sense but it took me awhile 🙂

  17. Hi Tina I’m a member of the Colonial Road Runners out of Abington, MA. I have only been running 19 months but completed my first marathon in October at age 46. It would have been a much harder training cycle without the help and support of this club. They have training runs Sat, Sun and Tues, with runners of all paces.

    1. I’m thinking about joining! Are the run times on the website? I didn’t see the info about the Tues & Sun runs, but those days would work for me!

      Congrats on your recent marathon! 🙂

      1. @Tina:
        There is a weekly email that goes out on Thursday. On Saturdays there is a 6 am and 8 am group. Sundays 7 or 8 am, from Woodsdale School on Chestnut st. Tuesdays at 6 & 6:30 pm for Target. You can email Michelle or Frank in “contact us” to get on the email list, if you are interested.

  18. I’m still learning to accept/deal with the fact that my body might not like running as much as I do. I keep getting minor pains–ankles, hip, arch of my foot. So annoying! I just registered on the wait list for my first half marathon this summer, and I REALLY want to do it successfully, but I’m worried I won’t be able to train and increase my mileage because I’ll just keep getting hurt.

  19. running has taught me that i really can do anything i set my mind to. when is tarted the 12 month journey of training for a marathon, i could not run more than one mile (literally). slowly and steadily, though, i built up my mileage, got stronger, and 3 marathons later qualified for boston!

  20. Thank you for this post! It’s courageous to admit that our bodies have limits but at the same time very wise to realize all the amazing things it is capable of. Being a runner doesn’t mean that you are invincible or love every minute of it and that is a great reminder for me, especially as I start to train for my first half marathon.

  21. Great post!
    I too have run 2 marathons and have learned a ton.
    – I gain wieght…and I HATE it!! I’m so hungry all the time that I seem to eat more calories than I actually burn :/ Any advice anyone?
    – Stretching is vital and makes you feel great!
    – Weight lifting I need to find more time for. Each time I cross the finish line my heart and lungs both recover pretty fast but my legs are destroyed! I swear to myself each time that I need to build more strength in my lower body.
    – Want to spend more time on yoga as well.
    – Need to do more speed work to lower my time.

    Great post again and gave me a chance to reflect! Thanks

  22. I had to acknowledge that I love running more than my body does too. Once I start to head into the double digits, my body starts breaking down. I finally realized this when I was always saying “oy my hip!” 26 year old’s aren’t supposed to say this!

  23. You say it well! I finished my first marathon in October! I also gained weight, which was frustrating, and know I will when I do my next marathon, but like you, I have come to terms with it because my stomach gets flatter and my butt gets tighter! I also learned that I love running way more than my body does. It took me a full month to even be able to go out for a short run. My knees were so sore, they felt like at any minute they were going to snap.
    Overall, very well said. I agree with your lessons 100%. Marathons are so fun, a great way to stay motivated, a huge challenge and so so so rewarding!

  24. 1. I can do anything I set my mind to. Case in point, three years ago I could barely run 2 miles. I ran the Chicago Marathon this October.
    2. I do best with goals and a plan. After college I had trouble getting to the gym on my own. Signing up for races held me accountable and works for me.
    3. Running doesn’t make you skinny. I gain weight during marathon training as well.
    4. Mental training is much more important than physical training!
    5. The feeling when you cross the finish line? One of the best feelings in the world!

  25. Tina, this is a great post . Thanks for the honesty, it made me think about why I run. Love your blog !

  26. Nice post!! You’re so honest, I love that.

    I ran two marathons as well. I actually really loved running the second one with my sister–I had no major goal in mind, so it was nice to just run with her and have fun. Plus it was a pretty course!

    I know I can do really long races (duh!) but I hate training long distances, I really do. Half marathons are the perfect race distance for me –love ’em!

  27. Loved this post. Running has definitely taught me that I’m more mentally strong than I ever thought I was! And also – DEFINITELY that I love running more than my body does. Haha

  28. I have many things, but one of them that stuck out in my mind is similar to your improved body image thought. One of my main reason for working out always been to lose weight. But since I’ve been running and training for half marathons, I’ve noticed how strong and muscular my legs have gotten- and I love it. So basically, running has helped change my perception, and now being fit is better (and sexier!) than being thin.

  29. Thank you so much for this post, it was very encouraging! I haven’t been able to run more than 3 miles without intense pain and its so hard reading all these blogs with everyone who can run long and hard. Thanks for sharing!

    1. @[New Balance] Nicole: I feel you there! I always end up with some new injury after every 3+ mile run. Makes me wonder how it is even possible to run farther than that without serious injury, but I suppose I’m just not so much built for running.

  30. Running, unfortunately, has taught me that I am not built to run. I LOVE to run, but my body does not, and I end up with chronic injuries 🙁 It is rather discouraging sometimes, but I am continuing to build up my strength in other areas and hoping that it helps to decrease my number of injuries and (hopefully) increase mileage!

  31. Running has made me realize that I am stronger than I thought. My marathon was brutal but it was because I was undertrained. So many times during that run did I want to quit, but I just kept on going and actually finished with a burst of energy and a smile.

    I’ll be a running buddy with you! I’m running in the Winter Classic 5k in Cambridge next month. Should be a fun race! 🙂

  32. Great post! Running has definitely taught me that I am tougher than I think I am. And that my body can keep going long after I think I can. I enjoy half marathons a little bit more but I still love marathon training and what it does for me mentally. Also the camaraderie that comes with it in meeting other runners.

  33. I probably could have written this exact same post, with these exact same reasons. Like you, my body likes running WAY less than I do, I gain weight when I train (well, I’m trying not to this time around), and my body image is at its best when I’m prepping for a race. That’s probably the most important one; running has taught me to appreciate my body for what it can DO, not necessarily for what it looks like.

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