My apologies to my FMF friends. I only had four lessons typed up at the end of my five minutes, but I kept on writing. 

I won’t deny that I like unusual challenges and have a quirky sense of humor. So you won’t wonder at one of my choices for ‘fifty fun things to do in my fiftieth year’—run a marathon. I expect the majority of the population wouldn’t classify running for 26.2 miles as ‘fun.’ After completing my first marathon on June 4, I don’t know if I’ll ever run another one, but I DID have fun!

Training Tips

1. You don’t have to actually run 26.2 miles in order to be ‘ready’ to run that far. My longest training run was 21 miles—and my running expert friends assured me that this would suffice. They warned me about over training, in fact. Life Lesson: Difficult tasks require preparation, but don’t overthink or over train.

2. Train for a purpose. I decided to run my first marathon for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and raise money for blood cancer research. Thank you to everyone who contributed! I didn’t expect to have TNT coaches out on the course at the base of every hill ready to pace me up the hill, cheer me on, and offer me companionship. Life Lesson: Doing things for a greater cause has unexpected benefits. Go, Team! 

3. Don’t rely on someone else’s goo. I ate a healthy serving of yogurt and had some energy goo before the race started. The two packets I carried with me weren’t enough. The stuff they offered along the route tasted like Skittles. I hate Skittles. Life Lesson: Keep properly fueled—don’t rely on other people to energize you (and I speak of more than just goo here).

4. I didn’t train alone. Ok, so I actually did all those training runs alone (except for the two TNT training runs I did). But Pedro had to put up with me training for long hours and opting out of radical mountain bike rides in the weeks before the race. I might have had to cut down on the cleaning the bathrooms, too. Life Lesson: We never train alone—don’t forget to thank the ones who support you. 

My biggest cheerleader finds me at mile 15.

Race Day

5. Enjoy the race. I can’t speak highly enough of the people who show up to cheer for us crazy runners! You make our effort fun. The costumes, the music (I ran the San Diego Rock-n-Roll Marathon), the quirky signs, the cheerleaders—all of it made me feel like a winner. Even if I came in four-thousandth and not first (not that I expected to come in first!). Life Lesson: What can I do to cheer other people on during their hard times?

6. Say ‘thank you’ often and give high fives. I made a point to thank everyone who cheered for me (and I only knew two people on the course—Pedro and my TNT coach). I made a point to give a high fives to all the little kids who stood next to the course with their hands out—their grins made my day. Life Lesson: Thanking other people made ME feel better.

Thanking other people makes ME feel better #marathonlessons Click To Tweet

7. Don’t get discouraged by other people’s progress. I started the race 35 minutes after the elite runners crossed the starting line. By the time I reached mile 6, the leaders in the half-marathon race were flashing by headed towards the finish line. Their progress couldn’t suck my joy, though, because I had joined to finish—I didn’t expect to win. My marathon day belonged to me. Life Lesson: Don’t get distracted or discouraged by other people’s progress.

8. Expect to get emotional. I choked up and had a difficult time breathing when I ran through the section of the race dedicated to the military heroes who gave their lives so that I can enjoy freedom. An organization had photos on either side of the course along a half-mile stretch. At the end, veterans held a tunnel of flags that stretched an additional block. Life Lesson: Never forget the sacrifices other families have made for your freedom.


9. Walking doesn’t mean you didn’t run a marathon. In fact, I walked through all the water stations. I walked up the two long hills. Believe it or not, I had to walk down the last big hill. But I still ran a marathon. Next time (wait, did I just type ‘NEXT TIME?’ I’ll know what to expect and pace myself a little different. Life Lesson: Don’t feel ashamed to pace yourself and use different speeds to accomplish your goals.

10. I liked the drag queens more than the ‘Christians.’ Don’t get me wrong. I AM a Christian, but the two people with “Jesus Saves You From Hell” signs yelling, “God gave you the ability to run today, are you going to hell?” didn’t do much for me. I don’t feel as if they represented the God of love that I serve. The drag queens, on the other hand, made me laugh and feel accepted—even if I’m NOT one of them. Life Lesson: Make sure you let the Holy Spirit do the convicting and focus on making others feel loved and accepted.

Let the Holy Spirit do the convicting. Our job is to love and accept. Click To Tweet
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  1. I love that the drag queens made you smile. It saddens me the way people treat the LGTBQ + community. They know how to shower God’s love on the world or at least that’s what I’ve seen. I also love hon mentioned the cheerleaders on the sidelines. I’ve been that person for many of my friends. I am glad that I can make a difference for them. I’m in the 43 spot this week.

  2. Wow! Congratulations! That’s fantastic. I come from a family of runners, and I’ve tried, but I just do not like to run. I’m really impressed because a marathon sounds truly daunting. I’ve done some 5K’s and they were more than enough-ha! Also, I appreciate your designated charity as we lost a young niece to leukemia five years ago. I’m your late to the party FMF neighbor. Have a great week!
    Joyce recently posted…Five Minutes of ExpectMy Profile

    1. I’m so sorry about your loss, Joyce. It was really cool to have my husband (a survivor) there with me cheering me on! I like being able to relax and think when I run (or listen to books or podcasts on those really long runs). But I know it’s not for everyone! Pedro doesn’t run at all–he’s more of a mountain biker :).
      Anita recently posted…A-MAY-zing New Releases for SummerMy Profile

  3. These are great life lessons and I love how you included pictures from your run as well. I’ve always been intimidated by the idea of running a marathon even though I enjoy using a treadmill to work out (I’m not up to that many miles though). Perhaps one day, I will give it a try. Your pictures and lessons sure make it look like fun.

  4. I enjoyed reading about your marathon journey! I think I am more of a recreational runner than a marathon runner, but I find that my running times are some of my best prayer / thinking times as well. I also appreciated your mention of how we need to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us into authentic life witness for Him… May you continue to run the race of faith with joy in the new opportunities God brings across your path that you didn’t expect to find there! Thanks again for your blog post!

  5. I’ve never run a marathon, but I’ve run a number of 5k races. My youngest (at 7) completed her first 5k this spring. Many of the lessons are the same (but on a smaller scale). Great observations connecting your accomplishment of completing a marathon with lessons for life.

    “Fun” is in the eye of the beholder. I had a friend call me over some fun. Her “fun” idea was planking. I went along and joined in the “fun”. 😀
    Cheryl recently posted…Summer Play: DIY PVC Sand and Water TableMy Profile

  6. You are radically cool and motivating and honest and fun. Who was the infamous one who said, “I would have become a Christian until I met one?” O! God forgive us. xoxoxo

  7. Dear Anita, this is marvelous! I’m not likely to run any marathons (at least now I have the physical therapist to thank for getting me off the hook), but I thought about my return to college after a 17 year hiatus. All of your points rang so true! I’m betting it would do us well to remember them in most big endeavors. Thanks for sharing your life lessons!

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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