Seven Things I Learned Running My First Marathon – The Moriuchi Group

Seven Things I Learned Running My First Marathon

Let’s be clear: I am not a runner. So when a dear friend of mine asked me to run a marathon in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to celebrate her birthday, I bravely (or foolishly) agreed. 

We were only about a month or two into training when the marathon was canceled due to pandemic restrictions. When the organization sent me a shirt and medal anyway, I felt like a fraud, and lingering thoughts about running began to run through my mind. Could I complete a marathon and be worthy of a finisher medal? Did I even want to run a marathon? Am I prepared to run one? How could I get there? As an action-oriented person who takes note of inner nudges, I made it a goal to run my first marathon in 2022, with my first step being to register for the Philly Marathon.

What could be better? Running in my hometown city of Philadelphia, rather than hoofing it to Pittsburg? I could sleep at home the night before as all it takes from here in Moorestown is a bridge, $5, and about 15 minutes to get into Philly. It seemed prudent to follow the motto of “Keep it Simple Stupid,” as this would be my first marathon, let alone my first running race, ever. 

Thanks to David Kuehls’ helpful book, “4 months to a 4-Hour Marathon” I began mapping out my training schedule. (To see a few of my running routes in Moorestown, NJ click here.) I started training in late July of 2022 but given the nature of work and life at the time I have to confess that my training would be considered below average by Kuehl’s standards. 

Leading up to the day of the run I was legitimately anxious about whether or not I’d even make it. Reassurances from caring colleagues and family members that I could “always just run the half marathon” incidentally had the effect of hitting my inner resolve button and in the days leading up to the cold morning of the race, I hunkered down and reaffirmed my goal of finishing. (You can see a video of it on my Instagram @nmoriuchi and share your comments.)

Here are the top 7 things I learned from running my first Marathon…

1. Be a kind stranger, it makes a difference.

Sprinkled throughout the Philadelphia marathon route were spectators clapping, smiling, and cheering us on. Some held funny signs like “Don’t trust a fart” or energizing signs such as the power-up bullseye signs. Countless volunteers were filling and handing out cups of water. All of them enthusiastically and unselfishly support the runners – perfect strangers. Their presence invigorated me physically and mentally when I was low they made me laugh which kept me going, when I was doing fine we could smile at each other and feel the connection within this experience. 

2. Treat your body right

I’ve heard this hundreds of times throughout my life from mentors, peers, trainers, and parents growing up. But this race SHOWED me that how you treat yourself physically matters. My tips here: get a good night’s sleep and drink an abundance of water as these two will help you along on your journey. Oh, and at least a week or two before a race, cut out alcohol and enjoy your carbs. 

3. Success is not a destination, it is the lived commitment to the process.

Running a marathon took four months of training and developing new habits. Embracing the many steps along the way helped me find joy in what was also overwhelming. At times it felt like drudgery as success is often annoyingly bland. It is a task completed, over and over and over again. At times it takes a “hack” just to get to the next step. When you persevere you will love looking back at how far you have come and experience true confidence from knowing that a commitment to the process will guarantee even more results.

4. Things will go wrong, progress is not linear. 

At the ¼ mile, my watch stopped working. My watch was keeping my time and pace which made me feel secure. As you could imagine I was like, “Come on man!”. I fiddled with it a few times and hoped it would recalibrate and start up again. It never did. I had a backup with my phone in my zipped pocket. I used that from time to time to review my pacing and moved on from my watch.

How quickly you “pick yourself up” will determine how long it will take you to get to your goal. Will you stew in the “I can’t believe this went wrong” or “why does this always happen to me?” for a long time Or will you say, “things happen. Oh well. What one step can I take right now to get back on track?”?

The speed at which you recover will determine how low your lows will be and how quickly you move along the process to hit your goal.

5. Find the pace that is right for you.

At the start of the race, everyone was trying to find their space and most were amped up and sprinting out, many were even weaving between people. I was not any different (except for the weaving). I realized when my watch stopped that the pace we all were running was not going to be good for me. As tempting as it was to sprint out with everyone at the start, I was able to slow myself down to a better pace by the first water station. By trusting the process outlined by my training, and recalling advice from people who have done it before, I found my pace and even passed other “orange” corral members later in the race. 

Remember it is not a sprint, but a marathon.  

6. Celebrate your success. 

A saying I love is, “Celebrate the moment and push the advantage.” This is something that a previous boss of mine would say and I am not sure if it was original to him or not. But it’s a great reminder to take a moment and feel the richness of success by rewarding yourself. I celebrated by swapping stories with a fellow runner, taking photos at the end of the race, and enjoying a post-race meal of tacos and beer with my family!

7. Perspective matters – how are you grading success?

There were approximately 11,000 racers that registered for the Philadelphia Marathon in 2022. My time was 5 hours and 28 minutes or a 12:30 / mile pace. I was in the bottom 10% of all finishers yet my goal was simple, to finish. Of only 8395 racers who finished that day, I was among them and that feels great.

How you set your goals and view your accomplishments is important in that it helps you build momentum. Set goals that are aligned with your why and what matters to you. My three goals were:

  1. Finish the Philadelphia Marathon
  2. Run the entire marathon (don’t walk)
  3. Finish a 4-hour marathon – yes 4:59 would have worked.

I accomplished two of the three goals. I have learned not to undermine my accomplishments by destructively comparing myself. Rather, I use comparison healthily – for example, now that I’ve achieved my own goals about completing a race, I’m in complete awe of Steph Ellis (fellow Philadelphia Compass Agent) and Ana Cafengiu (fellow Moorestown resident) with their times. I can use this experience to set new goals and remember that there is no blowing out other people’s candles to make yours shine brighter, rather we can all risk adding our own individual candles so that the world is brighter.

What activity have you wondered if you could do? What idea makes you slightly uncomfortable yet excites you a little? I encourage you to get out there and test yourself. See what you will learn and accomplish. 

I have registered for the 2023 Philadelphia Marathon and surprisingly this non-runner is now enjoying running and looking to accomplish all three goals this time around. Stay tuned! And you can see all updates on my Instagram page.

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