Marathon Training Teaches Life Lessons

Training for a marathon will get you across the finish line, but it can also teach you how to live your best life.

When running season hits its stride, people everywhere lace up their sneakers for casual jogs, charity races, major marathons and everything in between. While most people recognize that running benefits their physical health, the dedication required for marathon training can teach you important lessons about living your best life.

Wondering how to prepare for a marathon? Avid runner and distinguished nutritionist Pam Nisevich Bede from Abbott, title sponsor of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, has partnered with record-breaking marathoner and former Olympian, Joan Benoit Samuelson, to share four key lessons that you'll learn from marathon training and be able to apply to your everyday life.

Lesson 1: Celebrate Successes Big and Small
The journey is, perhaps, the most important part of a race experience. "You can't just wake up one morning and decide to run a marathon. It takes a series of small achievements — from getting yourself out of bed early to train when you would rather sleep in, to every mile you add to your regimen — that allow you to have a successful race," Samuelson said. The same goes for life. Success is not just in landing that dream job, achieving that ideal balance, or finding that perfect partner. It's in the smaller steps you take to reach those goals, and how you learn and grow along the way.

Lesson 2: You Can Do More Than You Think
To most people, just thinking about how to prepare for a marathon can be daunting. However, marathons seem more attainable if you break your training up into 5- or 10-mile increments to meet your ultimate objectives. "If you increase your mileage by a conservative, planned amount each week, your body will more easily be able to adapt to those longer runs," Bede said. "If you're having a tough run, think about smaller goals rather than your total mileage. Concentrate on making it through this half-mile or to that next tree, and, then, you can re-evaluate your next goal." Running a marathon can be a metaphor for life. In much the same way that you break up the 26.2 miles of the marathon, set smaller goals in your life as you go after larger ones.

Lesson 3: Embrace Obstacles
Life, as in marathon training, rarely goes exactly the way you plan. Setbacks and obstacles are part of the process and they should be looked at as a challenge, not a barrier. The key is to learn how to plan for and manage them. "Prior to running the 2013 Boston Marathon — 30 years after my course record — I developed knee inflammation. To get through that hurdle, I focused on the race, adjusted my training and reached my goal of finishing the marathon within 30 minutes of my winning time in 1983," Samuelson said.

Lesson 4: Take Care of Yourself
Investing in self-care allows you to bring your best self to every facet of your life. From your mind to your body and your diet, better health allows you to achieve more and experience more fully. It can help you reach those race-day goals, pursue a new passion, and live, not just longer, but better. "Taking care of yourself isn't about striving for perfection or unnecessarily limiting yourself, it's about constantly challenging yourself to be better — find what makes you feel good and minimize any obstacles that prevent you from getting there," Bede said.