• Paul Clingan

5 Lessons From The Marathon I Wasn't Planning To Run

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

In the spring of 2020, I got REALLY into running.


Who didn't though? Everyone was on lockdown and running outside was the safest option for a lot of America.


In August 2020, I ran the lululemon SeaWheeze Half-Marathon (pictured below) in Vancouver, B.C. and finished with a time of 1:30:06. For my first half-marathon ever, I was pretty proud. I finished 92 out of over 10,000 runners.


Fast forward to June 2020 and I'm heading out for a 21 mile run. This would be the longest of my life and part of my build up to running a marathon in under 3 hours by August 17th.


What ended up happening surprised me. I ended up just running a full marathon.


It was not planned. It was DEFINITELY against the advice of my coach. I had actually pushed this run back a day because I was hungover (also against the advice of any coach) and I ran in a long sleeve shirt starting at 11am.


During the run, I had a lot of time to think. Here are 5 things I lessons I took away from running this unplanned marathon.




PRs Don't Always Come On Race Day

Training programs are periodized to help you peak at the right time. They are important for running marathons or maximizing strength.


That assumes training in a vacuum and doesn’t take into consideration life events and other stressors.


There are times when a PR might happen when you are fully recovered, rested, and properly fueled.


So it’s important to line up recovery, nutrition, and proper training.


Declare Your Goals & You'll Become Unstoppable

Telling people about goals is something I’ve made a point to declare because it motivates me.


We will often let ourselves down, but we don’t want to let other people down. Some people will be able to combine intrinsic motivation with extrinsic motivation.


There is also a layer of competition with yourself when you have specific goals that you are trying to achieve. If it’s just you, then it’s hard to make adjustments and stay inspired. When you have a coach or friends you’ve told, you have people helping you along the way.


The Formula For Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is the formula of commitments kept divided by commitments made. You want that number to be as close to 1 as possible.


This is where something like a marathon is so mentally challenging, but also beneficial to your psyche. If I write a check, I want to know that I can cash it. If I dig myself in a hole or find myself in a hole, I want to have the trust with myself to know that I can get myself out of that situation.


Self-confidence comes from keeping the promises that you make to yourself.

If you struggle with it, you can look back and ask yourself if you’ve kept that promise in the past.


If you keep it, you start to believe you can achieve greater and greater things.


Dream Bigger

Dreaming big is one of the best ways to make big problems seem small. My example from my marathon is that I wasn’t supposed to run 26.2. I was supposed to run 19. But when I got to 19, I was able to look at 7.2 and tell myself, it’s not that much further. I’ve done that hundreds of times.


If you want to achieve a specific goal, dream 4 steps higher and then your goal becomes just a stepping stone instead of a mountain.


My goal is to run a sub 3:00 marathon which I know will be tough. But that helped me have the mindset that running a marathon at any pace isn’t as bad. However, finishing a marathon was extremely daunting when I presented it as running my first marathon ever.


It’s a matter of perspective that also works in reverse when it comes to hard times that I call “compared to what.” So you can say “I embarrassed myself in front of some strangers at the mall. But compared to everyone at an NBA game, it’s not so bad.”


Remove Unknowns

It’s so important to remove as many unknowns as possible when it comes to pressure situations.


I don’t want to train myself to finish a race assuming perfect conditions and if I feel well. You see this a lot in the corporate world where people get an hour training and then are expected to navigate a new process with people out of office, under stress, with added variables. It’s no wonder why it takes people weeks or months to learn systems. I would rather train until I can’t get it wrong.


Athletes train in the same environments as game settings to feel like they have been there before.


Athletes visualize success before success happens so their brain doesn’t freak out when presented with a new experience.


When I decided to run a marathon before my actual date, I wanted to be able to remove the unknown of whether or not my body could handle 26.2 miles. Now I know it can, so I can spend more mental energy on running 26.2 miles in under 3 hours.


This is why home field advantage is valuable.


The brain is constantly trying to fill in the blanks. The more blanks you can fill in for the subconscious mind, the more the conscious mind can focus on the task at hand.


Edit: P.S.


I ran that sub 3:00 marathon on August 17th in 2:57:27. Running a marathon prior in training DEFINITELY helped.


If you're interested in the Mindful Muscle coaching program, apply here.


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