Journey to the 26.2: It’s What You Learn Along the Way

By: Megan Stuart

You know what’s cool about a marathon? Yes – basking in the glory of crossing the finish line and feeling the weight of that finisher’s medal finally placed around your neck,  but there is so much more to it than that. The 26.2 miles that you just finished reflects only a small part of your overall accomplishments. Training for a marathon starts months before the sound of the starting gun; hundreds of miles are logged on early Saturday mornings, after long days at work, and through an entire forecast of snow, rain, and heat.  There are highs, like the indescribable endorphins after the perfect long run, and there are lows, like setbacks from injury, horrible fatigue, and the mind games that come with dedicating yourself to a marathon. There are moments in the race, or in any training run, where you want to stop, where you hate yourself for ever putting your body through this. But the valuable lessons you learn about yourself when you train for a marathon make it all the more worthwhile. You learn how capable you are of going out there and accomplishing your dreams. Yes, it seems crazy:

Why the hell would I ever want to run 26 consecutive miles?? That’s four STRAIGHT hours of running.

Yea, but crossing that finish line… I tell ya, it’s magic.

There are so many mornings that I wake up dreading the miles that I have to put in that day, nursing shin splints, feeling unmotivated, questioning why I ever thought that running a marathon was a good idea. But then I pick myself up by reminding myself why I am doing this in the first place.

Running, for me, started after I finished playing division one basketball. I tore my ACL my senior season, and I faced a recovery that lasted nearly 9 months. I struggled with my rehab. The roller-coaster of therapy was frustrating because every time I thought I was getting better I’d get discouraged by another setback and get lost again in my frustration. I hit an ultimate low, a point where I could lose my full range of motion if I didn’t make a serious change. I needed something to work toward. That night, I signed up for a half marathon.

Slowly, my knee started to improve, and I moved from the bike, to the elliptical, until I finally found myself on a treadmill. Over months I started to challenge my distances and pace. I started to hit miles that I had never thought I could ever do. The months that I had spent struggling to walk had turned into pinning on my first ever race bib and staring the at the start line. Nothing will compare to the first time I finished a race. The last four hundred meters was a combination of goosebumps, sloppy, sweaty tears, and just the biggest smile you could ever imagine. There was this moment of looking back and thinking, “Did that just happen?!”

I found that I loved the pure joy of racing, and I’ve never stopped since. And here’s the craziest thing: after receiving that first medal, I craved more…I wanted to finish a marathon.

I’m not telling you to go sign up for the next Twin Cities Marathon, but I think if there is anything you can take away from this, it’s that when you set your mind to a goal you can accomplish anything. In short, “I dare you to run a marathon, and not have it change your life.” (Susan Sidoriak)

Megan Stuart is an artist, a foodie, a runner and a fitness junkie. She is often crushing morning A20’s before going to work as a Surgical Technician at the University of Minnesota. You can find her running the lakes or taking pictures of her food at the next insta foodie hot spot. Follow her burger and running adventures at @meggs_benedict3.

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