In October I completed my first marathon. In the 3 hours and 51 minutes it took me, I had plenty of time to reflect on the experience. Conveniently, I’ve come up with 26.2 things.
And when I read between the lines, it’s a bit of a metaphor-fest for my freelance life.
1 Having some accountability makes you more likely to do something. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have run 26.2 miles on a Sunday morning if I hadn’t entered a race.
2 Training is important, don’t cut corners. You might get away with it for a few miles (or 19 in my case) but it’ll come back to bite you at some point.
3 Like any deadline, the day creeps up on you. What can seem like a long time to prepare soon dissipates when you throw in some weekends away, work commitments and the pre-race taper.
4 Things are almost never as bad as you think they’re going to be. So try not to worry about it, that doesn’t help.
5 Technology and apps are good, use them. Because I didn’t feel prepared, I decided to simplify things and ‘just run’ without a watch, GPS or Strava. This was a mistake.
6 If it’s new to you, a strategy or game plan is probably a good idea. I thought my usual ‘just crack on and make it up as you go along’ approach would serve me well. It didn’t.
7 You need good people around you. It’s hard to do things like this on your own. Whether it’s keeping your morale up or practical stuff, like driving you home because you can’t move your legs.
8 Pace yourself. You know deep down what you’re capable of. Don’t overdo it.
9 Don’t try to keep up with people who are fitter than you. You might be on the same course, but you’re effectively in a different race.
10 Experience counts. You can tell who’s been there before. They know the challenges ahead and they’re ready for them. They know when to take it easy and when to kick on. I didn’t.
11 Everyone is different, focus on yourself. It’s easy to get carried away and focus on what other people are doing. But they might just be fitter or a course veteran. Your yardstick is what you’re capable of, not them.
12 They’re not your competitors, they’re your support network. You know what each other is going through. When it gets tough, you’re there to support each other and say the right things. It doesn’t have to be lonely.
13 Enjoy it. This is an important one. If you’re not going to get some enjoyment out of it, why bother? Soak it up and take in the views.