Running a marathon has been a life goal for me for quite some time and last year I finally pulled the trigger. The timing was right and I thought aged 25 I am near my physical peak.
If you tell people that you are going to run a marathon, a common reaction is that they tell you how difficult this undertaking is and that they could never do it themselves. I would say this reaction occurs more than 50% of the time and it’s not limited to unathletic people either. The reaction didn’t sit well with me, but I couldn’t tell exactly why and I had to reflect on it. I came to three conclusions regarding running:
1. Endurance sports is different from other sports in that technique and experience are non-factors. Your physical disposition is also less important. It’s an egalitarian sport in the sense that the two most important factors are your work ethic and your ability to push through pain. You can start an endurance sport like running at age 30 and become world class in a couple of years and the decline in performance level is also less drastic in comparison with other sports. This is unheard of in almost all other sports, because you can never bridge the gap in technique. For example, almost all NBA players started playing Basketball at a very young age. There are a few rare exceptions like Joel ‘The Process’ Embiid, who didn’t play Basketball before the age of 15 and his success can be partly explained by his outstanding athleticism and size.
2. Running is also a simple sport. You don’t need any equipment except running shoes, which most people already have anyway. Put on your running shoes and off you go. Therefore, lack of equipment is a bad excuse as well.
3. Another popular excuse are time constraints, but you can always wake up one or two hours earlier for a morning run, so it’s a matter of prioritisation and not lack of time. Most people simply prioritise sleep over running.
Experience, money, talent and time are irrelevant for running a marathon, so when people say that they never could run a marathon, it’s a rationalization. Anyone, who puts his mind to running a marathon, can do it with the adequate preparation. What people are really saying is that they are not willing to put in the necessary work, which sounds less sexy.
Another explanation is that people actually think that they couldn’t run a marathon, which is a limiting belief and even worse. Of course, not everybody likes running, because it’s “boring”. But these people could say: ‘I don’t want to run a marathon, because running is boring’ instead of ‘I could never run a marathon.’ You can apply the same argument to the popular statement: ‘I could never start a business.’
My brother has run several marathons and therefore it never seemed like a big deal to me. This example illustrates the importance of your peers and the kind of people you surround yourself with. Like it or not, humans have a herd mentality and we adapt to our environment. Surround yourself with overachievers and you are one step closer to greatness. On the flip side, surround yourself with underachievers and you are going to adjust your behavior and mindset negatively. It’s no coincidence that an above-average share of top executives practices endurance sports. They have an impeccable work ethic and they like to overcome obstacles and push their limits.
I am process driven, which means I have unlimited trust in the process. If you put in the work consistently and don’t get distracted, everything will fall into place eventually. This rule is true for all skill sets: Basketball, Spanish, entrepreneurship, running, writing, etc. Your learning curve will differ depending on your talent, but you will achieve your goals somewhere down the road.
3. Goal setting
It’s important to have a concrete goal to move forward in life. I have been thinking about running a marathon for years and in 2017 in finally pulled the trigger. I signed up for a marathon on the 02.04.2017 in Bonn a couple of months before. I like to commit to goals with concrete steps like buying a ticket. I did the same with my stay in Colombia. I booked the flight tickets for August 20018 and from thereon there is no backing out. I also tell other people about my plans, to put some extra pressure on my shoulders. It also holds me accountable, because it’s wack to talk about your plans and not go through with them.
The next step is finding a sound strategy to achieve your goal. I am a big fan of best practices. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, buy a definitive book with all the important tips like “The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer” and you are good to go. You can also go the free route and collect information from various sources on the internet. The problem with this approach is that it’s time-consuming and the information isn’t necessarily reliable. I am always willing to pay for information as a shortcut. The best practices for marathons are 10-week training plans for preparation.
Like I mentioned before you don’t need much gear for running. Therefore it’s the perfect sport for minimalists. Just pack your running shoes and you can go for a morning run anywhere in the world. The only exception are cities like Ho-Chi-Minh-City (formerly Saigon) with high levels of air pollution. In these cities, you have to find a gym.
–ASICS Men’s GT-1000 5 Running Shoe (Asics has the best running shoes. Dope color schemes are a bonus on top)
–Garmin Forerunner 35 Watch (Keep it simple, you don’t need Big Data for your first marathon)
It’s a good idea to run a half marathon as a stepping stone to your first marathon. It gives you a taste of the upcoming challenge. I ran half marathons in Cologne and Madrid before my marathon in Bonn, but I think one half marathon is sufficient. The half marathon in Madrid was part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series. The concept consists of live bands along the running track and the music gives you an extra push to give everything. They offer a global TourPass, which enables you to run several Rock ‘n’ Roll marathons.
My final preparation consisted of a 10-week training plan right before the marathon. I like training plans because they eliminate all decision-making. The plan tells you the distance and time you have to run each weekday. The only thing you have to do is follow the plan and execute. The most efficient way to track your time and distance is the use of a running watch with GPS. At the time I was working full-time at a startup and the evening runs were a welcome balance. I also changed my diet and quit alcohol during this period.
7. The marathon
The anticipation before the start was intense and it was extraordinarily hot, but my preparation gave me a sense of ease. My goal was to stay under 4 hours. I made a typical rookie mistake by getting carried away and starting to fast instead of running at a steady pace. Everything went well until I reached the 19th mile (32nd km), where I hit a mental wall. When you prepare for a marathon, you don’t run the whole distance in order to peak at the day of competition. Your longest run lasts around 19 miles and therefore you enter unknown territory at the competition day. The heat wore me out and I felt like giving up. My feet became heavier and heavier and I felt like I was running in slow-motion. The moment of truth had come. I could give in to my inner impulse and give up or I could push through the pain. I chose option two. I limited my focus to the next steps repeating the mantra ‘I am Julian Power.’ During the last 3 miles (4,8 km) I was rewarded with a runner’s high and I crossed the finish line at 04:16:37 hours, thus exceeding my target by 17 minutes.
My main takeaway from the marathon is that your body is stronger than your mind makes you believe. It tells you to give up before you reach your physical limits. Having said that, you also need a sound preparation and can’t purely will your way through a marathon. This lesson is applicable to entrepreneurship as well. Your business skills are stronger than your mind makes you believe. It tells you to quit when you don’t see immediate results, but you have to mute this inner voice and push through and eventually, you will succeed. On the rare occasion that self-doubt creeps in, I think back to my first marathon and remind myself to push through.
While I didn’t hit my target, I finished the marathon, which is one of the accomplishments I am most proud of in my life. Now you know everything you need to know about running your first marathon.
The rest is up to you,
The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer