3 Lessons Learned From The Marathon Starting Line…

#1 Start Slow – Finish Fast.

Something I tell myself at the start of every race… I am still striving to master this skill and that is why it sits at the top of my list.  The marathon in which I fully execute this principle will likely be followed by a celebration of epic proportions.

Spoiler Alert:  If you’re spectating along a marathon route and see me drinking a Coke and chatting with my family, you may safely assume “start slow – finish fast” will have to wait for another day.

NYC Marathon 2015: Mile 16


#2 Enjoy Yourself!

This is your moment!  The final 26.2 miles of your training cycle!  Your goal race!   Don’t forget to enjoy it.

My last four marathons I’ve taken time to enjoy specific moments at the starting line.  Taking time to look around the crowd, even making small talk with others.  Enjoying the cityscape of an urban marathon or the outdoor setting of others.  Taking a few moments to soak it all in.  I’m here.  I made it!

I’ve learned that I enjoy being mindful of the many experiences that build memories about a given event.  If a have a great race, that’s awesome.  But whatever happens with the race has become separate from my overall enjoyment of the event itself.

Within the starting mile of the Big Sur Marathon, I ran past Jeff Galloway and his group on a walk interval.  I was running like someone shot me out of a cannon and here was Mr. Galloway’s group looking comfortable, confident and focused on their run/walk intervals.  In contrast, I was anxious, running too fast, and not mindful of the situation around me.  I figured one of us was executing the start of this marathon wrong, and it probably wasn’t Jeff Galloway…

I took a moment to center myself and suddenly realized how amazing the smell of the forest was while we were running.  I thought to myself that I may never run Big Sur again so it was time to start making memories and not just run a race.  I spent the next 4 miles trying to store memories of the sounds and scent of that redwood forest.  No one was talking, just running.  All you could hear in that stretch was the footfalls of the runners and inhale the breath of that forest as your own.  Amazing.

Marathon Tip:  If are a 4-4:30 marathoner and you pass Jeff Galloway at any point along a marathon course, reassess your strategy immediately ;).

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Big Sur International Marathon 2016 – Starting Line

#3 Getting To The Starting Line Is One Goal Met.

I’m 45 years old.  I commute 2+ hours a day to a full time job.  I have two school-age kids to keep up with.  I have family and friends.  Getting to the start line of a marathon is sometimes goal enough.

I believe toeing the starting line is one goal met.  It is an accomplishment that should not be overlooked.  Getting to the starting line may mean you were chosen out of a lottery, ran a Boston qualifying time, or fulfilled the obligation of charity fundraising just to get a race bib.  Getting to the starting line means you completed a difficult training program. Getting to the starting line means you made it through training uninjured, or at least not injured enough to have to pull out of the race.  You made it.  Take a moment and be proud of yourself for that.

When I ran the NYC marathon in 2015 I struck up a conversation at the start line with another female runner who was about my same age.  Her last marathon was 10 years prior.  She had 4 kids and hadn’t felt she trained and prepared as much as she should have.  She was doubting herself.  We continued to make small talk while walking up to the Verrazano bridge.  Right before we crossed the starting line I reminded her, “You made it to the starting line of the New York Marathon today… not everyone can say that… whatever it took for you to get here today is enough to be proud of…”.

NYC Marathon 2015:  Getting to the start line of a “point to point” course is an accomplishment in itself!
NYC Marathon 2015: Heading to the start line on the lower level of the Verrazano. 





More than a marathon photo…

My marathon photo is on the Pebble Beach website!

I suppose if I were a photographer, or I lived in Monterey County, or if I worked at Pebble Beach, this wouldn’t seem like such a headline.   But, none of those scenarios apply to me.  I live in the Midwest, I’m not a photographer, but I do run marathons…  most recently the Big Sur International Marathon.


OK – so I’m not even in this photo… What’s the big deal?

Yes, I know.  It’s not a photo of me.  It’s a photo I took while running the marathon from Big Sur to Carmel.

What you see in this photo will depend on your view, your perspective.  Some may see the beautiful California coast on an overcast spring morning.  Some may focus on the runners.  Some may wonder why I care so much about a photo that I’m not actually in…

What do I see in this photo?  I see a mile long stream of runners in front of me, all working toward a significant personal goal.  I see an overcast sky that I was grateful for so that we had relief from the heat and sun.  I see one moment captured in time on a day in which thousands of people ran up the ragged California coast for 26.2 miles.   I see that one of my most meaningful marathon photos from the event isn’t a selfie, but one that represents the experience, the journey.

Still not sure how my photo got onto Pebble Beach’s website?

By reconnecting… When I traveled to Monterey for the marathon I reconnected (after 20+ years) with someone who used to live in my small hometown of Stockton, IL – and she now works for Pebble Beach Resorts (thank you facebook).  She and her husband showed me a side of the Monterey area that I would not have experienced on my own.  How grateful I was that they gave of their time to share their love of the Monterey, Pacific Grove, and Pebble Beach area with me.  They made my travel experience so much richer than if I had been alone as a tourist.

When my friend contacted me a few weeks later to ask about using one of my photos as part of her professional role with Pebble Beach’s website – is there any doubt about my saying ‘yes’ to sharing that marathon moment with others?

Travel marathons are bigger than just one event spanning 26.2 miles.  The journey includes the hundreds of miles you ran to prepare.  The journey may include a thousand or more miles of travel.  You may feel like your traveling alone, you may feel at times like you’re running alone during the marathon, but you’re not.  Connect with others.  Reach out.  Explore.  Share your journey.  In the end, you will have more than a marathon to remember.