I once heard a quote that said, “I dare you to train for a marathon and not have it change your life.” Before I ran marathons, this quote made me laugh. I use to think that marathons were for the crazies, the ones who looked like beanpoles and obsessively carbo loaded.

Little did I know that one day I’d become one of those crazies; and even more so, little did I know that training for a marathon would, in fact, change my life.

It starts with your feet and ends with your heart. Although you spend many hours tirelessly training and physically acquiring new endurance and strength, it’s the inward lessons of courage, resilience and true grit that leaves an impression.

If you’re thinking about training for a marathon, be prepared: It will change your life. I know it did mine, especially in these five ways:

You see how capable your body is and realize you are stronger than you’ve ever imagined.

5 ways marathons change your life

This was the first part of marathon training that really struck home for me. Going from barely being able to run 3 miles to building up to running 20 miles weeks later was not an easy feat.

But those often ungodly hours of early morning runs and evening warm-ups slowly began to cumulate into a life-changing realization that my body is strong!

Training my body to push past the “I need to stop” thoughts truly helped me reach a whole new level of courage and grit.

The people you meet and train with along the way will affect your life.

Once an individual outlet, running became a bonding experience with my newfound friends. Unique friendships developed on our long runs. After all, when you run 16 miles with someone, stories get deep fast; and it’s not just the experience of running together, but we also shared special moments and even sometimes heartaches—all the issues that life can bring. These friendships are ones you will never forget.

 

When your legs get tired, you run with your heart.

I learned this through the sweat, tears and a never-give-up mentality that marathon training instills. There were many moments when I wanted to give up, but the more I challenged my body and trained diligently the more amazed I became.

I remember so vividly the last two miles of my first marathon. Although my legs had given up at mile 24, my heart and positive thinking kept my momentum going and that indomitable determination took me across the finish line.

 

You achieve an extreme sense of accomplishment.

5 ways marathons change your life2

A wonderful marathon coach of mine told me that “Less than 5 percent of the population has acquired this goal. So even if you finish last, you’re still one of the top 5 percent of people that will have ever finished.”

This perspective changed everything for me. Nothing beat the feeling of extreme satisfaction—and even the tears that were shed—when I crossed that finish line.  

 

You learn the invaluable lesson to keep moving forward in life.

This was the biggest lesson I learned from marathon training. Although there were times I felt like giving up, I didn’t. I did each training run, fueled my body consistently and woke up at 5 a.m. more times than I could keep track of.

Yes, it was hard and there were many times it would have been easier to sleep in, pig out on junk food or push my crazy dream of running a marathon aside, but I didn’t. I kept going. Even when my legs started to give out, I endured and resisted the urge to stop even if it meant crawling across that finish line.

This lesson became a metaphor in my life: Running taught me to keep moving forward one step at a time, especially through painful moments.

 

Are you inspired to have a marathon change your life? Check out our event calendar on RACEPLACE.com, and sign up for your first marathon today.

5 ways marathons change your life3

All photos in this post are from @abratkovics and you can check out his website, here.