What I learned from completing my first half-marathon

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Three days have passed since I completed my first half-marathon here in Novi Sad. My legs are still sore, I still have several calluses on my feet, and my butt muscles are still screaming when I stand up. It’s the perfect time to reflect and learn from this experience.

Running my first half-marathon

I started jogging regularly back in 2017. It is my way of zoning out, breathing deeply, and disconnecting from the day-to-day stress of the modern workplace. In a word, meditating. But then corona hit us last year and halted everything. No more running, no more healthy eating, no more friends, only anxiety and soft panic attacks when someone gets closer than 6 feet to you.

After around two years of no actual physical activity, I got pulled into running a half marathon by a friend. I started from zero three weeks ago, and when I say zero, I mean that I was barely able to complete 5 kilometers on the first try. It was a bit better on the second try, but still, it was almost impossible for me to cross the 10k mark. The marathon day was getting closer, and I still struggled with the basics.

Running pace on first half marathon

As you might expect, the marathon experience was brutal. I started strong. 6km in my breath become erratic. On the 10km mark, I developed a callus on my right foot. At 16km, I was running on sheer willpower, counting down every 100m till the end. Finally, around 2hour 55min, I reached the finish line. My feet were on fire.

But I finished it. I fucking did it! What did I learn from this?

I (you) can do much more than I (you) think

There are always reasons why I feel unprepared to take on a challenge. For example, “I never wrote a test. TDD is impossible.”, or “This API can’t be faster. It is impossible.”, or in my latest case, “I’m too fat to run a marathon.”.

I (you) are mostly much more capable than you give yourself credit. The right approach is to Just Do It ™. I guarantee that you will be at least 40% more capable than you think.

Environment ≥ Willpower

An important observation to make here is that I was able to complete the marathon. I simply didn’t do it. So what was the difference this time? First, a friend nudged me into it. The second is that the marathon was an organized event with a well-defined deadline. Third, my life partner supported me in every way.

Individual willpower, or discipline, fades quickly. However, with the right people and the right environment, everything feels natural and straightforward. They are there to kick you in the ass when you feel stuck, and they are there to heal and support you when you get burned.

For example, take the example of a 10x engineer. An engineer from a different company can feel 10x compared to you. But I can bet that he is not 10x compared to his peers, not even close. It is the culture that makes her 10x. Culture always predates individuals.

Will I do it again?

You bet I will. I’m already looking forward to the next one in September.

107km here I come! 👟