Reflections on the Pittsburgh Marathon

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” -Henry David Thoreau

In this post, I’ll share some reflections on the journey leading up to the Pittsburgh Marathon as well as reflections on the race itself. I’ll also try to share a lesson that I learned that can help you in your life. I have written several other posts throughout my journey of running five marathons. To read those posts, click here.

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Running for a Charity – This year, I had the privilege of leading Light of Life’s Marathon team. It was the first year we’ve been a part of the Pittsburgh Marathon. I didn’t know what to expect. We ended up recruiting a team of over 40 runners and raising over $25,000 for Light of Life Rescue Mission. This was by far one of the most enjoyable parts of this marathon for me. I love putting together teams and going after goals together. We encouraged, inspired, and challenged each other throughout the entire journey. For me, getting a picture together the morning of the marathon, finding out we raised our goal of $25,000, and hearing about everyone finishing their races was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had!

Accountability – Running for a charity definitely helped me stay accountable. Leading our team kept me accountable to raising money and training hard.  When training got tough, I  reminded myself that people have supported me financially to run this race for Light of Life and that my team would be looking to me to lead by example in raising money. That accountability kept me going when I wanted to stop.

The lessons:

1.) Going after goals with a team is a lot more fun than going after them by yourself. If you have personal goals, share them with some of your closest friends. Have them share their goals with you. Pursue your goals together. Encourage each other. Challenge each other. Hold each other accountable to achieving your goals.

2.) We all need accountability. Surround yourself with great people who aren’t afraid to call you out and challenge you, but will also encourage you to keep going when you want to quit, because you will want to! Make sure they are people that love you and that they are committed to helping you become everything you’re capable of becoming.

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Setting a Personal Record – To be completely honest, I was not trying to get a personal record. I was actually trying to run a 4 hour marathon and I thought I’d be lucky if I hit that goal. My previous personal record was 3:53 which I ran in the Philly Marathon. How did I do it? I think several factors played into it:

1.) I didn’t have to go to the bathroom once!

2.) I took advantage of running downhill – Yes, there were a lot of hills, but there were as many downhills as there were uphill! I would try to run uphill at a 9 minute pace (4 hour marathon) and downhill as fast as I could (usually around a 7:30 pace). This helped me make up a lot of time.

3.) I didn’t stop running – This is the first marathon where I didn’t stop and walk one time. It was a miracle to be honest!

4.) I decided that no matter what I would PR – Up to mile 20, I was on pace to finish under 4 hours.  I was worried I was going to hit a wall. At mile 21, I still felt great. I decided then that no matter what, I was going to get a pr. The rest is history!

Shaving Almost an Hour off of my Marathon Time – If you look at the picture above, you’ll see that when I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2009, I finished in 4:38:04. In 2013, I finished in 3:48:50. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the biggest reasons has been my training and nutrition. I eat 100x better now than I did in 2009. I am also in much better shape. On days when I don’t run, I would do P90X, P90X2, or Body Beast. Training 6 days a week and eating right 80% of the time played a huge role in my success.

The Lessons:

1.) It’s You vs. You – My friend, Matt Emge, told me that growing-up his dad always told him, “Matt, it’s Matt vs. Matt. Not Matt vs. anyone else. Compete against yourself. Always give your best and you will never have to worry about comparing.” I love that. No matter what goals you are pursuing, do the best you can. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. It’s always you vs. you.

2.) You Can Always Get Better – I would have NEVER thought I could shave almost an hour off of my time, but I did. Anything is possible if you’ll dream big and go for it.

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Training – This was probably the worst training season I’ve had for a marathon. I HATED training in the winter. I do not run on treadmills so that meant a lot of outdoor runs in the freezing cold. To be honest, I missed more training runs during this training season than I did training for any other marathon. I was actually worried that I wouldn’t be able to finish the marathon. However, I did run 20 miles 4 times and 23 miles once, so if nothing else, I figured that would get me by. It did.

The Lesson:

1.) Training isn’t always fun, Do it Anyway – One of my favorite quotes is, “Discipline is remembering what you want.” I had to constantly remind myself that I wanted to finish my 5th marathon and that I wanted to help raise $25,000 for Light of Life… When the process of achieving your goals gets tough, just remember the end result that you’re aiming for. It will give you the motivation required to do whatever it takes to get there!

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Five Marathons – I’ve now run five marathons! Ten years ago, I could not run a half mile! Seriously! I never would have dreamed of running a marathon. Each marathon has been so special for me. The lessons learned, the memories made, and the fulfillment of achieving a goal that you worked so hard to earn have been absolutely priceless. My goal is to run at least 10 marathons in my lifetime! Five down. Five to go. I can’t wait!

The Lesson:
1.) You can do anything. Dream big. Set a goal that seems impossible and go after it. Don’t let anything hold you back. Achieving it will be one of the most fulfilling things you ever do.

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Support– I am so grateful for all of the support I received through friends and family. The greatest support I had was from my wife! She is awesome! She is my biggest cheerleader! In fact, the entire week leading up to the marathon, she kept telling me, “Doug, you’re going to get a personal record. I know you are. You’re in the best shape of your life. You’re going to do it. I’m so proud of you.” Those words raced through my mind over and over again during those last 6 miles. There was no way I was going to let my wife down! I love her so much! I could not have done this without her!

The Lesson:

Surround Yourself with People who Love You – I talked about this in the accountability lesson. But I’m telling you… there is nothing like having great people around you that love you and want to see you succeed. In fact, if you don’t have great people surrounding you and supporting you, your odds for successfully achieving your goals go down dramatically!

Thank you to everyone who supported me as I ran this marathon for Light of Life! I could not have done it without you!

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