“Whether you’re running 12.6 miles, running a marathon, or running a business - you have to keep going. It may not be pretty, you may not break any records or set the world on fire. But if you keep going, ignoring the people laughing about your Rocky moves and hand dances, ignoring your own self-doubt, ignoring how uncomfortable the chafing may be (too much?), ignoring your fears; If you keep going, that is literally all that matters.” - Matt Cheuvront

Sometimes your own advice is the best advice.

On Saturday I ran my first marathon. 26.2 miles. It was, without a doubt, the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

At the starting line, I felt like everyone else. Nervous, anxious, excited. Months of training, hundreds of miles ran, and here I was, ready to finally take on what had always seemed like an impossible challenge.

The gun sounded and I was off. Feeling great. Keeping a steady pace. Enjoying the sights and sounds. This went on for about 10 miles without a hitch. I was on pace to hit my goal time and everything felt great.

Then I decided it was time to turn on some tunes – because – after all – I had spent weeks compiling the “perfect playlist”.

And of course, my iPod is dead, broke, or just decided to be a piece of shit. Maybe all three.

If you know me at all, you know that running without music is the bane of my existence. Listening to breathing and the sound of my feet hitting the pavement is my worst nightmare. And yet, there I was, not even halfway through the race, with no Coolio, no Sisquo, to help keep me motivated.

Frustrated as I was, I kept putting one foot in front of the other. That is, until around mile 18. Where I hit the wall. Yes. THAT wall. The one you always hear about but never understand until it happens. The kind of wall that leaves your body saying, “Hell no” regardless of how much your mind says, “Yes”.

I was done.

For the first time in my history of running, I felt angry. And above all, disappointed in myself. As I slowed to barely a jog, and finally a walk, my mind wanted me to push through, to fight the pain, but my body simply couldn’t. I was sore, tired, thirsty, hungry, and outright uncomfortable in just about every way you can imagine.

So I walked. Then I walked some more. And a little more. I jogged a few steps, and quickly went back to a walk. Hands on hips. Sucking wind. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

20. 21. 22. I passed the mile markers. Slowly, but I passed them. I jogged a few steps further.

23. 24. My walk had slowed to a crawl. I frustratingly hit the PLAY button on my iPod. Nothing. I listened to the other marathoners around me, complaining. Gasping for air. Keeling over in the grass to stretch. I started to doubt if I’d ever cross the finish line, or if the ambulance would eventually come pick me up with the rest of the stragglers.

As my goal of finishing in under 5 hours become a distant memory, finishing with a “good” time turned into something much more important. Finishing. 

The past couple days since the marathon, I’ve beaten myself up for how I performed. For not being able to push myself more. But today, I’ve began putting everything into perspective.

The bottom line? I finished. I finished a motherfucking marathon. I did something I never thought I’d be able to do, and something that most people never do in their life. And in the process, I learned a lot about myself, and what I’m capable of.

Today, I realize why I’m so disappointed in my final time of 5:55 in the marathon. It’s because the bar has been raised. My bar. I’ve raised the bar on my life, and what I expect and demand for myself.

A year ago I was carrying an extra 50 pounds of weight. I could barely run a mile. I was unhealthy and uncomfortable. Today I’m complaining about hitting the wall at mile 18. Big, huge difference.

I’m hard on myself because I never, ever want to limit the expectations of what I’m capable of. Whether it’s running a marathon, or running a business, I continue to raise the bar on how I live.

The bar has been set. I’ve run a marathon. Now it’s time to raise it.

When I crossed the finish line, everyone asked if I’d ever do it again. I said, “Hell no!”

It didn’t take me long to change my mind. Today I signed up for my next 26.2. In October, I’ll give this another go.

I’ll work harder. Do better. Run faster. And get stronger.

That’s the thing about marathons (literally or metaphorically). They smack you in the face, kick you in the ass, make you feel like shit, but keep you coming back for more.

Because the biggest rewards in life are the one’s that have to be earned.

Running marathons isn’t about the miles. It’s about the lifestyle. It’s about giving something your everything, then a little more, even when there’s absolutely nothing left to give.

Because that, my friends, is the way life ‘oughta be lived. 

Here’s to the next 26.2!

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Starting next week, I’ll be sending out a new weekly newsletter dedicated to running – a no BS, inspirational, and hopefully motivational look into the lifestyle of a runner, the ongoing training, and the countless playlists that keep you from thinking about how much it sucks. Running has changed my life, and I believe it can change yours, too. To sign up for the new (Running) Without Pants newsletter, click here.

Join the conversation! 34 Comments

  1. Matt – You did it! :) That is my goal too (in 34 days), although I believe I am going to be making a trip to the doctor for my foot now. But I don’t care what they say, I am lacing up my shoes and going to San Diego. And I am going to cross that finish line.

    Again – Way to go! You have definitely helped keep me motivated! 

    Reply
    • Thanks, Richard. As much as you don’t want to hear it – don’t overdo it. If you can’t make it happen for this one, you can’t. Better to hold off a little bit than do some serious damage to your leg/knee. But, if you’re good to go – God speed and good luck!

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  2. Congrats, Matt! I’m so proud of you! :)

    There are SO many life and business lessons that can be learned from running. It’s such a great test of mental toughness and a wonderful metaphor for pushing pass obstacles. Like you, 2 1/2 years ago, I had never ran more than a couple of miles….and it had been YEARS since I had done that. I decide to run a half to get in better shape, and more importantly, push myself. The year of my first 1/2 marathon was the year I decide it was time to get serious about starting a business. It was no coincidence that my first race happened just months before I officially launched.

    Congrats on an amazing accomplishment! And, I’m glad to hear you’re sticking with it!

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    • Agreed, Laura. Running has had a huge impact on not only my physical well being, but on my focus, drive, and determination with my business. What started as a way to lose weight and get fit transitioned into a lifestyle. I love it!

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  3. Congrats, Matt! You look great, and you did it. One under your belt, now you can start worrying about times. That’s my strategy – easy to say that before the marathon, right? ;)

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    • Haha yeah it is. I went from NEVER wanting to do another marathon to wishing I could get out tomorrow to do better in about 24 hours. It’s such a huge wave of emotions, this whole marathon thing. But completely worth it. Next time, I’ll be that much more prepared, and all the more ready to kick it’s ass, instead of having it kick mine! :) Thanks, Brandi!

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  4. I’m so glad that you were able to take a step back and get some perspective, despite your initial frustration with yourself. As you so eloquently put it, you finished a motherfucking marathon, and you should be extremely proud of yourself. Your iPod crapped out, after all of that playlist planning, and you didn’t give up. You hit the wall, and sure you slowed down, but you didn’t give up. A lot of other people would have. You couldn’t have done this a year ago, and some people will never do it in their lives. So, go you! 

    Reply
    • You know me well enough by now to know that “giving up” is never an option. If I had to crawl across the finish line, I would have done it. But damnit, I was going to finish! Thanks for the kind words, Sam.

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  5. You get it!!! I ran the Seattle Marathon mirrored in Baghdad when I was on my 3rd tour to Iraq (I’m no longer in the Army… proud vet!). Before running that marathon, I thought it was about the time. I thought it was about coming in faster than others. I thought it was about being a badass.

    Hell no. It’s about raising the bar. For most, the first marathon is a the first real time a person takes the “impossible” and smacks it in the face. Something you never thought you could do has been done. That changes EVERYTHING.

    I came in at 4:30 when I ran mine, and I did absolutely no marathon training before that. However, I had been in the Army for 7 years at that point. So, running was normal to me. Within the few days after, I too signed up for more runs. Things had changed instantly and would never be the same again. I made the mistake of sharing my story on a pretty inactive blog. You can check out the dead guest post here: http://runningsomewhere.com/running-pride-baghdad/

    Congrats on finishing and congrats on making it to mile 18 before hitting a wall. Would you believe I hit a mini wall at 8 miles? And then another at 17? Much like you, I walked… and walked some more. Finishing was a great feeling, though.

    Hats off to you, my friend. You ran a marathon. Period.

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  6. CONGRATULATIONS!!!  You are truly an inspiration, now more than ever.

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  7. Congratulations matt! I always tell people that your first race at any distance is always about finishing. That’s all. Only then should you look at your watch. Also, give yourself credit for both finishing AND finishing without an injury! That is hugely important, so that now you can start running again! Most important, enjoy your recovery week! Kudos to you!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Niki! I definitely learned a lot about what I am (and am not) capable of. I’ll take this experience for what it was – a hell of an experience, and I’ll approach it next time all the more prepared. I can’t wait!

      Reply
  8. Matt, I enjoy using the metaphor that “Life is a safari,” but that doesn’t make me any more (big game hunter Fredrick Selous) than your using the “marathon” metaphor makes you Frank Shorter.  Seriously, don’t kill yourself.

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  9. Congrats Matt. Onward and upward! 

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    • Thanks buddy. You’ve been an inspiration throughout this process. Now that I’ve “done it”, it’s time to do it well. I’ll be picking your brain soon for some wisdom and advice to up my running game.

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  10. Amazing Matt! Congratulations! I swear, just the training for a marathon is worth a big fat medal. Even now I feel like, yeah… I could do another. But it’s the time, effort and dedication to train that keeps me sidelined at the moment (translate: new baby)
    “That’s the thing about marathons (literally or metaphorically). They smack you in the face, kick you in the ass, make you feel like shit, but keep you coming back for more.” – I love this! There is something so amazing about doing something that makes you feel equally terrible and elated at the same time. Looking forward to your future posts. Maybe it will get me out there to train again?Sarah

    Reply
    • Thanks, Sarah! You should def. get back into training again – but, I’ll accept your excuse – being a new mom is kind of a big deal and I can imagine takes up, well, pretty much any free time you do have. 

      And I agree – the “easy way out” is boring. Here’s to challenging ourselves to do what seems impossible, no matter how much it may hurt. You always come out the other side that much stronger. Cheers!

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  11. Congrats! This is a huge accomplishment! When I am running and start to feel down, I tell myself, you are out here at 6:30 am, while tons and tons of other people are sleeping soundly in their beds, or sitting on the couch and it seems to always cheer me up and make me feel better! I ran a half yesterday with terrible conditions and was so mad at myself for the time I got but at the end, I am proud to be in that club of people that get up, get going, and get it done, no matter what happens! You finished and that is all that matters! Now, go get stronger and better because now you know what it really feels like:) Looking forward to your other posts. What marathon are you doing in October? 

    Reply
    • If you only run a mile, you ran a mile more than pretty much everyone else. You’ve gotta’ keep things in perspective (I have to remind myself of this all the time). I’m running the Twin Cities marathon in Minneapolis/St. Paul in October. I’ve heard great things and I can’t wait!

      Reply
  12. Congrats, Matt – and great recap. I felt the same way after I finished my first half marathon. My time wasn’t what I wanted and that’s because my bar was raised, too. I’m going into my June race with an outlook similar to the way you voiced it in your post – working harder, doing better, getting faster and stronger (coincidentally this is reminding me of Kanye West). Thanks for continuing to inspire. Cheers to your next 26.2 and congrats again on a job well done!

    Reply
    • Yes, this was a slight nod to Kanye/Daft Punk ;) – thanks so much for the kind words, and best of luck prepping for the upcoming half marathon! We’ll be running one right around the same time! The hardest part of me right now is resting, knowing that I need to be gearing up for the half marathon in a few weeks. Here’s to kicking some ass in June!

      Reply
  13. Good job and welcome to the club!
    I’ve run 12 marathons and love the process of training more than the race.  The human body is really remarkable in its ability to adapt to increasing stress and it’s really cool to self observe this in action.  Congratulatons and relish this moment.  You only get one first marathon.  It should be enjoyed fully.  If its not fun, why bother, right?  Enjoy!

    Reply
    • 12 marathons! That’s incredible, Kate. I’d be lying if I thought this was fun, at all, when I crossed the finish line, but I’ve really spent time putting things in perspective and am extremely proud that I accomplished this. Now it’s time to learn from what I did, what I didn’t do, and how I can make the next go at this (in October) that much better. Cheers!

      Reply
  14. ROCK ON MATT. Totally get it. When I’m running and feel like crap, I consistently remind myself that what I’m currently doing is freaking incredible and something that I couldn’t do before. 

    Reply
    • Thanks, Diana! It’s easy to get stuck in the trenches of the obstacle at hand, but, putting things into perspective and reminding yourself that you couldn’t do yesterday what you’re doing today, in this moment, is all the perspective you need to know you’re on the right track!

      Reply
  15. It’s a HUGE accomplishment! And yes, the marathon will kick you in the teeth and show you who’s boss. It’s very humbling. My first one, I got sick around Mile 14, and walked/puked/ran the last 12.2. It was awful, and I ended up in the med tent. But I’m more proud of that than any other thing I’ve done in my life, any faster marathons or PRs or successes. It takes guts to finish when you don’t think you can do any more. Proud of you.

    Reply
    • Agreed, Laura. And your perspective here really helps me think through things. It does take guts to keep going when you literally feel like you can’t (and that’s exactly how I felt). I thought many times I was going to have to give up. But I kept going. I got my medal. Now in retrospect I’ll learn from the experience and take it on that much more prepared the next go-around. :)

      Reply
  16. Good on ya. A ton of great insights here; raising the bar, pushing yourself though, committing to the goal and not beating yourself up. Especially that. You can only get better. Dude, I got as far as a half-marathon so you certainly have done something huge. There are a lot of runners out there but there are even more people otu there so if you look at the sheer numbers the people who have actually finished a marathon in their lifetime is miniscule. You are part of a very exclusive club. Enjoy!

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  17. Woo-hoo!!  You are a Marathoner!  A MotherFucking Marathoner!  Congratulations!

    Looking forward to the running newsletters.  You’ve got perfect timing because I’m struggling to return to my running life.  Had to stop last year due to an injury & now, I keep letting life (or dumb excuses if I’m honest) get in the way.  Congrats again on finishing your marathon, specially for doing it without music!  

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  18. Congrats, Matt. It’s something I don’t think I could ever do. I don’t think I could walk 26.2 miles, let alone run it in less than 6 hours. That’s AMAZING. You’ve come a long way and you’re getting better all the time. Serious props.

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  19. Congrats! That is incredible! It is wonderful to read about how far you’ve come in just a year :)

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  20.  As a former long distance runner…….I feel your pain…….well, sort of.  I’ve never run a marathon.  But, I have clocked thousands of miles hitting the concrete over the years.  I no longer run.  I’m well over 50 and closer to 60, than 50.  My joints and my back cannot take it any longer. 

    I met the wall once.  I also miraculously pushed through it.  Once I did, the physical release was euphoric.  I had never felt so damn good running in my life.  So I ran and I ran and I ran and I ran.  I was soaking wet from head to toe, with my clothes plastered to my body from sweat when I finally stopped.

    Stupid me didn’t realize that I had just injured myself and was forced to stop running for close to a year because of chronic shin splints and tendonitis in my knees.  My running days ceased not long after that, and it’s been over 25 years since I’ve done any decent running.

    But, your story reminded of when I watched the first women’s marathon in the olympics in the 80s.  Joanie Benoit was the favorite (an American runner) and I *think* she won.  But, the runner I remember the most was a Swiss runner who began to suffer heat stroke during the race.  She kept falling further and further behind until her body began to contort and she looked palsied.  She DRUG her body through the entire race, into the stadium and made every lap until she crossed the finish line, where she collapsed. 

    Her determination was awe-inspiring, and I remember distinctly being in tears watching her.  By the time she hit the tunnel of the stadium, people could see her on the jumbotron and they all stood up cheering her in a deafening roar.

    God, I well up now remembering it.  It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed in my life.  She refused medical care and consistently shook off help as medics would run to help her.  She finished that race. 

    Here’s a snippet of her story.  If you are able to find it on Youtube, it is an amazing thing to watch.  And my name is not Monique, by the way…….we met recently when you redesigned my blog for me. :)

    I loved your story.

    “The most dramatic finish of the race was not Benoit’s impressive
    victory, but the finish of Swiss competitor Gabriele Andersen-Scheiss,
    who entered the stadium fifteen minutes later suffering from heat
    exhaustion. The crowd gasped in horror as Andersen-Scheiss staggered
    onto the track, her torso twisted, her right arm straight and her left
    arm limp, her right knee strangely stiff. She waved away medical
    personnel who rushed to help her knowing that, if they touched her, she,
    like Dorando Pietri seventy-six years earlier, would be disqualified.
    For nearly six minutes Andersen-Scheiss hobbled around the track,
    occasionally stopping and holding her head. Doctors watched her
    carefully and determined she was in no immediate danger. She collapsed
    over the finish line in thirty-seventh place into the arms of waiting
    medics. Fortunately, Andersen-Scheiss recovered quickly. Her time of
    2:48:45 would have won the gold medal in the first five Olympic
    marathons.”

    Reply
  21. Just getting around to reading this Matt since I was traveling for work last week, then unplugged for a few days to play. I’m in awe of your accomplishment, and, again, I’m so proud of you! Definitely threw me a curveball by announcing you’re doing it again in October! Good luck with the training and getting that PR! We’ll both be going for big running goals that month, as I’ll be tackling my first 1/2 marathon.

    Reply

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About Matt Cheuvront

I empower folks to do the work they want to do and live the life they want to live. Connect on Twitter or check out the work I'm doing at Proof.

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