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Running a marathon made me a better person

I’d do it all over again if I was given the chance

<p>Mario Rosales is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.</p>

Mario Rosales is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

It was 7 a.m. on a cool and cloudy Saturday. The fog had lifted and you could see the luscious green pastures and rolling hills emerge and fill out the scenery around Knight's Gambit Vineyard. For me, the simple yet beautiful landscape contrasted the daunting fact that a mountain of suffering lay ahead.

Despite this knowledge, however, my mind was strangely at peace when I tentatively wandered towards the starting line. As the race began and the miles started to accumulate, I found myself thinking back to the past 16 weeks and all they had meant. I recalled my 15-mile run in the snow and all of the workouts in the rain. I remembered all the hours I spent after so many workouts trying to recover, stretch and not upset my weak and fragile post-workout digestive system. I thought of how I had contracted COVID-19 halfway through training and then how I had injured my foot two weeks before race day. Suddenly, I realized that if the past 16 weeks had taught me anything, it was how to be a more diligent human being.

When I started preparing for this race back in December, I wasn’t naive — I knew running a marathon was going to be difficult, but I also had the belief that I’d be able to do it. However, week after week, this belief was tested. My weekly training plan — which came from a book titled “Run Less Run Faster” by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr and Ray Moss — involved three different running workouts. Each workout emphasized either oxygen intake, lactate metabolism or running efficiency and was paired with two non-running but still aerobic-based workouts, such as cycling or swimming. 

These workouts were challenging, of course. In the first two months of training, I often wrongly assumed the ease of some workouts, only to find myself gasping for breath, wanting to quit and cursing my arrogance an hour later. I learned that what sounded or looked easy on paper consistently proved otherwise.

As a result of my overconfidence, I often found myself humbled by these exceptionally difficult workouts. I was both mentally and physically defeated — and also painfully reminded of all the work I had left between then and April’s race day. Eventually though, I learned that carrying a sense of humility and respecting the workouts made them easier on my mind and body. With this new perspective, I diligently prepared myself for a significant amount of hurt three times a week. 

But this newfound humility also began to seep into the rest of my thought processes and approach to life. I started asking myself what I had presumed about a given task before starting. In effect, I learned to analyze and adjust how I would subconsciously approach everything — from studying for exams to completing reading assignments — such that I was rarely underprepared or overwhelmed by these challenges. 

I also tried to avoid talking about how long or how fast I had run on a given day, as I knew that I was still not where I wanted to be or thought I should be in terms of fitness. But of course, humility wasn’t the only lesson that running taught me. When my incrementation of weekly long runs — slower-paced runs that are meant to build endurance — surpassed 12 miles, discipline became everything.

From going to bed at 12 a.m. each night to my pre-run routine, from the decision to start a workout to keeping my pace during the workout and from my post-workout stretches to my strength and mobility exercises — discipline was beyond a necessity. There were so many days when I wanted to cut corners, and I’ll admit there were some days that I did — days when I didn’t actually stretch and many more when I didn’t get a good eight hours of sleep. 

After struggling to keep to my regimen, it eventually occurred to me that being disciplined is simply making the next choice correctly. When faced with whether I should sleep in an extra hour or get up so that I can finish my workout before class, I couldn’t think about how sleepy I felt at that moment. I had to learn to focus on making one good choice at a time, and that’s what I realized discipline is all about — making the right choice at a particular moment.

I will be eternally grateful for both the insight into what it means to be disciplined, as well as my new, less-presumptive outlook. Unfortunately, I lack the ability and wordspace to properly express to you how fulfilling crossing that finish line was in a single column. Despite the physical pain and mental anguish I was experiencing around 10 a.m. that Saturday, I’d go back again and do it 1,000 times over. 

But in the end, my advice for you is actually not to run a marathon — instead, start chasing your dreams now. The amount of uncertainty that we’ve lived through this past year with the pandemic is what drove me to start this journey back in December. Running a marathon was one of my big life goals that I said I’d complete at some point, but the experience of the past 12 months led me to realize how opportunities we take for granted can disappear overnight. There’s no time to waste — find your dream and live it.

Mario Rosales is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at


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