On Sunday, November 4, I finished the New York City Marathon for the second time, cutting 20 minutes off my last marathon. I’m really proud to call myself a two-time marathoner, but I struggled mightily on the back half of the course after running way too hard at the start (8:00 pace for the first 5K – what was I thinking?!?)

But over the last week I’ve been reflecting on my training and finishing and I feel really good about things heading into the 2019 running season, where my goal is to run NYC again and cut another 20 minutes off my time – but hopefully much more than that. Here are a few things I learned from my training, which I think are worthy takeaways for law practice and professional life too (one of things I liked most about putting myself through marathon prep):

Training runs without music are a great way to unplug and reflect on life.

I am in front of a screen – either my phone, or my computer – for hours every day. Mentally, I found my training runs to be incredibly relaxing, letting my mind wander or trying to empty it completely, depending on my mood. I don’t think I ever reached zen, but I always went to work after my training runs feeling mentally refreshed.

Actually, this fall was a very productive time for me, both here at Dollar Barrister, working through my reading list in the evenings, and getting projects finished at work outside of my regular work stream. For me, I found that a regular running schedule has very tangible benefits. I can’t wait to get back out there again in the spring!

Putting in the work every day will deliver results.

I trained four times per week for three months. As I’ll get into below, this was not enough to meet my marathon goal – a lesson I learned the hard way out on the course. But, anecdotally, I felt increasingly good both physically and mentally as my training wore on. I lost almost ten pounds, I had tons of energy in the evenings after work and putting the kids to bed, and, as I mentioned above, this fall was one of the most productive reading and writing periods of my recent life. So there were lots of benefits to just showing up each day and getting my training runs in.

One of the law firm partners I used to work for would always say that 95% of life is just showing up. I think this goes for marathon training, law practice, and everything else in life. Be there, be present, and good things will happen. I will reflect on that lesson for the rest of the calendar year where I hope to finish up things at work, and here at Dollar Barrister, very strong.

Quitting alcohol was the best thing I did during training.

I decided to stop drinking any alcohol while I trained. Very quickly I started to feel better than I have in a long time. I slept great – falling asleep easily, staying in a deep sleep all night without waking up – and my mind felt much clearer and more nimble than it has felt in years. If you’re looking to lose weight and just feel better generally, do it!

It was much easier than I thought it would be to quit alcohol entirely – after a few weeks it felt natural and now that my marathon training is over, it feels weird having a beer or a glass of wine. (But I’m sure I’ll get past that feeling soon!) I will absolutely do the same thing again when I train for my next marathon in 2019.

Twelve weeks is not long enough to train for a marathon.

In retrospect I think I grossly overestimated my fitness level going into this marathon training cycle. For the last couple of years, I have been running around 500 miles/year. The first part of 2018 I spent in the gym lifting weights and doing short runs on the treadmill afterwards. I didn’t start my training program until after our family vacation in early August. This was a big mistake. I simply didn’t have the endurance to finish the marathon at any reasonable pace, and my body just quit on me around mile 20.

I can’t imagine training for another marathon with anything less than a 16-week training program, and I would spend the prior weeks to beginning training working on building up a base level of cardio fitness and skipping heavy weight training. Already I’m looking for a winter weight training program that I can tack on after treadmill runs – I won’t prioritize weights over keeping my base level of running fitness intact until I can get back into a regular outdoor running schedule in the spring.

Like many things in life, running a marathon is really hard. But I will do it again.

It’s easy to say “I will run the marathon at a whatever pace” but it’s completely different out there at mile 20 when, as they say, the marathon really begins. I found myself walking frequently during those last six miles and I completely underestimated how my body would respond after three full hours of running. Next year, I think I will be mentally prepared for that wall, and have a better handle on keeping my pace in check during the first half of the race.

To do that, I plan on spending the first few winter months of 2019 in the gym lifting much lighter weights than I did in 2018 and perform more reps of exercises that are specific to runners – more lunges, hamstring curls, and upright rows than my lifting program in 2018. We’ll see how it goes, and I will report back here at Dollar Barrister on my progress (or just update you in the comments!)

Have you run a marathon? Any tips? Have you felt it impact your professional and personal life in positive ways? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!