My Best Time for a Marathon

The marathon.

A 26.2-mile journey that rightfully summons up visions of endurance and accomplishment.

The world’s fastest runners (that we know about) complete this trek in just over two hours.

I completed a marathon last week.

It wasn’t my first. It was my third. I walked most of it, and ran a little of it. That’s how I did my first two marathons as well.

The first one took about seven and a half hours. The second one took just over six hours. The one I did last week was my best time ever.

It took me seven days.

That’s right. It took me a full week to complete last week’s marathon. And I consider it my best time for a marathon.

Why is that my best time? It’s my best time because it’s an accomplishment I can repeat again and again, if I want to. I can do a marathon every week, if I put my mind to it.

Had you asked me a few weeks ago if I could do a marathon every week I would have thought, “No, I don’t want to put the time in for training. Marathons make me sore, and I hobble around for days. It’s everything I can do to complete one marathon. There’s no way I can do one a week.”

I would have had a pretty negative conversation with myself.

I thought more clearly about it, and realized I was looking at the task as a great big one, and was intimidated by the prospect of it.

So I asked myself, “How about I break this big challenge up into more manageable segments that I know I can accomplish? How about I commit to walking every day or so, with the objective of reaching 26.2 miles in a week?”

That’s about 3.75 miles a day, or about an hour of walking at a reasonable pace, for me, each day. Maybe I’ll do a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the evening. Maybe I’ll sleep in and do an hour in the evening. Maybe I’ll miss a day, and do a little more on the rest of the days to catch up. Maybe I’ll do a little more one or two days, and be able to slack off on some other days, or maybe even skip a day or two.

I said, “Yeah, I can do that.”

Then a thought crept in my mind that other people might say, “Well, that doesn’t count. That’s not a real marathon. You can’t take credit for that.”

More bad conversation with myself.

I thought more clearly about it, and realized if I let that kind of thinking stop me, I would be letting other people define what success means for me.

So I asked myself, “How about I decide for myself what my success looks like? How about I define what an accomplishment is for me and what I will celebrate?”

I said, “Yeah, I will do that.”

Then I went out and did a marathon that took me seven days. I kept my goal in mind. I stuck to my plan and kept track of my progress. I did a little more some days and a little less other days. I felt good about my success along the way. I shared the good news about my progress with some friends. I made it. I succeeded.

I’m happy with my accomplishment, it was good for my mental and physical health, and I learned a few lessons I can apply more broadly.

What are those lessons?

Think clearly and have positive conversations with yourself.

Identify a goal. Having a specific goal helps you stay on track.

Break the big projects down into manageable segments. Make steady progress on what you want to accomplish.

Keep track of your progress and assess how you’re doing with your goal. Make adjustments to your plan as needed.

Take a day off if you want to.

Define success on your own terms rather than letting others tell you what is or is not good.

Celebrate your accomplishments – along the way and when you complete a goal.

Give yourself credit.

Ask yourself this week:

Am I holding myself back by seeing goals or things I want to accomplish as huge projects that I won’t be able to complete?

Am I having good, positive conversations with myself, or am I having negative, harmful conversations with myself?

Where can I make small and steady progress towards accomplishing an important goal? How will I measure my progress, and how will I celebrate my success along the way?

Do I let others define my success, or do I define success based on my vision for me?

Do I have a vision for me?


© 2013 Rob Otte

Rob Otte is a teacher, speaker, writer and coach. He is the Director of Corporate Training and Development for Roehl Transport, Inc. in Marshfield, Wisconsin. Roehl Transport is a freight transportation and logistics company employing 2,500 people. You may contact Rob at