Choosing to run my first marathon was challenging, fun, and rewarding. It was also something I never thought I’d ever do. For anyone interested in tackling a marathon, or any other goal, here are my top 5 takeaways:
1. Set out a plan and stick with it
- I Found a 16 week Runners World plan online for a sub 3:15:00 marathon (http://Link here) and gave myself 18 weeks to complete the plan, knowing I’d likely encounter setbacks along the way (and I did – I needed 18 weeks to complete the plan due to minor injuries).
- Remained consistent – 6 runs per week was a lot in the beginning, but discipline, consistency, and seeing results over time made this routine easier as the weeks went on. Not getting discouraged and remaining positive in your first few weeks (when it is more challenging than fun) is important. In terms of positivity, you might even have to fake it until you make it some weeks. I can honestly say that I still do not love running, but I did love the challenge this experience presented. And while I don’t love every run, I do love the feeling I get after every run.
- Didn’t skip the tough stuff. Rain or shine or wind, getting out for the long run each weekend and doing the speed workouts are what ultimately paid the bills come race day. If you need to skip a run at times, then skip the easier stuff.
2. Adopt the Qualities of Those You Admire
- My friend Jake (RIP) was a former basketball player turned avid runner. I was following his running account @venomousvo2 until he was tragically killed. His dedication to running and self-improvement was inspiring. When he passed away, I became more focused on adopting the qualities that I admired in him. He had mental toughness, a thirst for improvement, and a positive approach to personal fitness. I tried to embody those qualities both as a tribute to him and as a way to improve my own running.
- My friend Stan is an ELITE runner to put it mildly. I think he owns every running record east of Montreal. I knew I would never reach Stan’s level of fitness, but I could try incorporating some of his routines into mine. 1) Morning runs – Stan logs a lot of miles before work; I’ve never been a morning person, but I decided that if the best runner I know was doing it, I should too. 2) Veganism – Stan’s diet is vegan, mine is not. Eight weeks before the race, I gave veganism my best shot. I did feel great during that period and felt more like Stan on race day because of it, which improved my self-belief (one runner even mistook me for Stan at the start line! lol).
3. Adopt Identity-Based Goal Setting
I read about this concept in James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. In his book, which I highly recommend, he explains the distinction between outcome-based goal setting and identify-based goal setting.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how it works:
Outcome-based goal: I am going to run a marathon.
Identity-based goal: I am a marathon runner.
In Atomic Habits, Clear explains how shifting to identity-based goal setting can change your approach to achieving your goals, and I agree. When I started running, I identified as a basketball player who wanted to run a marathon (outcome based). I’d go for runs and hope for the best, knowing that if I ran enough I’d probably be able to run a marathon.
Once I made the identity shift to view myself as a marathon runner instead of a basketball player trying to run a marathon, I began doing more things that “marathon runners” would do, like sticking to a training plan, morning runs, proper stretching, focused strength training, reading about running, and adapting my diet (I lost 16 pounds during the process). As a result, I felt like a marathon runner on race day and felt confident competing against other people who identified as marathon runners.
4. Establish a Support Network
Achieving any goal is easier when you have people supporting you, inspiring you, and holding you accountable.
- My wife Siobhan originally got me into running a few years back. She made sure it was easy for me to get out for long runs and was always squashing the self-doubt I would verbalize during the training process. She was also my in-house physiotherapist.
- My friends Trevor and Andrew made morning runs and long runs much more enjoyable, and their consistency also held me accountable (Andrew also crushed his first half-marathon and Trevor was my out-of-house physio).
- Stan was basically my one-stop-shop for everything running related. We would run together, I would ask him many questions, and he would always offer amazing advice and encouragement.
- My parents would often look after Rafa (3-year-old son) when I would head out for a Sunday long run and Siobhan would be home with Reese (10-month-old son).
- My friend Mike (another basketball player turned runner whom I admire) paced me on race day. Having him running with me was the equivalent of taking a Masterclass about marathon running during the actual race. We ran a 4 minute negative split, which I can confidently say would not have happened if I was left to my own devices on race day.
- Joining Strava, an online running community, was also a great way to find inspiration, receive encouragement, and remain accountable. PEI has an impressive and kind running community.
5. Begin with the End in Mind
The end game was always top of mind. My training plan was for a 3:15:00 time, and I would have been happy to finish the race in that time. My ultimate goal, however, was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which I knew would be nearly impossible if I didn’t put in the daily/weekly work. Having that lofty goal on my mind made it easier to do the work and make smarter decisions along the way.
In the end, I ran 2:56:23, which was fast enough to get me to Boston, and I even surprised myself. There’s no way I could have done it without these 5 things. And just an FYI, when I think of the Superstar Curriculum, I used elements of the following chapters during my marathon journey: 1,2,3,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,19,20,21,22,24,25,26,27.
The Magic of the Self
It’s always incredible watching a magician turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. After an act of magic, we are often left in awe, unable to comprehend how the magician pulled off what we just saw.
I’ve always been fascinated by acts of magic, and I’ve also always been fascinated by the results that self-motivated people yield. Recently, I’ve realized the magical similarities that exist between these two things:
Once you become internally motivated in your daily pursuits, your potential becomes magical. Much like a magician who leaves an audience wide-eyed and filled with wonder, self-motivation enables you to produce awe-inspiring results that others find amazing to witness and difficult to replicate.
When you deconstruct an act of magic, the (sad) reality is that there is no magic involved, yet there is no denying that the final results are often still magical. Highly motivated people achieve results using very much the same methods a magician learns to leave an audience in awe:
- The end result is only possible because of consistent practice. Magicians and internally motivated people produce incredible final results because of a disciplined approach to improvement, a willingness to fail yet keep trying, and strong attention to detail.
- What we don’t see is key. Magicians thrive on what they can do that that the audience cannot see, and the same is true for internally motivated people. The “unseen hours” of disciplined effort that self-motivated people pour into their goals are key to producing the results that make people say “wow – how did they do that?”
- The power of self-belief. Magicians believe they can create new versions of reality and make the impossible possible. Internally motivated also believe in their ability to make an old version of themselves disappear while a new one reappears before our very eyes.
At the end of the day, we all possess the ingredients required to create prestigious results.
There’s no magic to the above quote from Muhammad Ali, but it’s easy to see how his self-motivation was paramount to producing magical results.
You might not be a magician, but you can make your life a little more magical with self-motivation.
I had a cool experience on The High Performing Educator podcast with host, Sam Demma. It was my first podcast, so I was quite nervous, but Sam made it easy – he’s a pro! Check out the episode here as we discuss teaching and leadership philosophies:
Dealing with Deadlines
The way in which teachers choose to deal with late assignment submissions is an often-debated topic with a multitude of approaches. I shared my strategy via Twitter, and it seemed to be well received, so I decided to elaborate on it in case you’d like to try it this school year.
For assignments, I use a floating deadline.
For example, if I assigned a small project today (Wednesday), I might say that it is due any day next week. This approach allows students to build the assignment into their own unique (and busy) schedules. If students come to see me before the deadline ends and request an extension, I ask them to set the new deadline, which then becomes firm.
Why I like the floating deadline approach:
- Students seem to appreciate the flexibility of the floating deadline. Generally speaking, teenagers today are busier (and also more distracted) than ever. The floating deadline encourages students to prioritize their life and learning in a way where they can feel in control.
- It encourages ongoing assessment and dialogue. For students who submit assignments early in the week, I can provide verbal or written feedback and allow students to make improvements before the final day of the deadline. For students who haven’t submitted the assignment by mid-week, I can check in to see if the reason is schedule/time-management related or learner related. If it’s the latter, we can have a discussion to get the student back on track.
- It encourages student responsibility. If students aren’t going to demonstrate their learning within the floating deadline, they must come to see me before the deadline ends if they still wish to have the opportunity. Once they demonstrate this proactive behavior, they are then responsible for setting a new, reasonable deadline. From my experience, very few students try to take advantage of this. More so, they are grateful for any extension that they receive and try not to make it a habit. I also let students know that they can only go to the well so many times when it comes to requesting extensions.
- Better quality assignments are submitted. From my experience, generally speaking, students produce better work when they do not feel rushed. The floating deadline allows for more formative feedback for some, less rushed work for others, and overall better-quality work.
- Focuses on growth more than grades. No percentage points are deducted for late submissions. Fewer assignments are simply not-handed-in because I can meet with those who haven’t submitted yet and are struggling. I can provide feedback and allow time for improvements. And lastly, I’ve removed the common (and understandable) excuse of not having enough time!
That’s my floating deadline strategy (and rationale) in a nutshell. Should you choose to give it a try and have any questions or feedback, I’d love to hear from you. Happy teaching!