What I Wish I Knew Before My First Marathon at 43



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Do you consider yourself a non-runner? Zipporah 'Zip' Allen, Chief Business Officer at Strava, felt the same way two years ago. 

Now at 43, she’s a marathoner—something she never imagined for herself. In this article, she shares with Women's Health how she's redefining her perception of a runner, step by step.

Discovering a New Passion

I never identified as a fitness enthusiast, although I did grow up dancing and doing ballet, even considering a career in dance at one point.

During my 20s and 30s, I preferred Pilates or yoga as my go-to fitness activities, with running never making it to my list.

When I started working at Strava, a fitness app that tracks exercise, I realized I needed to understand both the product and the community.

Running seemed like the best way to familiarize myself with the app’s functionalities and user experience.

I set a goal to run a half marathon to help myself commit to regular running. My initial run was a two-mile loop around my house, and I was left wondering how people managed to run for hours.

Overcoming Initial Challenges

Initially, I ran too fast. Everyone advised me to slow down to sustain longer runs. It was all trial and error; I genuinely had no idea what I was doing.

I felt overwhelmed, especially when I was exhausted after just two miles. The thought of running 11 more miles to complete a half marathon seemed daunting.

However, I gradually worked my way up to 13 miles and, to my surprise, found that I enjoyed running.

I participated in a local half marathon in Orange County, California, and was that overly enthusiastic person smiling throughout the race. The experience was so enjoyable that I decided to keep running.

Finding Joy in Running

Soon, I began to look forward to my runs and noticed that my days were much better when I ran in the morning.

Running became my form of active meditation—a time for myself. I also started a small running club with a few other moms, using it as an opportunity to catch up with friends.

Running a marathon was never on my to-do list, but I figured if I could run a half marathon, I could probably train for a full one. The training turned out to be something I loved.

The Marathon Experience

Marathon day was the toughest running day I've experienced. The atmosphere was electrifying, but my personal run was challenging.

I started cramping at mile eight—much earlier than expected.

The sheer number of participants was overwhelming, and starting the race later in the morning conflicted with my usual training schedule.

Additionally, carrying my four-year-old son around New York City the day before wasn't the best pre-marathon preparation.

Despite the obstacles, I finished the marathon and plan to run the NYC marathon again this year because I’m competitive with myself.

Balancing Life and Training

Being a mother to two young children (ages eight and five) meant I had to train early in the morning.

With a demanding job starting at 8 am, my only training time was either in the early morning or after bedtime. Preferring to spend my evenings with my kids, I chose to run before they woke up.

Balancing marathon training with a full-time job and parenthood involves making choices—you can have it all, but not all at once.

I often said no to social events or suggested alternatives like lunch instead of drinks. I also aimed to complete my long runs on Friday mornings, freeing up my weekends for family time.

Empowerment Through Running

Starting to run later in life has brought me immense joy.

It's given me confidence as a woman in my 40s, showing me that my body is capable of amazing feats.

Having my kids in my late 30s, I discovered a new, stronger version of myself. I love that my daughter sees me being active and achieving goals.

She's even started joining me on runs, which is pretty special.

5 Lessons I Learned About Running a Marathon

1.      Don’t Compare Yourself: Avoid comparing your stats with others on Strava. Your runs will vary in pace, and that’s okay.

2.      Stick to a Routine: Establish a running schedule and stick to it. This helps manage a busy life, especially if you're a parent.

3.      Invest in Good Shoes: Go to a running store, get measured, and buy shoes suited for your needs. Function over fashion is key.

4.      Incorporate Cross-Training: Pilates and yoga are vital for flexibility and injury prevention. Strength training is equally important.

5.      Build Mental Resilience: Preparing for a marathon requires mental strength. Developing mental fitness helps push through challenges.

Concluding Thoughts

Running has given me newfound confidence and strength.

It's a powerful feeling to discover what your body can accomplish later in life. If you're inspired to take up running, remember that mental resilience and proper training are key.

And who knows? You might just discover a passion you never knew you had.


Source: womenshealthmag

The opinions shared in the GymNation blog articles are solely those of the respective authors and may not represent the perspectives of GymNation or any member of the GymNation team.