What Now?

Leah reflects on her journey and looks ahead to the future, after completing her Big Marathon Challenge

What Now?

It’s all over. All of the hours put in, all of the miles covered – it’s all been and gone in the blink of an eye.

Well, not quite the blink of an eye. More like one gruelling long day that seemed to go on forever, but you get the gist.

And the question looms over me, what now? If, like me, this was your first (possibly more like me – one and only) marathon, then what do we do now? I seem to have more free time than ever before since I no longer have to follow a training programme, and I’m at a loss of how best to convert what I’ve learned.

I’ve loved the experience of the #bigmarathonchallenge – it’s been an incredible journey, both physically and mentally. But, I can’t keep this up forever, and now I have to find something that’s attainable, enjoyable and, above all else, do-able!

I need to become a runner, of sorts. At the moment I’m still sidelined by back problems, and I’m going a little bit crazy. I am by nature a very competitive person. It’s why I loved playing tennis, and then later, coaching at an American University. I thrived on the weekly preparation, competition and analysis cycle. It’s also the reason why, post tennis, I’m obsessed with my fantasy football team. I can’t help it, I need an outlet.

For a while, before the long runs got really hard, running was my outlet. That feeling of just doing something good for my body and soul allowed me to step away from the everyday and remember what it was like to be outdoors being active all day. I’m really looking forward to getting back to that but – here’s the kicker – there’s a part of me that worries that won’t be good enough.

How do you quiet that voice in your mind that says, “A 35-minute 5K isn’t good enough?” How do you go from running 30+ miles a week to barely scraping 10 and feeling satisfied with it? I read an article a few years ago that talked about athletes who no longer exercise. It said that, once you’ve been at your peak, it’s really hard to settle for less than being your best, and so uber-competitive people will often just walk away from sport altogether. Please don’t confuse this. I am by no means calling myself an athlete here on the running front. I’m just saying it’s a conundrum.

I don’t want to run another marathon, but the competitor in me is trying to shift the goal posts of what is and isn’t achievable or acceptable, and that’s really hard to overcome.

A few days before the expo I bumped into Richard, our running coach, who talked to me at length about not letting this marathon be the end of my journey. He was just lovely, telling me that I’d come a really long way in a really short space of time, and that I should think beyond the marathon to what I wanted my future in running to look like. The marathon was just a part of the process, he said, and that continuing with running would be the ultimate goal.

What Now?

It was exactly what I needed to hear. This is a process, a journey. In fact, it’s a habit. It’s not a goal or a race, it’s a lifestyle. It’s learning to be okay with running, or not running. It’s learning to love the process of discovery in terms of what I can do and can’t do, it’s learning to manage my time and my body, and it’s finding friends and supporting the running community.

So, that’s what I’ll do now. I’ll go back to the drawing board. I’ll harbor my competitive spirit into my fantasy football team, and I’ll go back to plodding around at the back of parkrun with a smile on my face.


Leah Mcdaniel

Written by Leah Mcdaniel | 4 articles | View profile

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