5 Life lessons from running my first marathon

It’s officially been one month since I crossed the finish line at the Boston marathon with tears streaming down my face and legs that felt like jello. Nothing went as I’d planned—like most things in life—but I still wouldn’t change a thing.

Now that it’s all over, I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something. After months of nonstop training, it’s a little strange to have so much free time on my hands. I definitely don’t miss my 4am wake up calls or trying to fit a 20 mile run into my already packed schedule. But I do miss is the challenge of the marathon and running for a cause like Dream Big! Working toward a tangible goal really helped me commit to working out and taking care of my body—something that was easy to let slide after having three kids.

After four weeks of much-needed recovery, I’m finally getting back into the swing of things and am contemplating my next challenge. (Any suggestions!?) It’s been fun to reconnect with my running group on our organized runs, which I’ve discovered I find a lot of comfort in. It’s also shown me how far I’ve come since this journey began—and how much running 26.2 miles has taught me. Here’s what I learned…
Genevieve Padalecki Running Her First Boston Marathon

#1 Be your own cheerleader

When I ran the Seattle half marathon, I shied away from talking about training and played it off like I didn’t care or try very hard, which was a lie – because I did! This time, I decided to be open and honest about all the work I put in for Boston and how important it was to me to do well. It pushed me to keep going when I wanted to quit and showed me that being my own cheerleader wasn’t about bragging, but about honoring and embracing who I am and what’s meaningful to me.

#2 It’s ok to be competitive

In the beginning, I just wanted to finish the race. Then it turned into running the race AND getting a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon (3:35). I said once I cross the finish line I’m done! I’m never doing these long runs again. Well, I crossed at 3:36:59… and now I’m rethinking my stance and contemplating running again just so I can achieve my goal time. Crazy? Maybe. But I’ve always liked a challenge. I know “competition” is often seen as a dirty word, but I think a little healthy competition can be good for us. It teaches tenacity, gets me outside my comfort zone and motivates me to do better.

#3 It takes a village

It wasn’t just me that got me across the finish line. If it weren’t for my husband waking up early to watch the kids, or my coach Erik Stanley driving to my house to physically make sure I got my long runs in, I couldn’t have done it. Or my friend Kelly Trudell sending screaming texts to me to wake up and send my splits to her to analyze, or my therapist who I cried to about the insanity of it all—and of course my family, friends and countless people that showed up on race day to serve me nourishment and refreshments to cheer me and every other runner on. There is no way I could have done what I did without them—and YOU! I’m so grateful to everyone who joined me on this journey by signing up for the N&G Challenge or who shared their encouragement via social media and donations to Dream Big! Thank you.

#4 It’s all in your head

The first 20 miles are physical, the last 10k are completely mental. Around mile 22 my feet went numb (I have black and blue toes to prove it) and I could feel my body dragging. To keep cool, I kept dumping water on my head. This caused my Apple Watch to go into “water-proof mode”, disconnecting from my ear buds and leaving me without music or a way to track my pace. Similarly to a birth plan, the story I had in my head for what my first marathon would be like went out the window. I felt totally defeated. I wanted to stop, walk and just Uber home, but had to regroup and convince myself to keep going. I realized the marathon is as much a mental challenge as a physical one. My will was the only thing that was going to power me across the finish line (and some oranges and bananas from generous spectators on the sidelines). I just kept telling myself that the pain was temporary. That I’d be angry with myself if I didn’t keep going after all the energy, time, blood, sweat and tears I’d put into training. Without music to tune out to, I also started listening to the crowds cheering and how the runners around me were breathing. It’s a memory I’ll keep with me forever. Looking back now, it feels like kind of a happy accident that my watch stopped working. It forced to me to really soak it all in and be present in that moment—and prove to myself that I was more capable than I thought.

#5 Live with intention

When I took on something as time-consuming as marathon training, and found a way to make it work, it showed me that there’s a lot more wasted time in my day than I think. Life is definitely chaotic with three kids, but I also take for granted the hours I spend scrolling on social media or zoning out to Vanderpump Rules. I had to really prioritize because there wasn’t much room for error in my training schedule. And now that the marathon is over, I want to fill that extra time with more intention. I want to focus on projects I feel passionate about and spend quality time with my kids and my husband—without the stress of a bunch of miles hanging over my head. Or at least this time they can run with me. 😉

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  • Sabrina Travers

    Running Boston is SUCH an accomplishment! I personally never have but my husband has and growing up here I’ve always loved watching it. Seeing you and Jared and all the runners cross the line was such a fun experience. I know exactly what you mean with the lost feeling after a race, I felt that way after a half marathon I did last year in Boston with so much effort into training. Unfortunately I have a foot injury from it that I’m still grounded from but found other workouts to replace it. There’s nothing like running though! Love this post Gen!

  • Rai

    Thank you for sharing this! It addresses some of the things I felt training for my 10K and now while training for my first Half Marathon. It’s easy to forget that things aren’t as easy or pretty as Instagram makes them appear and it’s nice to be reminded that, while the struggle is real, it’s also worth it.

  • Anne Groniger

    Thank you! I loved reading this. This struck home on a lot of points. I’m not a runner, but it made me thing a lot about prioritizing life. Again, thank you for sharing.

  • Paul c

    Very proud of you today I am impressed that you ran the Boston Marathon that always makes me feel sad after what happened so anybody who accomplishes that is a great person.Keep up the good work and remember that family matters . It sounds like you know how to juggle with three kids, I also had kids and it was always difficult I’m very excited to talk about things like that I know it’s not easy I’m sure you juggle tons of things especially being such a good actor keep Up the good work I’d like to see you want TV again in a different show so if you decide to go back into your acting career let the world know

  • Betty Black

    So proud of you for completing the Boston Marathon. How about we tackle a Tough Mudder? An all woman team would be amazing! I am in!!!

    • Krista

      A few of us are doing one in June 🙂 Supernatural Mudders!

  • Hailey Owens

    I am so proud of you! I can’t thank you enough for sharing your journey. You couldn’t be more right by saying that it takes a village! It holds us accountable and keeps us humble. I hope you continue to share your goals with us. Love you, Gen.

  • Breanna D Johnson

    I’m going to go hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim (20 miles), so you could try that. The Appalachian trail is 2,000+ miles and you could hike it in sections, Start at the last point you left off. Could be a fun way to get the kids out camping. Obviously, there are mountains to climb, and rivers to Kayak too. Lots of options. Take a look at what’s on the bucket list and see how you can expand on it even more.

  • Stephanie

    I am so incredibly proud of you!! A marathon run isn’t for everyone. It takes hard work and dedication in training. It was fun to watch and read about your training journey. It helped me when I was training for my half marathon that I ran in March. It’s great that you can reflect and take lessons out of everything you did. Yes, it is most definitely a mental exercise. I haven’t run one yet, but it is on my bucket list. Likely will be next year, but the end of this year isn’t off the table yet… Congratulations on finishing Boston!

  • Amanda Scott

    I have ran 5Ks for supporting Feet, Fins, and Flippers few years until my Dad passed from cancer in 2015. Just reading your stories about mental is so true. I’ve always tell myself that healthy foods and water is my fuel just like gas is car’s fuel. One feet in front of the another was my another to-go quote in my head.
    Thank you for sharing your story, Gen. Its really pleasure to read your journey.

  • Kalee Rustvold

    I more recently began running for the sole purpose of wanting to feel better about myself. Thank you for sharing your journey with everyone. You have been inspirational to me and I am very appreciative of that. ?

  • Angelica Lacarra

    I was a single mom that raised 2 young men,that in itself teaches you so much. While raising my boys yes even though their now young adults they’ll always be my boys aside from raising them and working 50 hours a week I became primary caregiver to my parents who have grave illnesses and are now handling end of life issues. Caring for my parents has taught me so much patience its also given me the opportunity to see that just because our parents become unable to care for themselves they should still deserve to have dignity and empathy. Just as I was feeling like I had finally gotten into a groove with their care and my workload and trying to keep it together,life taught me the biggest lesson so far. I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer and my world came to a completely stop nothing prepares you for hearing that between the diagnosis the surgery , the recovery and the extreme financial hardship that comes after you learn not to sweat the small stuff. Now no matter whats going on I try to always look on the bright side because I just as easily couldn’t have survived. So proud of you and Jared and the way you inspire us all to always be kind.It truly does make a difference in someone’s life.

  • Danielle McWherter

    What an accomplishment this is! I loved reading this new post, especially the last part about how adding something so time consuming to your routine highlighted how much of our day we sometimes waste mindelessly. Within the last year I’ve taken up running again and started cycling and, though on a smaller scale, I’ve noticed how easily I could add even a short workout into my daily stay-at-home mom routine. It feels good to do something for myself and to cut out some wasted time in my day, and you inspire me to push a little harder!

  • Antoinette

    Congratulations! I knew you could do it, be proud!! I also would like to know what kind of shoe you were wearing, me and my daughter ran a 5k on may 11, it took me 38 min! but I made it and now I am recovering from achilles pain , I got it in my right leg first while still running on the treadmill so I was out for a while, now it is the left one after running the 5k, i am trying to find out what is a good shoe for running.

  • Christine

    You have definitely inspired me to run more regularly and to push myself a little more than I had before. Loved the article.

  • Chris

    Congratulations on finishing the marathon! That is a major accomplishment!
    How about something completely different for your next challenge like American Ninja Warrior training? A lot of gyms focus on this type of training now, and even have obstacles for kids to train. Maybe something you could do with your boys!
    Whatever your next challenge is, I’m sure you will give it your all! Have fun!

  • Tiffany Schweikhart

    You are such an inspiration! And I love your orange shoes! I have never been a runner, but my goal is to at least do a 5K within the next year or so.

  • Azalee Cole

    You inspired me to run again. I’m 44 with 3 kids and hadn’t ran since I was 19. I can honestly say I feel so much better in so many ways. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Michaela ✨

    Thanks so much Gen ? You have inspired me when I was giving up and not realising it. I am wanting to find that intention in my life. I am single so would like to find ❤ I am earning to have a baby but been single so long that my time is running out and I am turning a corner with my health. I take Yoga because of you, I use head space and love listening to the singing bowls on YouTube, I never knew they existed! I could go on but won’t bore you. The point I am making is since you started your blog you have helped and inspired me, a total stranger, from another country (UK) and never likely to meet and speak to in life but I am not able to find the word that describes just how much I want to thank you ??✨???? I am so grateful for you ?

  • Sara

    Gen you are such an inspiration, reading the last little bit of you losing your comfort in n music and being present brought tears to my eyes because I know the feeling of letting go of some comfort to really bring out an experience. I appreciate you’re openness and honesty of how fun and totally mind breaking and just how hard work can change anything in you’re life. Keep running, I plan to run in a 5k (my first :]) in September and I just cant wait to have it be part of my life as a hobbie of mine. Thank you for being you!

  • Ellen Backlin

    I’m 59 and did my first tough mudder 5k last year. I’ve been running (jogging) for a few years now but being amusician, I definitely needed music. I started my weight loss journey about 7 years ago. From 210 lbs. To 150 lbs. Through my exercising it has helped the anxiety depression too. I’m competing with myself but I have a bit of a setback because of some sciatic pain. Still going to do tough mudder this year, warrior dash, big10k, muckfest for MS, and just did susan g Komen last sunday. Thank you for your inspiring story. God bless. I just met jared in April and got my hug. You’re so blessed.

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