How Running a Marathon Changed My Mindset

By Kara Reynolds – February 1, 2022

When you hear the word “marathon,” what comes to mind? Completing one of these races has long been held as an enviable fitness achievement. Some may see it as close to impossible, but as a mom of four beautiful children and a finisher, I’m here to tell you that it is doable — even with young children. 

Here are four ways running a marathon changed my mindset about life.

1. I Showed My Kids That Play Time Matters 

Play is fluff, right? It’s like dessert. Yes, it’s lovely if you have it at the end of a delicious meal, but it isn’t necessary to still enjoy the main course. 


Running a marathon taught me that play isn’t an accessory to the rest of your existence. Play is life. Even though my “recess” took considerable effort, it was nevertheless necessary to move my body daily. The new World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines say even adults need 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity each week to maintain positive health. 

Play for children is even more vital. Preschool-aged children need to remain physically active throughout the day, and even older kids need an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise daily. Without it, their young muscles and bones won’t develop the way they should. Furthermore, childhood obesity rates continue to climb, and the extra weight doesn’t get easier to shed with age. 

I reveled in training with my children. I couldn’t take them with me on my longer runs. However, we spent many a pleasant afternoon practicing sprints at the playground and rest days taking turns pushing the stroller around the local park. I wouldn’t trade that time spent laughing with my littles for the world. I also instilled the unspoken message that moving your body is fun — a habit that will continue to benefit their health way into old age.

2. I Gained a New Appreciation for My Body and Its Abilities

people running in a marathon on a wet surface.

Becoming a mom is tough — what they say about childbirth pain is real. However, you forget it soon afterward. Plus, you have time to recover between kids. I had at least a good year between each of my babies. 

When I was training for a marathon, I only had a day or two to recover between long runs. There were many mornings I woke up sore, climbed out of bed with a groan and laced up my sneakers anyway. Doing so took a degree of inner fortitude I didn’t know I had. After all, I had the choice of hitting snooze, something Mother Nature didn’t let me do after my water burst. 

Before running a marathon, I was a little afraid to test my limits. Now, I know it’s OK to push my body within reason. Sometimes, it’s even fun. 

3. I Enhanced My Tenacity in Daily Life 

All that early morning chutzpah spilled over into other activities. For example, I used to get frustrated when I would finish cleaning, and one of my littles would rip the top off their sippy cup, spilling milk hither and yon, painting my living room like Elsie gone rogue. 

Nowadays, I try to find humor in the situation. Laughing through my pain while (s)logging my miles made marathon training much more pleasant. There’s even science to back up the idea that making a happy face when you don’t feel like it can help you get through challenging tasks

In a study published by the National Institutes of Health, participants used chopsticks to manipulate their facial muscles while engaged in a stressful task. Those who held their face in a smiling position evidenced fewer stress markers than those who maintained a neutral expression.  

4. I Started Looking at Food Differently 

Someone high-fiving someone at a marathon.

I’ve always tried to eat healthily. However, I’m as fond of potato chips as the next person. Food and I used to have a love-hate affair. I wanted it — but not the extra pounds that could result from too much of the wrong thing. 

However, running a marathon made me remove my internal Judge Judy from my dinner plate. I began rating foods not as “good” or “bad” based on my fears of weight gain but by how likely they were to fuel me for my next workout. Did they have sufficient fiber and protein to keep me feeling full during a long run? Did I have veggies in various colors to improve my phytonutrient intake?

This new attitude toward eating couldn’t have come at a better time. My eldest is preparing to enter her teenage years soon. As many as 10 in every 100 girls of this age develop an eating disorder. I didn’t want maladaptive attitudes toward food rubbing off on my kids. Marathon training helped me see dinnertime as a time to bond and nourish our bodies, not stress over every calorie. 

Marathon training changed my mindset in the four key ways above. The journey has made me a better person and mother, and I’m very grateful for the lessons learned. 


About the Author

Kara Reynolds smiling.

Kara Reynolds is the founder and editor-in-chief of Momish Magazine, an inclusive parenting magazine filled with parenting hacks, advice and more to keep your beautiful family thriving.


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