Tag Archives: Watershed

10 Life Lessons Learned from Running the London Marathon

26 Apr

So the marathon is over and I figured if I’ve got nothing to say about training for a marathon then I probably won’t recognise inspiration if I see it ever again! What an experience! Months of training, weeks of fundraising and 3 hours 58 minutes of running through the streets of London cheered on by over 700,000 people! As you might know I’m studying at The Salvation Army College in London and we are encouraged to ‘reflect’ quite a bit so here are some reflections on my experience. I’ve come up with 10 life lessons learned inspired by running the marathon and hope they might be compatible in your life too whether you’re a runner or not. If they are not helpful, at least I’ve satisfied my need to reflect! So here goes…well after the picture of me at the end of the raise with my number 1 fan!


1)   Sow lots of seeds – I was set a fundraising target of £2000 which I worried I wouldn’t achieve but actually a few days after the marathon it looks more like £4000! This is largely down to the generosity of people, especially given the economic climate. However, I think it is also because I tapped into a number of different fundraising avenues such as events, support from local businesses, social media, doing guest speaking, a publicity campaign and getting in papers. Thank you everyone who sponsored me!

2)   Create space in your life – Someone asked me whether I thought “spirituality” and running are linked. I have come to the conclusion that they are not linked directly but are associated via the space. What I mean is that I haven’t had an increased sense of spirituality because of running per se, but the ‘space’ that running provides in my busy and cluttered twenty first century life facilitated time to think, to pray and reflect. No checking football news, no Facebook, no TV.

3)   Aim higher than your perceived potential – My training suggested I would finish the marathon in around 4 hours and 15mins, perhaps 4 hours at best – a good time although not super fast! Anyway I decided to aim to run a consistent pace that would bring me home at around 3 hours 42 mins, knowing as I became more tired I would have 18 minutes as a buffer to reach my 4-hour target. However, my ambitious pace (for me) meant I knew I was above target for most of the race and eventually came home at 3 hours 58 mins. Now while aiming too high in life can have negative consequences, I think if you aim higher than your perceived best in life you just might surprise yourself and find your true potential.  If you fall slightly short you will probably meet your original perceived best anyway.

4)   Know what takes priority in life – Whilst I tried to protect my training schedule, sometimes I just had to cancel because I knew that when the really important things in life reared their head, as they do, I felt fine just to cancel. It’s easy to get this one wrong when you get into a hobby or work. But because our lives are interconnected we know our aims can come at the cost of those around us, and I believe this is having an impact on family life in society. This is the kind of lesson you learn the hard way too.

5)   Seek and take advice from experts – I muddled on with a knee injury for two months without seeking proper advice. I tried to manage my body after doing some internet research but really if I’d gone to a doctor earlier I would have been able to train to a faster time and had less pain.

6)   Be economic with time – Training for a marathon takes up a lot of time especially if you’re fundraising as well. Now while it could have taken over my life, I tried to manage it in such a way that where possible I integrated life and my running schedule. For example, my wife occasionally came running with me on short runs, I listened to lectures whilst running and I ran to or from appointments I had – often beating London transport! Inevitably, training for a marathon has a huge impact on time but the marginal gains available from being economic with time are the difference between it all becoming too much and having a sustainable balance in life.

7)   Enlist support and find the people who energize you – On race day my family and friends were dotted around the course cheering me on which was such a support. In the months before the race and throughout my fundraising I had a whole community at The Salvation Army training college and online who encouraged me. Thanks guys!

 8)   Allow people to help you with their gifting’s and skills – Some people are born fundraisers and took some of that burden off me. Others hosted fundraising nights, cooked food and assisted with administration etc. It’s amazing what a group of people can achieve.

9)   Get the right equipment – Whatever your aim is in life, if practically possible try and get good equipment to help you achieve your potential. For me that meant some proper running shoes and socks!

10) Hard work will always overcome natural talent when natural talent does not work hard enough (Sir Alex Ferguson) – I beat former athletics Olympic medallist Iwan Thomas, although he’s getting on a bit now! However, I think this quote from football manager Alex Ferguson is really insightful. It’s an encouragement to those of us without obvious natural talent, and a warning to those who have.

Hope these we’re helpful and translate into your own life!


P.S If you want to contribute to my fundraising effort to give people clean and safe water through The Salvation Army’s international development work click on the following link. Thank you! https://www.justgiving.com/Ben-Cotterill1/