Running in a Marathon Changed My Life

Paul Grossi, Beaver, PA      e-mail:

Editor’s Note:  Paul Grossi works for a small global company.  While working full time, he earned his BS in Business Administration from Penn State and went on to earn his Masters in Project Management & Leadership from Geneva College.

I never had any interest in running; it never appealed to me. But some years back, my life and health was headed in the wrong direction and out of balance. I was going to school and working full time. I had a stressful, sedentary lifestyle. I was challenging and pushing myself mentally but doing nothing physically. I was putting on weight, and at the age of 35, I set a goal to run my first marathon and attempt to turn my health around.

Paul Gross is on the front left extreme.

Paul Gross is on the front left extreme.

A marathon is a 26.2-miles-long endurance test. The first marathon I attempted was the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2010.  I underestimated the challenge and didn’t train well. I just thought I would do the best I could and coast to the end post.

I quickly discovered that running in a marathon was one of the hardest things I had ever attempted. It rained nonstop the entire race and the most difficult part was finishing the last six miles. My body, and more importantly my mind as well, were not prepared for the difficult challenge. I did however complete the marathon in 5 hours and 46 minutes.  Crossing that finish line and accomplishing a goal I had set for myself encouraged me to improve and do better.

Shortly after, I joined Steel City Road Runners, a great community of runners in Pittsburgh. They were a very good support group and didn’t care how fast or slow you ran. I found people faster than me and people slower than me.

I began entering smaller races, 5K’s to 10K’s, and doing weekly training runs with the new group. I really enjoyed running with them.  They motivated me to keep running and not give up.

The group began putting training plans together for various races and marathons. A plan for a marathon consists of 16 to 18 weeks of training in which you increase your mileage every week, and have one long run on weekends. Ultimately, the longest weekend run increases to 20 miles, and then you are ready for the marathon.

I learned about the importance of pacing, not starting too fast and taught myself not to give up mentally. I also learned the importance of hydration, stretching, and how to recover after a long run.

Since the 2010 Pittsburgh marathon, I have completed five full marathons.  I’ve improved my time by about 20 minutes on every race.  My current fastest marathon time is 4 hours and 3 minutes. I do plan to run many more marathons in the future, maybe even a few ultra-marathons.  My ultimate goal is to qualify for the Boston marathon next year in which my time needs to be under 3 hours and 15 minutes.

I found that the best thing you can do is surround yourself with a community of supportive and encouraging people that share the same goals. For runners this supportive community helps continually motivate you to   become better. Running a marathon is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge. Running makes you mentally strong and teaches you not to give up when things become tough.

Running in a Marathon is a great metaphor for life. In life, just like when running, there will be some tough times. Everyone has to decide whether to give up when things get tough, or to keep moving through the difficult times. During these tough times, we test ourselves and find out how strong we really are and what we are really made of.

Running is not about distance alone—it’s about setting personal goals, challenging yourself and seeing what you are capable of accomplishing. Whether you run a full marathon, or a 5K, or however fast or slow you are, it’s all about reaching your goals and continually working to get better.

It’s a blessing to be able to get out and run every day. You can enjoy the outdoors, get away from problems and set goals for yourself. Most people don’t know what they are capable of until they begin to set goals and start accomplishing them.

Running has changed my life bringing me balance and happiness. I can get away from the stresses of the day and relax during running.  It’s my time to think clearly and cope with any issue. I do my best thinking when I’m running and am always in a better mood after a run. Running has improved my health and has brought many other positive changes into my life. I feel that I have become a stronger person because of running.

I recommend running for anyone that has a busy schedule and wants to improve their mental and physical health. Running is by far the easiest, cheapest, and fastest way to improve your mood, your health, and outlook on life.  Running has improved my life in so many ways.  It has energized me and given me a new outlook on life.  I’m happy and excited to call myself a runner. ♦

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