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Blessing Omakwu: 5 Lessons I Learned While Marathon Training



IMG_4979If someone had told me I would run a marathon across 3 countries a few years ago, I would have laughed till I peed in my pants. A few years ago, I was so overweight that I could barely walk up a flight of stairs without gasping for air. Everything changed one day my second year in university, when I had to do a BMI test as part of the requirements for my health class. The results I got shocked me- I was clinically obese. That day, I reached a turning point. I started by making small changes to my diet, and by going to the gym for a few minutes every day. Slowly but surely the pounds started to fall off. The first time I ran a full mile in the gym without stopping, I had tears in my eyes. It was something I never thought I would be able to do, and in that moment, my definition of possibility began to expand.

Fast forward to October 4, 2014: that day, I finished the Sparkasse Marathon. The 42.2km race began on the picturesque island of Lindau (a southern Bavarian city in Germany), and took me through several towns in Austria (Lochau, Bregenz, Hard, Fußach, Höchst), over the Swiss border to St Margrethen (a town in Switzerland) and back to the finish line at the Casino Stadium in Bregenz, Austria.

During the 6 months prior to the marathon, I trained as much as I could. From the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge to the Brooklyn Bridge; from Millennium Park to Central park- I ran hundreds of miles through Abuja, Lagos and New York in preparation. Those miles gave me many hours to think, and many opportunities to learn. Running is such a metaphor for life!

Here are 5 life lessons that I learned while marathon training:

Just Do It
There were many valid reasons why I should not have even dared to set this goal for myself. In 2013, I got a lung infection that made me sick for a good portion of the year and unable to do intense exercise. By the start of 2014 my health was much better and I asked myself: What would you do if you weren’t afraid? Run a full marathon was one of my answers. The first few times I tried to run, I got bad asthma attacks because of the fumes from all the old trucks and cars on Abuja roads. But I was determined. I got the medication I needed from my doctor, and woke up super early when the roads were mostly clear of vehicle exhaust to begin my runs. There were many mornings when the last thing I wanted to do was wake up for an early run. There were many more, when I was terrified of the running goal ahead of me. The hardest part was always just getting out of bed. Once I made it past my front door, 50% of the battle had already been won. What I learned? Discipline and consistency are much more important that intensity. Do it tired. Do it afraid. Pray through it if you need to- but Just. Freaking. Do. it.


Be Your Own Cheerleader
13.1km. 16.25km. 20km- to some, these are just numbers. But to me? These numbers represent running goliaths that seemed insurmountable. They represent hours of training coupled with prayer, endurance, self-talk, sweat, pain and sacrifice. I remember the first time I ran 22km (which is a little bit more than a half marathon) on my own. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to tell everyone when I got home. “Oh, that’s nice” they said and went about their business. I was so furious! When I calmed down though, I realized that my family meant no harm and just simply had no frame of reference for what I was doing. I quickly learned that I would have to be my own biggest cheerleader and not wait for anyone to celebrate my small victories. As my runs got longer, other runners or people on the streets would smile, clap or high five me, and it was encouraging. The day of my marathon- my family made me feel like I was an Olympics gold medal winner, and it was truly humbling. But before any of those moments came, I had learned to celebrate myself.

Push Past the Wall
Every long distance runner has at some point ‘hit the wall.’ The wall is a period during long distance running when fatigue begins to transition into diminished mental faculties. It can cause dizziness, hypoglycemia and even hallucinations. I will never forget my encounter with the wall. I was on a 30km run, and somewhere in midtown Manhattan I started getting dizzy. I could barely put one foot in front of the other or remember my name. I had had other stressful running experiences, but this was different. I wanted to break down on the street and just start sobbing. I questioned my sanity and all the life choices that had brought me to this moment. But my spirit remained strong (even though my flesh and mind had tapped out), and I completed my run. It was such a scary experience that I didn’t run for a week after that. Somehow though, the next weekend I was back at it. Mind Spirit over matter. The next time I had a long run, I made sure that I a healthy breakfast before I left, and that I was properly hydrated and prayed up. I made it through my longest training run- 35.5km- without hitting the wall. In fact, I smashed the wall: I felt exhilarated- not exhausted after the run. If I had decided to give up after encountering the wall the week before, I would have never known the joy that was on the other side of it.

IMG_5064Always Remember The Finish Line
What kept me going throughout my months of training, was imagining what it would feel like when I crossed the finish line. During the last few yards of the marathon, I was on my last leg. Two European women who could barely speak a lick of English, grabbed my hands and ran with me to the finish line. It was such a beautiful, surreal, life-changing moment. As the announcer called my name, I realized that all I had imagined for months had finally become a reality. I was amazed not just that I had finished, but that I had found the courage to start.

Enjoy The Journey
Getting my marathon medal was such a proud personal moment- but it was also a fleeting one. What I enjoyed most was the journey. The feelings of accomplishment when I said no to the snooze button, and strapped on my Nike’s. The high I got from puffing my inhaler and telling asthma it could not stop me. The days when I learned to stay in my lane and not compare myself to other runners. The weeks of finding rhythm in the monotony of consistency. The constant recognition that in all things, God’s grace is available. These are the moments that light up a life.


  1. @edDREAMZ

    May 14, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    a.k.a EDWIN CHINEDU AZUBUKO said..
    This stuff will really help me in the football field. Am a striker and i love running bcos that is the only way i can beat any defender and i think i have gotten some words to improve my game no doubt……

    • Tosin

      May 15, 2015 at 8:08 am

      good luck!
      some tips to love running like you?

    • mrs chidukane

      May 15, 2015 at 10:36 am

      Wow! Someone asked Ed Dreamz for tips? It is really a new dawn on BN, a nice one at that no doubt.

  2. Etebefia

    May 14, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Awwwwwwwww!. I kept looking at your picture because i could see Pastor Ina. My dear, a legacy is not easy to live up to, but you are doing your own thing and leaving your foot prints in the sands of time. There is nothing more satisfying than being and doing exactly what you want to do in life. Like the two European ladies, there are random peoples like me cheering you in life!. Well done.

  3. chiomaqueen

    May 14, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    dats nice

  4. Ufuoma

    May 14, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    Yes I’m here to famz! Hey blessing ?? fwc teenage church alumni here ?. Good job on your weight loss for one minute when I saw your picture I actually thought it was your sister. Good job on your accomplishments! God is your strength

  5. tee

    May 14, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    Thank you. Enough with the procrastination. I must get begin my journey to wellness. Thank you thank you thank you!

  6. Uc

    May 15, 2015 at 12:01 am

    Kept scrolling for picture though!

  7. DDO

    May 15, 2015 at 1:10 am

    Perfectly said Blessing! “Discipline and consistency are much more important that intensity. Do it tired. Do it afraid. Pray through it if you need to- but Just. Freaking. Do. it.”..this applies to my current exam prep stage!…juggling family school..I used to freak out if I couldnt find 4-6 hours straight to study..but discipline in the 30 minutes or 3 hours I may carve out..and consistency daily sure makes a difference!

  8. Anon

    May 15, 2015 at 1:24 am

    Blessing please answer me, how did you train yourself to breath? Please!!!!!! My goal is a marathon but I can’t seem to get past 3k when I try my hardest, I don’t understand! My issue is my breathing and oxygen volume. Please tell me, what training techniques did you use. I have just started though, not up to 2wks but I’m worried and like you said that’s the last thing I want to do in the morning! I will keep on sha and hopefully I’ll get better! Yours took 3 years, maybe with God’s help mine will take less. Great job Blessing!!!!! If you can do this then you can cross any hurdle in life. I just wish I had a trainer or a mentor, it’s hard by myself and nobody around seems to be interested, even if it’s only 0.5k, they can do, I’m fine. I just want a partner that can grow with me!

    • miss Pynk

      May 15, 2015 at 8:36 am

      Annon, as an ex-runner – i say baby steps. Attempt to run a 5k first, then a 10k. You can do them a few months apart. Put simply in 2008 i was unable to run 3 minutes straight talkless of 5k. By jan 2009 i ran my first 10k in 55 mins and bymay same year i ran my first vertical marathon up a building with about 60 floors in almost 9 minutes, by 2013 i was doing full marathons. Now i stick to 10km races as they are better for my body.

  9. Nikki

    May 15, 2015 at 1:56 am

    Congratulations! Thumbs up to you..definitely learnt some lessons from this!

  10. Nonamespls

    May 15, 2015 at 2:12 am

    Welldone running is something i have been trying to incorporate in to my life, i did my first 10k last yr and i have fallen off the wagon. This is a timely post thank you

  11. Tosin

    May 15, 2015 at 8:06 am

    i would like to exercise more. not running, let alone marathons, just play around in grass and water a bit more in future. i already have a bit of walking in my life. slim doesn’t mean fit, this i know.

    Cheers to Blessing. Great stuff.

  12. miss Pynk

    May 15, 2015 at 8:37 am

    Well done dear. Running is extremely liberating.

  13. cesc

    May 15, 2015 at 10:04 am

    So lately I’ve been having these headaches at work, after sitting at my desk for 3/4 hours straight i would start to feel dizzy.. . the long hours at my desk everyday really cant be healthy and so i have been thinking of starting a routine of waking up early and them taking a walk or jog..

    I woke up this morning and wrote in my diary that i would go for a long jog/walk tomorrow morning to keep fit.

    Somewhere in the back of my mind, i was doubtful that come 6 am tomorrow morning, i would be have the zeal to get up from my bed and walk out the door.’

    Thank you Blessing for this piece!!! so many thought provoking words to take to heart…
    Saturday morning . God willing, i will take that walk!

    These lessons can also be applied to a lot of things in everyday life..Write that Exam, start that business, get that training… . Just Do IT.

    • B

      May 15, 2015 at 12:19 pm

      @ cesc, You may have low iron and as a result are slightly anaemic. This used to happen to me too until I saw the doctor. This is a common problem for women between the 20-35 bracket. I started taking iron supplements in January and the difference was clear. Check with your doctor first though.

    • cesc

      May 15, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      Thank you soooo much for this .. I’ll go get checked.. Thanks

  14. Zanswat

    May 15, 2015 at 10:44 am

    This is so motivational. Been trying to get to this stage, but getting out of bed is a daily battle. Tomorrow, I will remember this article and jump out of bed, God willing. Thank you Blessing.


    May 15, 2015 at 11:32 am

    I have and will always have huge mad love for runners. I really want to be one. Good job girl…well done!

  16. Emikay

    May 15, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Yay Belssing! Always an inspiration. So proud of you.

  17. Felix Abrahams Obi

    May 15, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Welldone blessing

  18. Miz Spike

    May 15, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    Very encouraging… I run a bit and can relates to the idea of just getting started… Determined to continue and make those small changes. Thanks for having the courage to start for being kind enough to share your story.

  19. anita mete's niece

    May 17, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Wow. Rili amazing
    My baby is jus 6mts so il wait.a while
    I certainly need to burn ds baby fat
    Uv changed n look GUD

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