What marathon training has taught me about timelines

Your life and your timeline is your own

Hey, happy Sunday and welcome to another story of #TheLifeofJLOWE.

As this week’s newsletter goes out, I should currently be about 16-18 miles into running my first ever marathon, which is in total 26.2 miles. If you opened todays’ email in time, feel free to track me and see where I am in the #MiamiMarathon right now!

My bib number is 2942 and here’s the link to track me - https://www.themiamimarathon.com/athlete-tracking/

Today, I wanted to share a bit of a conversation that I recently had with my best friend about this idea of “timelines” and how it’s related to my marathon training over the past few months.

In our conversation, she told me that one of her goals for this year is to stop worrying about other people’s timelines and be happy with her own. That really stood out to me, because it touches heavily on this idea of comparing yourselves to others and the ways in which that can negatively affect how you live and make decisions in your own life.

But what do we mean by this idea of “timelines” anyways?

What is your timeline?

It’s kind of a verbal formalisation of what naturally happens in life and society, but essentially it refers to how your life happens. It means how you progress in education, for example, going from primary to secondary to tertiary education then to the labor force, then to marriage, then to kids, to retirement and so on.

And here I want to be explicit in saying that that timeline that I mentioned above is what Western society has led us to believe is the most covetable, perfect idea of a life well lived.

My own timeline, so far

Growing up, my timeline has been to go to school, graduate high school, graduate college, then most recently start working my corporate job. And that’s it from a macro, bird’s eye view perspective, but I began to think more deeply about this concept of timelines in high school, after 5th form (11th grade) especially, when we graduated high school in Jamaica at a different time from high schools in America, where they officially graduate after grade 12.

I completed high school in the regular 5 years that most Jamaicans do, then I completed 2 years of 6th form, as many of my friends did, then I completed 4 years of college. Sounds like a pretty run-of-the mill, standard timeline doesn’t it?

Take a step back and analyze your own timeline

While to me, and probably to many of my readers, that sounds like a “standard or normal” timeline, to many people outside of my direct societal context, that timeline is something foreign to them. College may not be an option, they’ve never heard of 6th form, or maybe nobody in their family even went to high school.

On the flip side of that, I recently saw a news article about a 14 year old girl in Jamaica who’s starting University this year. Or rather, there’s people in my life that I know who decided not to finish high school or college, or decided that they wanted to take a gap year, or repeated a year or two for various reasons.

And every single one of those decisions is completely okay and is exactly what makes up the story of your own life.

It doesn’t matter if you’re starting college at age 14, 18 or even 30. It doesn’t matter whether you took a gap year, so all of your peers are 1 year younger than you in your classes. It doesn’t matter that you’re running a marathon at age 23 or age 50. It doesn’t matter if you have your first kid at 29 or 40, or get married when you’re 21 or 60. At the end of the day, while society creates norms that makes it feel like you have to achieve certain things at specific points in your life, the reality is that your life has never been anything but exactly that - yours.

How marathon training has taught me about timelines

In training for my first marathon (which, remember, I am CURRENTLY huffing and puffing away in), I’ve recognized that my timeline is different from so many others participating. Some people decided last year, “hey, I’ve never run a mile in my life, let me run a marathon as my New Year’s Resolution”. Other’s have run 100 marathons already.

For me, I’ve been running since 2017 and have been pretty pretty consistent throughout college, so my body already has many of the long term benefits of consistent training built in. When I decided I wanted to run a marathon, it was the next thing I wanted to complete in my running journey, and certainly not the end of it.

Marathon Training is a marathon itself

You always hear the saying “It’s a marathon not a sprint” when it comes to being patient and waiting for certain things to happen. For me, training has taught me that not only are the 26.2 miles a marathon, so is the entire journey leading up to the starting line.

I wrote a few months ago about the #1 secret to half-marathon training, and I will say that the real marathon is the months of preparation that it takes to get you to the final 26.2 miles on race day.

Pacing & Timelines

As I’m running my marathon, the number one thought in my head is that this is my race. I have to listen to my own body, set my own pace, hydrate and fuel as my body requires and understand everything about this 26.2 mile journey that is mine. At the end of the day (or race, rather), my body is completely different from everyone else’s that’s running, so the only concern that I should have throughout this run is how best to get myself across the finish line. If I see someone running at a faster pace than me, I can’t just speed up and join them, because it will mess with my race. If I see someone stop for water on the way, I don’t have to stop too - just because they’re thirsty doesn’t mean I am.

And this is exactly the lesson that training and running a marathon has taught me about timelines in life:

You are the only person that will ever be you, so run your own race, stay in your own lane and complete your race at your own pace.


In the same way that each marathoner is running this marathon at their own pace, your life will happen to you at your own pace. Just because someone achieves something before you doesn’t make your achievement less admirable. Just because you’re not achieving success in the same way as someone else doesn’t mean that your success is any less ‘successful’.

So stop comparing yourself to others, stop comparing your timeline to others.

Run your own marathon at your own pace, live your life and enjoy your own life at the pace that it’s going. At the end of the day, you’ll get your medal. You’ll get to the finish line. But make sure that you can look back at the race that you ran and be proud that the race was yours.

Until next Sunday,


or to participate.