About 3 weeks ago I checked off an item from my bucket list by running my first half marathon. I don’t consider myself to be much of a runner, but preparing for this feet was quite an experience. I wanted to share what an unlikely runner, like myself, learned on this journey.
I am not a runner. I don’t know how to run. I don’t like running. This is what I always told people about myself when anything involving running came up. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I realized these were false limiting beliefs I was projecting onto my life as a truth. He thought it was ridiculous that I couldn’t run and helped me prove to myself that I was indeed capable of it.
The first few times we went for a jog felt like pure torture. I couldn’t breathe, I felt gross and sweaty, I was bored, and quickly became tired. It was so uncomfortable and I never looked forward to it at all. He kept encouraging me to keep at it though, so I did. Eventually, I became committed to proving myself wrong about not being able to run. I began to believe I could do it! That’s when I started to see a little progress.
Beginnings are Hard… but worth it
My first 5k felt like a marathon but I was incredibly proud of myself for completing 3.2miles without stopping. My next goal was to complete a 10k. It was painful and less than pleasant but once again so fulfilling when I completed it. I was happy with how far I had come, but now I’d get back to my usual strength training. I told myself I had enough of this running thing for a while. Well here we are a year later and somehow this husband of mine convinced me I could do a half marathon. I even put it on my 2015 goals list.
I set out to complete a 12-week Hal Higdon training plan in preparation for this half. Training felt annoying some days because I was just tired of running and even a little bored. Slowly though, things changed as I looked forward to my runs. I was excited to log more and more miles in an attempt to challenge myself. My once bored mind began to feel recharged and ready for life during and after these runs.
It’s always so hard to get started with anything worth pursuing in life, but once you find your rhythm and believe in yourself, suddenly, things become smoother and clearer. You realize you CAN and you indeed WILL accomplish this. The important thing is to start where you are. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide I could run 13.1 miles. I started so humbly, trying to just run 1 mile without dying. What I’ve come to love about running is that I can determine my own goals. Remember that nothing worth doing ever comes easy.
Expect the Unexpected
Life is funny in that you can plan all you want, but life will just laugh at you because it has its own plans. I tried to adhere to the training as best as I could. I was ready to start my tapering the week before when out of no where I was bed ridden with, first, flu-like symptoms, followed by a stomach virus. Not only could I not run or cross train the week before my race, but I also could barely keep any food down. I worried all of my time and efforts in training would be wasted. Luckily, I was well enough to participate on race day, but still not quite fully recovered. I know this affected my performance but just to make things even more exciting, there were other unexpected elements on the day of… the weather and elevation! Asheville, beautiful as she might be, is also very mountainous. It is also much colder there. The race course had elevations up to 2333ft, and I felt like I was running up and down mountains the entire time. It was tough and I became so frustrated at myself for not doing more hill runs or preparing better.
Mind over Matter Mentality
As I ran the 13.1 mile course my mental strength & endurance were definitely tested. I was frustrated by the elevation and found my body feeling weak early on. I found myself focusing on my frustration instead of enjoying the run. Your thoughts really do become your reality. The minute I noticed how negative my thoughts were, I was able to intentionally focus on more positive things. I reversed the negative thoughts into positive affirmations. Instead of “I hate these freaking hills” I told myself “These hills are going to be great for tightening my glutes” and “This is hard, but it’s making me stronger.” I found these positive reflections to be encouraging in helping get through several frustrating miles.
Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever
It was around mile 10 that I began to feel a sharp pain down my leg and knee. My IT band had tightened up and I found myself barely able to run on my left leg. I seriously considered quitting at this point. I wondered if one of the bystanders cheering us on would drive me to the finish line. Then I remembered all of the hours spent training and how disappointed I would be at myself for not completing this race. I acknowledged that I was in pain but knew I just couldn’t quit no matter how long it would take me to get through the last 3 miles. I had come too far to stop now. When you invest so much of yourself in something, you can’t just walk away and give up on it once an obstacle blocks your efforts. I learned from this experience that pain, obstacles, and difficulties are all part of the journey. The way that I responded to each of these things would determine how I experienced my journey. If I would have quit when things became a little tough, I never would have succeeded. Perhaps it took me a lot longer to finish the race then others, but I learned so much about myself, gained confidence, became stronger, and still got that medal!
I hope my story inspires you to do that thing you’ve always felt too uncomfortable to pursue. Don’t try to compare yourself to anyone. If you keep your end goal in mind, there are no limits that can be put on you. Have a YOU vs. YOU mentality, striving to only compete with yourself and no one else.
I’m proud of myself for being a half marathon finisher. There may be another 13.1k in 2016 for me, but with a flatter course this time.