Sunday, December 2, 2012

My First Half Marathon

It’s been so long since I’ve written a blog that I almost forgot what my address was!  But I wanted to share this experience with people—even if only one person reads it and is encouraged by it. 

At some point I decided I wanted to run a half marathon before I turned 30.  And since I turned 29 in the beginning of 2012, it was now or never.  For some, a half marathon is nothing—some people run 50 halfs in one year.  Some people run 50 miles in one day.  But for me, a half marathon was a pretty hefty goal.  When I ran cross country in high school, I hated it.  It was boring.  And I sucked at it.  Or at least that’s what I thought.  I didn’t run 7 minute miles.  I could barely break a 30 minute 5K.  But I started running again in Aug. 2011 and ran a 5K in 34 minutes.  Not a great time, but I didn’t hate it.  I stopped running when it got cold—but with the original goal in the back of my mind, it was time for a new challenge.

I realized that there were many times in my life where I had said “I can never do _____. (fill in the blank)”.  Or “I’ll never be good at _____.”  For me, one was, I’ll never be a long distance runner.  And I usually have “proof” of these things, like how I hated running in high school.  But NEVER is a very long time.  And more positive thinking people in my life would tell me that you can do whatever you put your mind to.  I didn’t really believe them.  Or did I?

So I made a list.  A list of things I always catch myself saying that I suck at, or can’t do, or will never be.  And I’ve slowly been proving myself wrong.  Running was just one of the things on the list—whether or not I did it before I was 30 wasn’t really important.  But it gave me an extra push.

Other things that gave me a push were telling others I was going to do it.  And asking them to financially support my run by donating to a good cause.  And I had a few friends who were running half marathons in other states.  Amazingly enough, I found pure determination because running was actually fun at times—and it certainly made me feel better overall.  It was a good way to reduce stress. I found motivation by reading a lot of information online about training, nutrition, and how to avoid injuries.  I created a challenging but attainable personal goal—13.1 miles on Dec. 1.  And I tried my best to stick to a running schedule. 

It wasn’t easy.  I had a few frustrating injuries.  And it was time consuming.  It certainly helped that my employers were supportive and didn’t mind me running for an hour in the middle of the day so I didn’t have to run in the dark.  And when the last week before the race came, I thought about bailing.  I had only been able to run 8 miles (and not 10) for my long run because of a foot injury.  I had visions of myself hobbling across the finish line—if I could make it at all.  I was scared.

But I went through with it.  At mile 6 I realized that I hadn’t stopped running yet (unusual for me).  And at mile 8 my foot started to hurt.  At mile 9, everything started to hurt. I tried to walk a little but that make it worse.  So I kept running.  The runners around me kept me focused and the spectators were cheering.  So I kept going.  10, 11, 12 miles.  And then across the finish line in 2:20.  My goal was less than 2:30.  I ran 5 miles more that I had ever run in my life.  Thank you adrenaline!

I think the most important lesson that I learned (other than give yourself extra time for injuries!) was that I was stronger than I thought I was.  And the only person that was telling me I was weak—was me!  When you are running long distances alone, even if you have loud music playing in your headphones, your mind wanders.  You could say to yourself, this sucks, and I can’t do this.  Or you can say, just keep going.  A little further!  This happens I my head all the time.  But running made it very obvious that I HAD A CHOICE.  And I chose to keep going—day after day in training and then during the race.  And I’m very happy I did.  I can no longer tell myself that I’ll never be able to run long distances.  Sometimes it’s great to be proven wrong!

Maybe you CAN do whatever you put your mind to.

What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail?  

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