I remember the day that I first decided that I was going to run a half-marathon. This physical feat had been on my bucket list for awhile and, as 2012 drew to a close, in a fit of inspiration (coupled by a gentle nudge from a friend) I decided that I was going to do it. I signed up for the BMO half marathon on May. 5th – giving me 4 months to train and prepare.
I started by researching some different training plans. I eventually found one that worked with my schedule. I would run 3 times a week — one distance run, one interval run, and one speed run — every week until the marathon. Simple.
At this point I was already pretty adept at running 10k, but I’d never run much further than that. I planned to build up the distance runs slowly every week, starting at 10k and working my way up to 18k (the longest distance that I would run before the 21 k race). Things were going pretty smoothly… and then I reached my first 16k run.
Whenever I start a distance run, the first fifteen minutes are always hell. My body aches as I push forward, trying to gain speed but, instead, feeling sluggish and incompetent. It’s during those first fifteen minutes that all of my demons rush to the surface. All of my doubt and insecurities crawl their way into my brain and act like a barreling wind, pushing against each stride. During the first 15 minutes, running even a 5k seems impossible, but my training has taught me that once those minutes are up, it will start to feel good. My body will warm up, and I will fall into a meditative pattern: my hands hanging loosely from my wrists, my feet taking quick short strides – barely a sound as my feet, pushing off the pavement, propel my body forward. My breathing: rhythmic and consistent. I feel in control. I feel invincible.
On the day of my first 16k run, those first 15 minutes of hell turned into 30 minutes of ankle-weighted torture. My body felt heavy underneath the distance in front of me, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of smallness from my core – who was I to think that I could run a half marathon?
I tried every trick in the book to change my mind-set: I smiled as big as my cheeks would allow, I tried to ground myself in the present and focus only on the next step, I quietly (I think) sang along with my music, I passed other runners on the sea wall. Nothing worked. My will-power was draining quickly, but I kept going – all the while dreaming of giant spoonfuls of peanut butter and warm epsom salt baths.
At around the 12k mark, my legs started cramping up and I began stopping (for a few seconds ) every 15 minutes to quickly stretch. I couldn’t believe that I still had 4k left to go. Would this run ever end?
By the 14k mark, my legs felt like lead and my “run” had turned into more of a jog. I wanted to stop. I wanted to crawl into a ball on the side of the trail and rock back and fourth until the pain went away. Other runners passed me easily… actually, people taking their dogs for a walk passed me. I pounded on my legs with my fists, trying to shake some feeling and power back into them. Nothing.
My finish point finally made itself visible in the distance, and I strained to keep going. I was almost there!! Nightmare visions of what it would feel like waking up the next morning ignited in my mind. I ignored them. Less than 1k was left to go.
I remember finishing that run. I have never before experienced such a victorious feeling of dread. I was so happy that the run was over but, at the same time, the half marathon seemed to sneer at me from the future: a little over a month and a half away and, as I collapsed onto my living room couch, the possibility of failure felt imminent.
It was my goal to run the half marathon in under 2 hours. This 16k run had taken me almost an hour and 45 minutes. “Yeah,” I thought to myself (as I sucked on my giant spoonful of peanut-butter), “I am going to fail.”
Even as the doubt consumed me, I kept going. I mean, entrance into the race had cost me $100. I wasn’t just going to throw that money away.
With every subsequent run, my body began to adjust to the long distances. It started to get a little bit easier. A month later I finished an 18k run in an hour and 50 minutes and felt great.
The doubt slowly started to dissipate, and was soon replaced by feelings of confidence. I started to enjoy the long distances, and as race day drew nearer I began to get excited.
Training for a half marathon helped me not only to grow as an athlete, but also as a person. I realized that growth truly was possible. Just because I couldn’t do something today, didn’t mean I would never be able to do it. I began to appreciate the power of persistence and, as I crossed the finish line of my first half-marathon with a personal time of 1:53:44, I realized that hard work actually does pay off.
The moral of this story? You can do anything that you set your mind to. Don’t give up.
You just can’t beat the person who won’t give up.
– Babe Ruth
** This post has been in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge on The Daily Post