Running 13 miles wasn’t something I thought I could ever do, especially as I approached the start line for the Swamphouse Half Marathon in DeBary last Sunday. But there was a time when I also did not think I could run five miles or seven or 10. My training plan had only taken me to 10 miles and I had no idea what my body would do when I pushed it to 13.
A few seconds before the gun sounded, I kneeled down and closed my eyes and tried to picture myself at every mile. When it was finally time to go, I took a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other. The next two hours and 11 minutes still don’t seem real to me. I was polishing off miles two to three minutes faster than I had ever done in my life. Instead of getting more tired at each mile marker, I was energized. The miles flew by.
During the race I thought about how hard I worked for this very moment over the past 10 weeks, devoting every Sunday to long runs. When I hit the 11 mile mark, I realized that if I finished the race, it would be 20 minutes ahead of my goal. When I reached the 12 mile mark, I realized that I was actually going to finish the race. Then as I neared the finish line and saw tons of people cheering, I did the most unathletic thing imaginable: I started to cry. Yes I was tired. Yes I was relieved to be finished. But I cried because I was so happy. I did something that had once seemed impossible.
I don’t think you need to run a half marathon to feel that kind of accomplishment, but training to run 13 miles takes dedication, perseverance and mental determination. I’ve found that once you reach goals in one area of your life, it’s totally transferable to the others. Your mind starts to believe that anything is possible after you do something that you didn’t think you could. My main goal for running was to improve my health and after several false starts running seems to be the thing that has worked. I lost 10 pounds during my training and I’m so addicted to runner’s high now it’s not even funny.
Here are a few things running taught me about life:
1.You can do more than you think.
The first run on my training plan was 4.5 miles. At that point four miles was the farthest I had ever gone and it was a struggle to get to 4.5. I thought, how am I ever going to get to 13 if 4.5 miles almost killed me? But each week I was amazed when I went a mile farther than the last. The sense of pride I had for each new record is what kept me going. I think we often limit ourselves in life because our goals can seem so overwhelming but if you just make one tiny step each day toward your goal, it won’t seem as unattainable.
2. You need to have a bad run to appreciate the good runs.
My nine-mile training run was a disaster. I started mid afternoon on a Sunday as the temperature rose into the 80s. I barely got three hours of sleep the night before and drank more alcohol the previous day than water. When I reached mile four I was hurting. I felt dizzy and exhausted. I didn’t know how I would make it back to my car. I tried to run on the beach where it was cooler but I was held back by a strong wind. When I saw a restaurant on the beach, I practically crawled to the bar and begged for a cup of water. I was totally spent and defeated but I still had four miles to go. I hated everything about running at this moment and the world. But somehow I found the strength to slowly jog back to my car. I never wanted to hit the pavement again. But when I thought about how far I had already come, I decided that I would give it another try. With proper hydration, rest and protein I soared through 10 miles the next week and felt like a rock star.
3. If you want to succeed, get a cheer squad.
I don’t care who you are, you are never too old to have your mom jump up and down for you while waving a sign with your name misspelled (long story on that). My mom literally tried to run with me from mile 12 to 13 and was so excited for me that all I could do was run with a big grin on my face. Having someone in your life who believes in you and can join in celebratingyour successes makes everything so much sweeter.