I never had the ambition to participate in a running race. I am still a little bit surprised myself that I signed up for and finished my first half-marathon a month ago. If you had told me this two years ago, I would have laughed in your face and called you crazy.
I just didn’t see myself as a (race) runner, like, AT ALL.
BUT, this has been an interesting experience for me and taught me some lessons (which I think can be applied to other areas of life).
1) I always do better with a plan.
It might be self-imposed, but if I write down my goal and line up a plan, it’s so much easier to stick to a schedule. Sure, I could just tell myself to get out and run on a regular basis, but it’s so much easier to just look up what training session is next on your plan and just “do it” than make that decision anew every single day (I am not good at mundane decision-making). Besides, sticking to a training plan also puts some “thought” behind your workouts and is designed to improve your performance over time – duh!
2) I can do things that are hard.
Determination: I have it. Sometimes you have to stop thinking, and just start doing. Once I had committed to the race, it was “on”. I wanted to work for this, and work hard.
3) Listen to your body (before your run).
Remember how they tell you to just trust your gut sometimes? That’s exactly what this is. Trusting your gut can mean putting in the extra effort (on a good day), or giving your body some rest (on a bad one). It’s not always easy to figure out if you’re just up against fighting your inner Schweinehund (pig-dog) or if you truly need a break. Your inner Schweinehund is the part of you that wants you to stay on the couch and watch Netflix instead of going for your run, but you will know – with time – when your body is legitimately telling you that it needs a break.
4) Listen to your body (during your run).
Don’t judge a run by the first mile (95% of the time it’ll feel miserable, but believe me, it gets better) and run based on how you feel that day. If it’s 100F and 80% humidity outside, running by effort is way more important than running a certain pace. It’s also ok to walk if you feel like you need to walk. Training is there to condition, but also to get to know your body.
5) Trust your training.
I had ‘easy’ training sessions that felt impossible. I had “interval days” that felt like a breeze. The last two longer runs before the race felt awful and I doubted that I was ready for the half. And then it all worked out in the end. Trust that all the hard work you put in over weeks and weeks will pay off – because it will.
6) You get out of things (your body) what you put into them.
Literally. I have always been ‘health-conscious’, I’d say, but nutrition and especially hydration have been major focus points during my half marathon training. I used to be … ahem… not very good at staying hydrated, but guess what? Your body wants to shut down if you subject it to increased training activity, but don’t fuel properly. Running on an empty stomach and little hydration? Let’s just say, you learn to pay attention real fast.
7) Setbacks are part of the journey.
I was very lucky that I didn’t get injured during my half marathon training (well, except for a bumped, bloody toe that forced me to skip two training runs, but that was a home accident and not directly related to my training). I did have quite a few days though where my runs felt less than stellar and where doubt crept in that I was not really cut out for this. The strange thing was: it made me want it even more.
8) Life starts at the end of your comfort zone.
Haha. Isn’t that the truth? Nothing worth having comes easy and that is true for running as well. If you want to get better and achieve a goal, you have to work for it and sometimes that is hard.
9) You’re capable of so much more than you think.
Like I mentioned elsewhere, I never thought that I ever could – or even wanted to – run more than 3 miles. 5k is a respectable distance and I was totally fine with it. Until I wasn’t. Because once you put in a little bit of work, you’ll be surprised to see what you’re capable of and you naturally want more. I ran 13.1 miles. I didn’t think that was possible.
10) Running is not just physical, but also mental.
There were days when my body was ready to do the work, but my mind was not. There were days when I was mentally ready to go, but my body was not. Finding that sweet spot where body and mind agree is not always easy, but I found to be true more often than not that when your body wants to give up, your mind can help you push through and vice versa.
11) Run your own race.
I am no stranger to the comparison game, but if we’re completely honest, you can really only compete with yourself. You really cannot care about someone else’s pace or finish time, because you can only work on yourself being better than yesterday. It’s all relative. What’s slow for one person, might be the fastest pace for someone else.
12) Support is everything.
It’s hard to admit, especially if you think you’re running/racing mainly for yourself (which we all do!), but it’s so important to have people who support you in your endeavors. It matters during training (when words of encouragement get you through the tough parts) and it matters during the race.
Following and supporting other runners on social media and receiving support in return? An incredible community.
Signing up for a race with a friend? Holding each other accountable and encouraging each other during training is priceless.
Knowing that my whole family was tracking my race through the race app – even from 6000 miles away – and cheering me on? Carried me at least half of the way.
Having people come out on race day to cheer on complete strangers? It’s one of the kindest acts of humanity (I swear, it meant so much!).
I never ever want to bore anyone with my talk about running or racing, but I want those who have supported and checked in with me along the way to know that it was tremendously important for my success and so very much appreciated. Having cheerleaders on the sidelines, whatever journey you might be on, might be one of the most important pieces in order to accomplish your goals.
13. I am a runner.
For the longest time, I suffered from “imposter syndrome”, because I wasn’t sure that I could call myself a runner. There was no official set of rules that separates the “runners” from the “non-runners” and I am not sure where I thought that line was, but I had always been more on the humble side and so I placed myself on the “non-runners” side of that line for a very long time. Until I realized that runners come in all shapes and sizes and everyone who laces up their shoes and goes for a run is a runner. Mind-boggling epiphany, I know!
13.1 – I did it.
Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. You are going to be a little high on running when you cross that finish line and it’s totally ok to brag a little.
One final note before I go… (because more than one person has asked me about it):
No, I have not signed up for a marathon.
I think I have a pretty good grasp on my own abilities and as much as the adrenaline rush after the half had me scream “where can I sign up for a full?”, I know I am not ready for it, mentally or physically. At the end of the half-marathon, I was done. Did I have a few more miles in me? Maybe. Would I have wanted to do the whole 13.1 again? No way. It will take a lot more training and hopefully more race experiences along the way, before I feel ready to tackle 26.2. But it’s a future goal that I wouldn’t completely rule out at this point (← haha. Did I really just say that?)