Have you ever heard the story behind the origin of the word “marathon”? It goes a little something like this:
According to Greek legend, a messenger named Pheidippides was sent on a little errand from the town of Marathon to Athens. Problem was, the distance was somewhere around 25 miles. After delivering the oh-so-important news that the Persians had been defeated in battle, poor, panting Pheidippides kicked the bucket.
That’s right. He was so tired that he keeled over and died.
Ever since, humans have been recreating this misery by running 26.2 miles — on purpose.
I used to fall into the school of thought that runners were certifiably insane. And as a woman with larger than average—ahem—assets on top, I was never really drawn to the sport. The bounce–factor alone scared me stupid.
I’ve always been devoted to fitness, but I hit a wall in my late 20’s. To my surprise and utter disappointment, I could no longer eat like a horse, squeak out some cardio on my lunch break and still stay slender. I had a few total “WTF” moments looking in the mirror (does my stomach really have that much fat?) before I decided this was some BS. It’s time to step things up.
So I started running. More specifically, I started training — for my first half-marathon.
I’m turning 30 in a few months, and yes, it’s totally a reaction to that milestone and the fact that I really want to look hot in a party dress. I knew that, if I really wanted to ditch the extra five (OK, seven) pounds that I’d like to lose, I had to torch some serious calories. And I had to commit.
So I pulled up my big-girl panties (and got a big-girl sports bra), signed up for a race at the end of November and mentally prepared to get my ass in gear. On the same day that I made the decision to do a half-marathon, my boyfriend found an old issue of Runner’s World magazine in the recycling bin near our mailbox unit.
“Found this in the trash,” he said, tossing it in front of me on the coffee table. Inside was a 16-week half marathon training plan for novices.
It’s on, I thought. That was four weeks ago.
It’s not like I’ve never been running before. It’s not like I huff and puff climbing stairs. I was pretty fit to start with, and I’ve tried about every exercise trend under the sun. I write about nutrition and fitness for a living. But, in truth, this committing to a race thing was a bigger deal that I thought it would be.
Sure, right now, I could run a half-marathon. I could complete it. It might take me longer than most people, and I’d probably have to stop and walk at times, but I could do it. In fact, to many runners, a half-marathon is child’s play. A simple stepping stone to a full marathon or Iron Man.
But for me, it’s a pretty big deal. Besides the fact that I want to shed a few pounds and this is a great way to do it, a race is more than that. It’s an unachieved goal. A bucket list item. A benchmark of my own strength. An indication of personal success. A path towards better health. A reason to brag.
It’s many things. What it’s not, however, is something I can quit. I realized early on that if I was going to do it, I had to jump in headfirst. I had to take the plunge, do the work and push myself to do my absolute best.
I’m not good at half-assing anything.
If you want to run a marathon, half-marathon — whatever — you have to be prepared to go all the way. There’s no “I’ll wait till tomorrow to run.” You will only have so many weeks of training time, and you will have to use them wisely. There’s no “I’m too tired to finish my run, so I’ll stop.” On race day, you will be tired, and you will have to finish. There’s no “I can’t go any farther because my feet/legs/lungs hurt.” Your feet/legs/lungs are going to hurt. You will still have to cross that finish line.
See where I’m going with this? Yes, deciding to train for your first race might feel like hell at times. But all commitment comes with a cost—and a payoff. It’s only been a few weeks of training, but I already sense that my brain is going to be the most important body part I use in that race—and in the weeks leading up to it.
I’m starting to see how the pain and suffering of training is a direct metaphor for life. Do you crap out and quit when things get hard? Or do you push through, stopping when you need to, but ultimately carrying on because you have to?
Over the next 12 weeks, I’ll be sharing my race-training journey with you. From what to wear and fueling your body to dealing with mental roadblocks and lack of motivation, allow me to me your running guinea pig.
If you’re ready to come face to face with your own limitations and fears, but also yours strengths and capabilities — start running. Actually, start training. I can guarantee it’s cheaper than therapy.
Until next week,