Well, I did it.
I ran my first half-marathon. And now I will never, ever, ever run again in my entire life. Ever.
Just kidding. But yes, I do feel like I need a break. It’s been weeks of training, foot cramps, sore muscles, and mental obstacles.
So how do I feel now?
Like I accomplished something. Like I set out to do something for me, and I did it. I’m not going to go into the details of the race — suffice to say it was a long run, there were moments I struggled, but I finished. Not in record time, mind you. But I did it.
And after having a few days to kick up my feet, drink a glass of wine, and reflect on the journey, here are some conclusions I’ve come to about running — and my life.
1. I’ve learned that persistence pays off. An old friend and fitness instructor and I once talked about the daily drudgery of working out. At the time, she said something that has always stayed with me:
“You may not feel like showing up for a workout, but you do it anyway. You just do it.”
You ignore the complaining voice in your head. You stop analyzing, weighing the pros and cons, coming up with excuses. You just show up and do it regardless of what your brain is telling you. This attitude has helped me a lot with my running. I’ve learned that if I just suit up and show up, the rest falls into place. Even on the days I think it’s going to be miserable, sometimes it ends up being fabulous — just because I was willing to show up and continue showing up for myself and my health.
2. I’ve learned when to rest. Somewhat contradictory to the first point, I know. But amazingly enough, training for this race has taught me when it’s time to take a load off and do a rest day, and when I just need to push through. I’ve learned a lot about my body’s cues–when it’s thirsty, when it’s fatigued, when it’s cold — I’m starting to pick up on things I never did before. One of the most important things you can do when you’re training hard is to learn when your body needs some down time. Give it to yourself, and don’t for a second feel guilty about that.
3. I’ve learned that it’s time to start loving myself — now. Part of the reason I wanted to run a half-marathon was to lose a few pounds. I’m not excessively overweight, but I’ve always struggled with certain body image issues that I was hoping to blast away by training hard for several weeks in a row. Yes, I’ve lost weight. Yes, I look more toned. Yes, I feel strong. But I’ve come to accept that the inner “critic” is never satisfied. No amount of calorie-burning, sweating, or muscle-building will change that. I need to stop and take a look at the real me: the one that has curves, the one that has thick thighs and unperfected arms. So what? I’m strong. I’m capable. I’m good enough. Running this race taught me that.
4. I’ve learned that it’s important to enjoy the journey. Sounds cliché, doesn’t it? But it’s true. A race is just that — a race, a competition — but I’ve also learned to enjoy my running time as “me” time. It’s that one part of the day that belongs completely to me and no one else. Nothing can ruin it. Nothing can take it away. I get to just run, breathe, and turn my brain off, feeling how my body moves and how I occupy that space. It’s a wonderful thing.
If you’ve ever thought about doing a marathon, half-marathon, or even just a 5K, I highly recommend it. The journey leading up to it alone will teach you amazing things about yourself and the capabilities you never knew you had.