So it’s been nine days since I ran my first official half-marathon. I feel like I discovered a lot about myself while I was training and during the event itself…and even after.
I think that’s the thing I love best about running; all of the things it teaches me–the chance it gives me to release stress and think and give time for soul-searching.
I began training for my half-marathon on October 22nd, 2014.
Before that, I had run a 5k in high school, but the most I’d ever run distance-wise was six miles.
The idea of running 13.1 made me want to cry.
But, with the encouragement of a few friends, I woke up early, laced up my running shoes, and was out the door to see if I could run for over an hour without stopping.
Forty minutes in, I wanted to cry, sit down, and call for someone to come pick me up. Yes, you read that right: the personal trainer hated running.
I wanted my weights back.
I wanted to know that in an hour, I’d have burned 500 calories, done a multitude of moves, and would still burn calories throughout the day.
I wanted my protein shakes.
But as much as I wanted to stop, I pushed myself. That was Lesson Number 1: Not giving up.
That day, I ran for an hour and a half–nine and a half miles; I felt like I had just done a squat with the globe on my back: Atlas Shrugged-style.
I was so sore the next day, I didn’t want to move, but I got up, ran two miles, came home, did a circuit, and carried on with my day.
The next day, I ran again…eleven miles…twelve on the next day.
I spoke to Tom that day to get insight on my new novel, and he laughed when I expressed my frustration. I was so mad that I hadn’t hit thirteen…this went on for a week. It felt like I added distance–which felt like a mountain–but in reality, had only added half a mile.
Then, on Monday, November 10th, I did it. I hit 13.38 miles. I had ran over a half marathon…in two hours, twenty-five minutes.
I wanted to cry with happiness.
I had gone from running a daily total of four miles, a maximum of six, and here I was, running over a half marathon.
Nothing could bring me down that day.
Enter Lesson Number 2: Keep trying, and you’ll get there. It can take a while, and it can be exhausting, but if you keep trying, eventually, you’ll reach your goal.
The other beautiful thing about running, is the fabulous effects it has on your body. With a mix of cardio, circuit training, and some weight training, I began to notice changes to my body. For the first time in my life, my abs were somewhat visible, and I wanted to jump for joy.
Below, you can see my “progress pictures” I took at the end of October…a week after beginning my intense training…yes, I have more, but I’m waiting to post them on January 1st.
And so closes Lesson Number 3: Hard work pays off.
The more I ran, the more I fell in love with running…and the more achy my arthritic left knee was. Ouch. But, I pushed on, made sure to take vitamins for my joints, including plenty of fish oil.
Of course, add that with clean eating and a gallon of water a day, it’s no wonder my results were coming so rapidly.
After squeezing in time to run, I re-established the lesson I had learned doing the 1001 Songs Challenge on Planet Stereo: You make time for the things that are important to you, and, damn, if this wasn’t important to me. I just wanted to know I could do it.
I knew I had run over thirteen miles before, but never in an official race. I was desperate to know that I could do it…and that I could have something to be proud of.
Finally, December 6th, the day of the race, hit. I woke up at 5AM on a chilly morning, resisting the urge to curl back up into my warm blankets. I got out of bed, pulled on my running gear, and quickly scarfed down a banana and a sachet of almond butter.
Then my mother and I drove 50 minutes into the city, hunted for parking, and walked about a mile to the start of the race…needless to say, a good warm-up.
At 7:30AM, the race began, and off we all went.
For the first two miles, I felt great, maintaining an 8 minute mile pace which had me grinning like a fool.
I started to slow down, realizing I hadn’t paced myself at the beginning (oops), I began to slow down ever so slightly. Enter my second mistake: Around the seventh mile, I started to leave my own head and started letting my competitive attitude take over.
I set my sights on a speedy girl in a purple running shirt, and was adamant that I would beat her to the finish line.
I was so focused on her, I didn’t pay attention to my footwork. So, of course, I twisted my ankle. I tried to run on it for until mile eight, and then I slowed down.
As I barely jogged along, I wanted to call my mom and Tom, both stood at the finish line as my cheerleaders, and cry, beg them to come and get me, tell them I was wrong, and that I couldn’t do it.
Looking back, I feel pathetic for feeling like that.
I wish I could go back in time and kick myself up the rear; tell myself to get going.
Then, just when I felt like giving up, a man with muscular dystrophy ran past me.
As I looked at him, and I saw the beads of sweat dripping off of his face, and the look of pure exhaustion, the look of intent concentration on pushing himself, I realized I was being a wimp.
Here was a man who was probably in agony…who was using the muscles he had left to push himself through the last miles, sailing past me, as I was feeling desperate enough to call for a ride.
Seeing that sparked a fire in me, and I decided that if I couldn’t run for me, I was going to run for my loved ones who couldn’t run anymore (lesson number four): Zoraida in her bed, dying from ALS; my late Uncle Peter who’s Kennedy’s disease slowly reduced him until talking became a difficult task; the ALS patient in the clinic who had said hello to me through the use of his electronic voice box–the one who had seen a fifteen year old who was scared and confused for a loved one, and, despite being sick himself, offered comfort.
I picked up my pace, looking down at my heart rate monitor with a new surge of determination.
And when I crossed that finish line at 2 hours and 15 minutes, hearing my mom and Tom cheer (obviously, just like graduation, I heard my mom long before I saw her), it was the most rewarding, exhausting, beautiful feeling in the world.
I didn’t know if I wanted to laugh or cry.
I wanted to jump and holler with joy, but my muscles wouldn’t allow it.
Instead, I guzzled the water an aid handed me, much to his astonishment. With wide eyes, he asked me if I needed another bottle. I quickly shook my head, moving out of the way for other runners.
Another woman put my medal over my head, complimenting my choice of visually pleasing running tops, and I grinned, pretending I had energy for conversation.
When my mom, Tom, and I walked over the the Finisher’s Party in the Park, I happily received free chocolate milk…ooh, a joy I hadn’t known in so long. I posed for pictures, got some feeling back in my toes, legs, and even fingers, and got enough energy back to engage in conversations with other human beings.
We went for delicious food to refuel, and then, finally, started the trek home.
Taking off my running shoes and getting in the shower was a sweet, beautiful task that I found new appreciation for.
I was more sore than I had ever been; walking made my ache. It wasn’t until the following Tuesday that I had the energy to do circuit training…and the following Thursday until I dared to go for a run longer than two miles.
Of course, a few days later, when I bought the pictures from the race, I faced a whole new mountain: appreciating the photos.
I still don’t know if I fully do.
I looked at the pictures with disdain, wondering why I had spent $56 on these awful snapshots. The more I looked at them, the more flaws I saw; the more I vowed to go on a liquid diet.
Yes, personal trainers have body issues too. It’s true.
It took a few friends telling me I was begin silly to realize I was overreacting, and re-entering the days of my negative self-esteem: the days of counting calories and eating only 1200 calories a day, and stressing out if I ate more than 600 calories by 3pm.
I felt like an idiot.
I don’t love all of the photos, but as I look at them, I am learning to appreciate them: to appreciate the fact that my body had pushed through 13.1 miles…on a twisted ankle, no less!
Enter Lesson Number Five: Don’t beat your body up because it doesn’t look like a model in a fitness magazine; appreciate it for the incredible things it can do.
I am editing together all of photos and clips into a short video which I will post soon….maybe on my 2014 Recap.
I am renewed with my love of fitness, my motivation, and my desire to cross another thing off of the bucket list I wrote at fourteen: Run a full marathon. All 26.2 miles.
So, let’s review. Here are the things I learned from my run:
1. Not giving up…Just, don’t do it.
2. Keep trying, and you’ll get there.
3. Hard work pays off.
4. Don’t just run for yourself. If I couldn’t run for me, I was going to run for my loved ones who couldn’t run anymore.
5. Don’t beat your body up because it doesn’t look like a model in a fitness magazine; appreciate it for the incredible things it can do.
Here’s to the many runs I hope follow this one and the life lessons I hope to continue to learn that will eventually lead to finding my definition of my favorite word in the world: GUMPTION.