4 Things I Learned From Running My First Half Marathon
I'm not a runner and I've never been a runner. I've never played sports. But, in January, I ran my first half marathon.
For those of you who don't know me, I am an athlete. But, at times, it feels strange to think of myself as one. Though I grew up as a dancer, I never played traditional sports. And, I have NEVER been a runner. Even though I have been lifting weights, exercising and overall being a “healthy” person for over two years now, I have never liked running.
In October of 2015, a friend from work asked my colleagues and me if we wanted to join her for a half marathon. For some stupid reason, I told her I would think about it. I guess running a half marathon had been something I had always secretly wanted to do, but not something I wanted to train for.
Well, after some careful consideration, I started training for the event. Four months before the half marathon, I started hitting the pavement. To put things in perspective, I have never run a race before, of any length. In all honesty, I had never run outside before, much less in winter (Texas winter, let’s be honest). When I talked to people who were “runners” they all told me….
Oh, you’ll fall in love with it.
There will be that one run where you will just start loving it.
Just keep running and you will eventually hit a certain mile that will make you love it!
Well, they were WRONG!!
Though it took a while, my hatred for running dissipated. I liked how it felt to say to say I was training, but the actual act of running was never more than just “ok” for me. (Just being transparent here)
Those four months of training came and went. While I had some difficulty at times wanting to go run, I completed my training program and was “ready” for the race!
The things I learned throughout that 13.1 miles were more than I expected. I figured it would be just another run I would “get through” and I’d be able to say I did it. I EXPECTED that this would be my one and only race and the end of my running career.
But, things didn't go as planned. Here’s what I learned and happened:
4 Things I Learned From Running My First Half Marathon
There’s nothing like running alone (with a crowd of 6500) to make you look inward. I actually thought to myself half-way through the run…
Why the hell am I doing this?!
So, I started thinking through it and came to the conclusion that
A) I did this because I wanted to say that I could.
B) To challenge myself and push my limits.
There are things in life that push us beyond our limits and beyond what we think we are capable of. Growth sucks sometimes. Challenges suck sometimes. But we must realize that growth is necessary to live a full life. Growth is a good thing and can open your mind and world to things you never thought possible.
Outside Support Makes All the Difference
Throughout the 13.1 mile course, onlookers lined the path with posters and signs of encouragement. Thinking back, it is amazing how the funny phrases those complete strangers wrote on their posters helped keep me going. Just when I would start to get bored, frustrated, or tired, I would see those signs and be encouraged.
Here are some of the funniest posters:
- This is NOT the Walking Dead Marathon
- Worst parade ever
- Blisters are braille for awesome
- Burpees are worse
- You’ve got this perfect stranger!
- PUNCH for POWER! (Yes, I actually ran over and punched the poster, and it DID give me power!)
The sight of these strangers also helped remind me of the friends and family I had waiting for me at the finish line who were cheering me on from a distance. It helped me realize that I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to keep going. I wanted to make everyone proud of me.
In all aspects of life, we need support. We need someone to cheer us on and to care about our goals and dreams. Sometimes it comes from complete strangers giving you a boost when you least expect it. Sometimes it comes from a text message saying “Go, go, go!” Sometimes it comes from a hug from your husband or your dad with the biggest smiles on their faces because you just crossed a finish line.
Regardless of where it comes from, outside support can mean the difference between your success and failure. It is not something to take lightly and can affect you more than you realize.
Side note: If you ever want to encourage someone running a marathon and don’t know how, find a race and go hold out a box of tissues for the runners. Those were angels that kept me from having snot ALL over my face.
Don’t Run Alone
In the beginning, I was running in a large group. All 6500 of us started at roughly the same time, so we were running in large packs. It was AWESOME. I ran faster and better than I had during my four months of training. There is nothing like getting swept up in the momentum of everyone around you.
Surround yourself with like-minded people who are doing the things you want to be doing. Regardless of what stage of life or business you’re in, the momentum that is created by doing things together will carry you even further than you can go yourself.
Further into the race, when the herd began to thin out, it became harder and harder to run as fast. I was running more and more by myself, and I missed the energy of the group.
Don’t Quit Just Before You Finish
Around mile 10 I hit a wall. I was tired. The huge blister on my foot began to hurt. My muscles ached, and I was mostly running alone. The rising sun was in my eyes, and I thought I had every excuse just to stop running and walk. Now, there is no shame in walking or slowing down, but I knew I would be disappointed in myself if I didn’t run most of the way. It was 75% mind over matter at that point. I knew in my head that, physically, I could do those last 3 miles.
Part of the motivation to finish was that I knew the finish line was relatively close. I knew I only had 3.1 miles left to run, and then it would be over, and I could stop.
Unfortunately, we don’t always know when the finish line is coming.
Sometimes we get uncomfortable in our situation. We get tired of the unknown, of the work, and of being seemingly alone.
But don’t quit! You cannot quit! Your finish line may just be over that next hill. Or sooner! That big break you’ve been working towards, that next client, that new speaking gig may all be within your grasp.
The most important thing that I learned throughout this experience is I am capable of more. I can do more and push myself further than I thought possible. And, all of those runners were right. I did start to love running. It just took 13.1 miles to get there.