Finding My Stride

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What I have learned from 13.1.

Back in mid-April, I was reading Tom Foreman’s My Year of Running Dangerously and I became inspired to run a half-marathon. I mean, Foreman was running ultra marathons – over 50 miles at once! A half had to be a piece of cake, right?! Wrong. But, taking on a half-marathon has become one of the best decisions of my life.

So, I have always enjoyed running, but I have never really considered myself a runner. I do not think I have ever even ran 3 miles straight before and I definitely never planned to run 13.1 miles in a single day. Funny enough, now seeing that I have to run 3 or 4 miles for the day is what I consider easy, and it is all thanks to the inspiring concoction brewed by reading a book on running while living in TrackTown, USA.  It has been a journey, complete with popping ankles, blistered feet, and side cramps. Many a gnat hath been swatted, and many a milage goal hath been cursed, but, overall, the journey has been a joy.

Here are eight lessons from eight weeks of training:

  1. Sleep Easy – I have always been a good sleeper, but running six days a week has made me a great sleeper. I don’t have to tell myself to go to sleep (or rely on my bedtime alarm to do so), but instead am excited and ready to call it a night. I feel accomplished and strong, ready to take on tomorrow after my well-deserved rest.
  2. Get the Right Equipment – While you don’t need stuff to run a half-marathon, it sure does make it easier. I’ll have a whole post coming soon on what I purchased and what I realize I still need.
  3. Energy – I thought running six days a week would make me totally lethargic, but honestly I have never felt so energetic. I feel focused and driven, and have been better able to prioritize my life. Because I have been sleeping so well, I have been waking up earlier than ever before, sometimes laced up before 6AM.
  4. Run for Tomorrow – You know that saying, “This is a marathon, not a sprint”? Well, needless to say, I understand it a whole lot better now. One of the best lessons is realizing the importance of running for tomorrow. If I needed to take a break, add a rest day, or run less miles than my Hal Higdon 12-week Intermediate 1 plan recommends, I did so, because it would ensure that I could run tomorrow. I listened to my body and pushed it in healthy ways. One of the best tips I was given was stretching at 0.5 miles in to my run, once my muscles were a little warm. And, of course, have a good stretch after.
  5. Mind Over Matter – The body is this amazingly resilient machine that can do about anything you ask it to. The mind, however, can be the biggest obstacle. It tells you that you can’t, that you need to stop, and that you should give up on your daily goal. What I have found to be helpful in combating this is to remember that I just have to run one mile…I just have to do it 13 times in a row. Step by step, mind over matter.
  6. Hunger – Be ready to get pretty hungry! When I first started training I found myself constantly starving, craving pancakes and pasta at all hours of the day. After a few weeks in, my body adjusted and I upped my grocery shopping list.
  7. Know Your Priorities – This is a big commitment. It takes time, energy, and mental strength. You might need to invest in equipment and will definitely need to invest in food and high-protein snacks. You have other things going on (work, hobbies, families, friends, travel), so list out some priorities ahead of time. For me, school stayed at the top, along with friends. Running did, however, edge out reading, Facebook, and even some weekend trips.
  8. Just Run – At the end of the day, all I have to do is run. Simple enough, right?

My race is on July 4th and I’ll be running in Santa Monica. Challenging myself to complete something so personally new and unexpected seemed like a good way to close out my 24th year of life! Stay tuned!

-TM

Do you want to, or have you already, run a half-marathon? Let us know below.

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