1 year ago today I achieved one of my biggest goals to date...
I finished my first half marathon, a year ago today. Over the past year, I've been working towards some different goals, so running has taken a little bit of a back seat but someday I'll take this running journey to the next level and finish 26.2! (ahhh!)
I still think it's relevant to share this story to remind people that it's okay to celebrate your achievements, no matter how big or small you may think they are in the grand scheme of life. It's okay to be proud of yourself.
So here we go, from 1yr-ago-me:
If you told me years ago, that I would have just completed a half marathon I would have called you crazy.
In elementary school I always dreaded the annual race on Field Day, it was just a lap around the small school building, but I got cramps every time and ended up walking it. In junior high, that one mile run for Presidential fitness testing was just the worst. For me running was always synonymous with cramping, especially that awful side cramp from breathing too fast, and stressing out my diaphragm. I really didn't enjoy it, and I couldn't for the life of me understand how people did it for fun.
It's not as if I was inactive throughout my life I tried all sorts of activities: swim team, ice skating, gymnastics, cheerleading, basketball, and my mom was an aerobics instructor so sometimes I even went with her and took class. I finally landed happily in dance class, ballet was my favorite. I eventually made it into the company, and we practiced 10+ hours a week.
Despite my regular activity - running always just felt so much harder than anything else.
Senior year of high school, one my best friends (that was also in dance with me) told me I should join the track team. I remember I literally laughed out loud, and said something to the effect of 'you want me to run...for fun?!' Shortly after the initial suggestion, I gave it some actual thought. I thought about how it would keep me in shape, and how maybe being on a team would force me to keep running despite hating it. I'm not sure if that's the most positive train of thought...but I signed up, and started practicing before the season began.
On the first day, when my coaches were trying to determine what events I might want to participate in, I made it very clear to them that I had zero ability in the endurance department. And so, a "sprinter" was born...I added those quotes because I was slow, like last-heat, last-seed at every meet, slow. I like to give myself the benefit of the doubt that my school's track and field program was underfunded, and small, so maybe with different training I may have been a little faster...but I had some very fast teammates, so maybe that's just wishful thinking.
We all trained together, the distance runners and the sprinters, we met for practice everyday and we mostly just went for runs, some days longer, some days harder. It started out as a huge challenge for me, cramps all the time, and my leg muscles were unbelievably tight, I couldn't even do a plié during ballet that first week.
The cool thing is, that the challenge became less and less with each practice, and I was actually starting to like it.
Despite the fact that I wasn't coming anywhere near winning in my events, that Track season is one of my favorite high school memories. To this day I wish I had started sooner, so I could have had 4+ seasons instead of just the one. I really loved it by the end, I loved my team, and I may have been falling for running too. When the season ended I told myself I would keep it up. I didn't want to stop, and find myself back at square one: cramping and out of breath in just a few minutes.
That summer, my aunt and I signed up for our first 5k together. Our goal was simply to finish, we were excited just to do it together. We finished, and we were completely shocked during the award ceremony to hear that I somehow came in first place for my age group. My mom thought we were kidding when we told her (she went to all those track meets, lol). Maybe, I wasn't so bad at endurance after all.
I ran a couple more 5ks in the years following that, and kept up with my running on and off. Winter has always been a killer, the treadmill is not nearly as enjoyable for me. About 4 years ago I got really committed to running regularly again. I started to realize that I could go further than my usual 1-3 miles, and 5 miles started to be almost normal for me. It was about this time I started to wonder if I was capable of pulling off something like a half marathon. One spring I decided I would do one, and then I let excuses like the registration fee, or a need to get new sneakers get in my way.
I allowed those excuses to keep coming up for three years, but this Spring I was tired of that.
I held myself accountable by investing in new sneakers, registering for the race months in advance, and then telling people about it. Telling people was key for me, I'm the kind of person who follows through, so once it was public, it was real. I found a training program on Pinterest, and I followed it (kinda). At one point I mapped out a 13.1 mile route to get an idea of the distance, and it was terrifying to be honest. At this point the longest I'd ever run was just under 6 miles, and that was a whole summer ago. Eventually with every weekend that went by I started hitting new personal distance records, and it felt awesome. Three weeks before the race I accidentally took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up doing 12.7 miles instead of the 10 I had planned, and that was the first moment in all of my training, that I believed I could really do it.
In the process of completing that accidentally extra-long run, I may have pushed myself too hard. The following week was met with a few minor injuries, and the need to scale way back on my running, and suddenly I wasn't as confident anymore.
I trained as much as I could in the week before my race, but I was careful to take it easy on myself as well. The day before the race I drank tons of water, and went to bed super early. I woke up on race day before the sun was up, it was foggy, rainy, and cold, all the sorts of weather I had not hoped for. At the starting line it was freezing, and way too cold to stretch, I just hoped I'd warm up once I got going.
Overall, the race felt great, I was careful to pace myself and was able to finish really strong, I even felt like I could have kept going at the end (notes for next time: maybe I could have gone a little faster in the beginning). It felt so great to cross that finish line, and to have completed something I'd been wanting for so long. I'm still pretty pumped about it!
I decided to share this story for a couple reasons.
The first reason is because I'm proud of what I've accomplished, especially when I consider where I started. I think it's super important for people to remember to acknowledge their own achievements, and personal wins. It's not bragging, it's self-love, and loving yourself is one of the greatest things you can do for your health. The second is because I want to remind others that they are capable of achieving their goals, and dreams. There were literally ~5,000 other participants running that race with me, I didn't achieve something superhuman or that others haven't already. I know people who have done marathons, and other impressive things, in fact someone I went to high school with came in 4th place at this race, and finished it more than an hour faster than I did and he crushed his goal that day too. The achievements of others should not belittle my own. I achieved something big for me, something I truly couldn't even imagine doing for most of my life, and it felt great.
We are all on our own individual journey, facing our own challenges, and enjoying our own varieties of success.
Next time you set a goal for yourself, do not compare it to the goals of others, and do not let your own fear of failure manifest in the form of excuses or procrastination. My goal was 13.1 miles, and I finally did it. Maybe your goal is to run a mile, or to start going to the gym, or to finish a 50k, maybe your goal isn't even fitness related...get a new job, graduate college, learn to cook, learn a new language. No matter the size, scope or nature of your goal, you can do it. Find a way to hold yourself accountable, or find support in someone else to hold you accountable, and chase after those dreams.
Thanks for reading everyone! Share your goals (big and small) with me in the comments!
P.S. It wouldn't be my article if I didn't at least mention how significantly my diet improved over the years as well. Fuel your body with the right food so it can do the things you ask of it!
P.P.S. Best of luck to those running this same race this year! Wishing you much better weather!