"This is the hardest thing I've ever done."
Those words went through my head every Saturday for about two months starting in March. In my half marathon training program, Saturday was reserved for a long run that would stretch my previously held notion of how long I could run. Every time my plan called for an addition of 10 or 20 minutes, I’d wonder and fret the evening before. But when I actually started running something changed. I stopped questioning and just committed to going the distance—well past the point when my dog decided that 60 minutes was sufficient for her. I also spent more time noticing the details of the experience itself rather than thinking about how much longer I had to go. It started to be almost enjoyable.
Mind you, there was a time not so long ago that I did not run at all. After embarking on a fitness program in 2007, I got the urge to try. My first 5k was a fun run near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and I had a friend who was willing to pace me. I was spurred on by the encouragement and the scenery. My goal was to finish, and I did. Back then if I had set a goal to run a half marathon, I wouldn't have been ready to commit. I set a bunch of goals: finish a whole 5k, run a 5k with hills, finish in under 30 minutes, heck, try a 10k. The progressive accumulation of challenge and success prepared me to take on something more ambitious.
Getting support in tackling a big goal really makes a difference. Before taking this on, I talked to a bunch of people who had run half marathons. They were encouraging. If they could do it, I could do it. If I could run a 10k, a half marathon was a logical next step. All these conversations helped me to consider that running a half marathon was something I could do. January 2013 came, the opportunity presented itself, I found a team that was running and raising money for World Vision, and I committed. I wanted to finish strong without injury and enjoy the experience enough to consider doing another one. I contacted my trusted trainer and contracted with him to build a plan for me. It fit like a glove: focused on strength, heart rate, cross training as well as running. It had something mapped out for every day. The only days I missed were due to a bad cold.
The right goal
The larger challenge was overcoming the voice in my head that said I wasn’t an athlete. In my head, I was just trying new things to stay active and have fun. But without a goal of some kind, it’s tougher to ignore the voice and push through the harder exercises. Low and behold, the right goal changes everything. The right goal gives meaning to the training. And with consistent practice over time new behaviors become a habit.
To sum it up, I got more from setting the goal to run a half marathon than crossing the finish line. I started getting up earlier and structuring the rest of my day differently, too. I ate and slept better which lead to having a better focus throughout the day. Now I’m imagining what I’m going to do next. As I do that, I’m taking these lessons to heart:
What challenge do you want to tackle?
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