Running a Half Marathon: A Reflection

For all of the passions I have in my life, running has been and always will be the most important. As a former high school cross country and track athlete, I had to learn to take my running at my own pace. It was impossible for me to measure up to my fellow state champion teammates. I found solace in steady runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays with my best friends, and later as a manager for my team. When I was no longer an athlete during my final track season, I was still a runner. Almost as soon as I stopped competing, I learned to love my sport for the pure happiness and joy it brings as you finish a successful run. Graduation, the end of senior year, and a few weeks without running guided me towards my next goal: running a half marathon.

And so, the training (and run logging) began:

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019 (3.59 miles): My roommate and I shared AirPods (#goals) and listened to music but also talked. Feeling good! Still happy about my new shoes, they make me feel bouncy.

Friday, September 20th, 2019 (7.00 miles): Planning to get some tape from Walgreens later to wrap up my big toe entirely - she's in need of some TLC right now. 

Friday, October 4th, 2019 (8.00 miles): AH. That was super long. I think I died and went to heaven all in one run. Proud of myself for running that long - I felt pretty mentally tough. Each mile that I go longer gets a little easier. 

Friday, October 18th, 2019 (9.01 miles): It's a really good feeling to see my progress in my training; I know that I've been steadily improving but in runs like this (and ones from this week/last week) I feel confident in my training. The best part of this run was that I feel like I could easily do 4 more miles after the 9!

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019 (6.00 miles): Ugh. This one was no bueno. I think that I got in my head about this run even before it started. I haven't done a longer tempo in a while, so I got caught up with the pacing aspect of it…since I thought I was dying, I felt like it too.

Around early November, I began to feel discouraged with myself. There were countless days of excuses: "I’m too tired, I have too much homework, I don’t have enough time." Instead of becoming my release, fitting a run into my daily schedule caused me stress. I questioned whether I would be able to run 13.1 miles when some days my normal 3-mile loop had me panting and exhausted. I became obsessed with the idea of having the “perfect run” in “perfect weather” along the “perfect route.” Anything less than a combination of perfect circumstances left me with a negative attitude that crept into my thoughts any time I began a new run. 

I’ve heard it said that failing is the most important part of any experience. As runners, we would never learn anything if we didn’t have the difficult workouts, vomiting in the trash can after a race, and injuries along the way. I realized that my faults rested in my own brain. If I were ever going to complete this half marathon, I needed to believe in myself. I needed to feel confident that I could do it. 

Thankfully, this wasn’t a mindset that I achieved alone. I’m lucky to have so many people who supported me throughout this process. My parents, with my dad doubling as my coach, let me call them countless times for advice and encouragement after a bad run or workout. My friends helped me remember how far I had come since the beginning of my training. My boyfriend gave me socks to wear during the race. My roommate became an excellent running buddy and pushed me through every trying moment. In my world - where I am lucky to know athletes competing in marathons, ultramarathons, and Ironman races - a half marathon barely compares. Regardless, my friends and family understood what running this race would mean to me.

For the entire 13.1 miles that I ran on January 11th, I thought about how much it took for me to get to this point. I felt immense gratitude surge through me as I passed my family cheering after mile 1. While running along the Battery, I remembered all of my afternoon runs spent spotting dolphins here. The shouts and fist-pumping from my friends and roommates at mile 6 made me smile (and admittedly shed some happy tears). The numbness at mile 10 reminded me of all of the moments when I struggled over the past few months - I settled into positive self-talk and mantras to power me through. 

Almost a week later, I’m reflecting on this moment when I realized that every step had been worthwhile. After 2 hours, 24 minutes, and 57 seconds, I did something amazing. I have never had so much appreciation for my legs, my body, and my brain. In my areas of insecurity, I discovered strength. I learned to love my sport and love myself in pursuing it.

I realize that running is not for everyone, and so my story might not reach you in any way as a reader. However, I believe there is a lesson to be learned. Every person has a dream, a goal, a passion. For as much as any of us want to accomplish these things, there are twice as many insecurities or obstacles holding us back. You can take one of two paths: walk away, or overcome. Whatever your pace, you can overcome. Take it from me.