What I Learned from my First Half Marathon that goes Beyond just Running

I never was a runner. I hated running in elementary and high school. Into college, I still hated running. A couple years ago, I started to dedicate myself to running a mile and a half a day before my workouts about five days a week. Slowly, very slowly, running was soon to grow on me. Skip ahead a year and I ran my first 5k in 2018 with my lovely sister in law. It doesn’t seem very far now, but it was a goal I set out for myself and BOOM - I accomplished it. Now let’s fast forward to this year, 2019. The year I have challenged myself, doubted myself and exceeded beyond my own expectations. Going into the summer, back in May, I was extremely out of shape. I was in the worst shape of my life. I knew that wasn’t who I was. I always take care of my health, but for some reason I let drinking beer, eating out and not caring about my health take over me throughout my junior year of college. I was determined to make a change. I started working out again, six times a week both cardio and weight lifting. I also signed up for a 5k in June to do with my little sister which was so much fun. I had become hooked on the feeling of finishing and competing in the first 5k the summer before. I then signed up for another 5k in July with her and had just as much fun. I remember telling myself I wanted a new challenge. I wanted to do something harder, further and something that pushed me beyond my limits both physically and mentally. So, in August I started training for what would be my first half marathon and signed myself up for it. In doing this, I was holding myself ACCOUNTABLE to be in shape enough to be able to run this and finish this feat. Throughout my training and running my first half, I learned so much about myself, the sport of running and how to be mentally tough.

 

Here are the biggest takeaways I have from finishing my first half marathon that goes beyond just running:

 

Self Discipline

This is one of the BIGGEST lessons I have learned over the course of my training the past two and a half months. I enjoy working out in the mornings but this can be extremely difficult on days you just don’t want to get up. It took a whole lot of self discipline to get out of bed on days that it was hardest. I was holding myself accountable to show up for MYSELF. I wasn’t running for anyone but myself, so I had to show up for myself. Saturday mornings were always dedicated to my long runs. These ranged from four miles to ten miles over the course of my training runs. Some of these runs I would start at 6am, on a weekend when I could have been easily sleeping in. But NOPE I showed up. When school started again and all my friends were back in town, this was HARD for me. They would want to go out to eat or go have a drink or two on Friday nights. I had to be disciplined with what I put in my body these nights, which the majority of the time resulted in passing up the drink or not eating the fries in front of me, just so I could have a successful run the next morning. It was hard, but SO worth it. I also had to be disciplined with what I put in my body every other day. I couldn’t afford eating out every night or giving my body unhealthy food constantly. I had to fuel myself with foods that were GOOD for me and I knew would help me with these long training runs. As my miles progressed, the more I had to eat and give my body fuel. All being mindful of what I was eating.

 

Adversity

This is bound to happen no matter what. Difficulties happen and how you react to it says a lot about you as a person. I had a couple adversities come my way, which I had to learn how to deal with. I had a week in training where I was getting such bad side cramps, I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I was frustrated and I simply just wanted to run. I wasn’t tired, but I had these God-awful side cramps that wouldn’t go away. I ended up googling it (shout out google!) and figured it had to do with my breathing. From then on, I started to thoroughly focus on my breathing and it worked! I just remember being so frustrated and wanting it to go away. My frustration most definitely didn’t help it. You truly need to listen to your body and what it is trying to tell you. Another difficulty I had to face about midway through my training was the passing of my grandmother. This was so hard. There were mornings that week and weeks thereafter where I simply just didn’t want to get up and go run due to being sad. I then used what I was feeling and put it into my workouts. Running became my outlet. A place I could go to and feel at peace, clear my mind and just focus on running.

 

Mentality

This one is a big one. Half of running is mental if you ask me. When I was first debating on running this half marathon, I couldn’t get over the fact that I would be running for more than two hours. Like what?! I was doubting myself and my ability just because I would be running for two hours. What you tell yourself affects you a lot. I saw a sign along the route of my half marathon this past Saturday that said ‘What you tell yourself, is what you believe.’ That really resonated with me. If I would’ve gotten down on myself or told myself I couldn’t finish, I don’t think I would have finished. During my race when I was tired and about ready to give up, I would tell myself over and over again that, `I am strong’, ‘I am trained for this’ and ‘I can do this.’ Mantras work! I just repeated this over and over and over again to myself when I was struggling, hurting or doubting myself, especially in those last three miles. Another sign I saw along the route was ‘Trust your Training’. I saw this sign around mile three and I’m telling you, I needed it although it was early on in the race and I was yet to be tired. I needed the remember to trust my training and hard work I have put in the last two and a half months JUST because it is so easy to doubt it. Again, that goes back to your mentality. You need to trust yourself, trust your training and BELIEVE in YOURSELF.

 

Goals

After completing this half marathon, I have the feeling I literally can do anything. Anything I set my mind to, I TRULY believe I can achieve. This was a goal of mine that challenged me and scared the heck out of me. But I have never been so proud of myself for doing it. I now know I can shoot for goals that scare me, challenge me and push me beyond my limits because I KNOW I CAN DO IT. Simple as that.

 

This half marathon goes beyond just running and learning to be a good runner. Anyone can be a runner, take it from me the girl who used to HATE it. It is now my outlet and I look forward to my runs, my time I get to spend with myself, the time I get to feel blessed to have the ability to move my body and the time I get to push myself beyond my limits. Runner’s high is a thing and it's addicting! My first half marathon is in the books, but it won’t be the last - so stay tuned to which one will be next. This is my story to you that anything is possible and YOU TOO can shoot for goals that scare you a bit! It. Is. Worth. It.