Yesterday, I completed my first half-marathon in Portland, ME.
A rainy, dreary autumn day, I ran alongside 4,000 other participants, including one of my best friends, the cherry on top of an already special experience.
I’m not a runner, never have been. Before I started training for this race, I’d go for a three or four mile run once every other week, mostly just to deviate from my regular exercise routines of lifting, yoga, biking, hiking and high intensity interval training.
It’s been that way for years, and I always told myself more miles weren’t necessary because well, why put my body through that?
For years, I've tossed around the idea of running a long race. But I’ve always earmarked a marathon or half-marathon for a later time in my life, likely during a midlife crisis when I come to closer grips with my own mortality.
Honestly, there's only one reason why I never committed to it before a few months ago.
I feared running that many miles. I dreaded spending 90 minutes or two hours on a run. I thought about the harsh impact on my body, the dedication and discipline required to responsibly train for a race of that length.
Like it does for so many of us, fear limited me from accomplishing my goals, from seeing what’s possible. Fear told me I could leave this to the future, that I’d do it “one day.”
But of course, “one day” may never come.
If I’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that the future is not guaranteed. We can’t leave anything until tomorrow. Our hopes and dreams cannot be delayed; we must strive for them today. Right here, right now. Always.
So in mid-August, when my dear friend mentioned she was training for a half-marathon in early October, I knew that the time was now.
I wanted to accomplish something, to dedicate myself to a singular goal. To discipline myself in training, to navigate the inevitable ups and downs that present themselves along the way. To strengthen myself physically but more so mentally, because the mind constantly tells you to quit while you’re running.
As I look back on the 50 days since I committed to this race, I’m really proud of the work I put in.
I ran twice a week -- a short run on Wednesday and a long one on Sunday. To round out my training, I lifted weights and strengthened my lower body, cross-trained by biking and hiking, took up a yoga class downtown and then rested when I needed to.
I drank less and tampered down the cheat meals, understanding I’d be shooting myself in the foot by putting toxins into my body while training.
I mostly ran at Portsmouth High School, running a seemingly endless number of laps around the track. It was monotonous and boring. But I wanted to make training more difficult than race day, because surely then the crowd, scenery, competition and adrenaline rush would help push me through the tough times on the course.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Five miles in, my left groin felt like it might dislodge itself from the rest of my body. Nine miles in, my legs began to shake. Eleven miles in, the farthest I’d ever run to that point, my gas tank approached E.
But I persevered.
And honestly, I never once considered stopping. I had steeled myself so much from training, had gained so much confidence, that I never even allowed my mind to get to that dark place of doubt.
Most runners feel a sense of relief when they cross the finish line, the triumphant moment they envisioned during training.
But I didn’t feel that way.
I was too busy sprinting to the finish, depleting myself of all the energy that remained in my body.
I wanted to finish the race the same way I started:
Determined. Confident. Fearless.
And now that I’ve completed this half-marathon, I’ve proven to myself that I’m capable of even more than I thought, a lesson that I’ll apply to other areas of my life where I still struggle with confidence.
It was an amazing experience, and I’m so proud I went through it all, and so happy I did it alongside a few people that are really special to me.
If you’ve never run a race before, I strongly recommend you do. It doesn’t have to be 13.1 or 26.2 miles; a simple 5K or 10K suffices.
Because there’s nothing like a race day atmosphere. It’s the most positive place in the world, the streets lined with people cheering for you, encouraging you to keep pushing, telling you about the great job you’re doing and how good you look doing it.
There’s not too many experiences left that offer that amount of love.
(Plus, well-deserved beers after the race are always something to look forward to.)
I’ll leave you with this.
Whatever it is that you’re fearing, whatever it is that’s holding you back from doing something you really want to do...just go for it. You might never get the opportunity.
Identify the goal. Make a plan. Trust the process. And execute.
You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish once you stop allowing fear dictate your life.