This past summer I ran my first 5K just for the fun of it and just because I knew that I could do it without little to no training. What I found was that the whole race experience was really cool and added some flavor to just running on my own. I liked it so much that I decided to sign up for a Jingle Bells 5K Run in December, which was even more fun (and festive)! Again, I knew that I could run a 5K without any training, especially since my goal was just to simply complete the race and to do it in under 30 minutes (since I know that I am capable of that too). I placed no pressure or exertion on myself other than having to wake up and run first thing in the morning and the risk of poor weather. (P.S. It was in the 40's for the Jingle Bell Run!!! A perfect running day!!!)
Fast forward two months... I am in the midst of training for a half-marathon!!! I turned 39 in December and quite honestly, I am having some issues with turning the big 4-0. So back in December, I signed up for the NYC Half Marathon Lottery with the intention of doing something big before I turned forty and also knowing in the back of my head that I wouldn't get picked. Well... I did get picked. And I didn't know if I should have cheered or cried when I got that e-mail. I think I did both, lol.
I immediately found a training program to follow (Hal Higdon's) and I just finished week 6 of my training. What does week 6 of half marathon for the beginner entail? Well, my two short runs for the week were 4 miles and my long run was 6 miles. I did my long run yesterday and it was a gorgeous 50 degree sunny day. I've been lucky, the weekend before was mild for a NYC January and I ended up running 6.5 miles instead of the 6. So yesterday I had to push myself further and I ended up running 6.75 miles in just over 62 minutes! For the first time ever, I ran two laps inside of Prospect Park in Brooklyn!
It's taken 6 weeks to for me to run just half of what I will do in exactly 8 weeks from today! When I look at it that way it seems daunting. However, if I look at how my ability to run long distance has tremendously improved in only 6 weeks, I am amazed. The thought of running 4 miles before was uncomfortable, but doable. Anything beyond that was just crazy talk! But now, those distances are becoming my short runs!!
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The solace in running...
Despite the option of having running partner(s), running is essentially a solo sport. I am a lone trainer and along with finding triumph in achieving my weekly goals, I have also found solace in running.
I am running 45-60+ minutes each time I go out for a run now. That's a lot of alone time with nothing other than myself and my thoughts. What do I think about when I run? Honestly, I am so focused on what I need to do that I am not daydreaming or stressing about what I should or could or need to be doing... I am truly in the moment. (Last year at this time I was taking a mindful mediation class to me refocus and find that in the moment appreciation and living. Who knew I just needed to go for a run, a long run!)
As I said in the opening, I am not a runner. Even now, I am still not a runner. I am a woman with a goal in mind. If I continue to run after that half-marathon, then maybe I will consider myself a runner, but until then, I am not. So, because I am not a runner and it doesn't come naturally to me, the majority of my thoughts while running are "keep going," "you got this," "one foot in front of the other," "just keep going," and "you're almost done!" LOL... it's all motivational. I have too, otherwise I don't think I would ever make it. So essentially, I am telling myself nothing but positive, uplifting, and motivational things for an hour straight!! Do you know how awesome that is?!?!?
I've also learned to listen to my body. I listen to my breathing. I listen to my heartbeat. I listen to the tightness in my legs or the soreness in my feet. I have to pay attention to what my body is telling me. (Our bodies are so smart and they communicate too, we just need to pay attention and listen.) When I hit that wall and I want to quit... I ask myself do I want to quit because I am feeling out of breath and I might faint? Do I want to quit because I am not in the mood to run? Or do I just need to bust through this wall knowing that I will feel better in just a few minutes? (I'll only stop for the first one.) Sometimes my legs tighten up and I pay attention to that too. Can I wiggle it out between steps? Is it loosening up with each step? Or do I need to pull over and stretch out? I never used to think it was okay to stop before (like I was cheating or wimping out) but now, if I need to stretch out that hamstring or anything else, without hesitation I will.
I'm so busy listening and talking to myself (LOL... weirdo) that I don't run with headphones anymore. I never thought that was possible! I realized I didn't need them when one day I went out for a run and about 30 minutes later I realized that my iPod was on repeat and I had been listening to the same song for about 3 miles. Yah, LOL. So in between the "conversations" that I am having with myself, I enjoy the sounds of nature that I take in for brief moments more so than parts of a song from my play list.
So just in case you don't think that I am weird enough, sometimes I have a "This is Us" moment while running. Sometimes I pep talk myself so much, that I get emotional. Yes, I have teared up while running. It's such an awesome feeling when you accomplish something that you hate and especially when the process is so focused and so entirely you. I just hope that I use up the tears that well up when I think about crossing that half marathon finish line so that I when I actually do, I'll only look like half of a hot mess.
Does anyone have any running stories or any experiences similar to this? Please tell me I am not the only one!!!