10 Lessons I Learned from Running a Half Marathon
Last month, I FINALLY ran a half marathon.
I had listed "running a half marathon" as a goal for 2018 and was determined to accomplish it. As I halfheartedly scrolled through races across the country (and some international ones, oops) in January, I slowly began to lose interest and the dream slipped away. Fast forward to mid-March, and Soleil pitched the idea of running the Rock & Roll Half Marathon in mid-June which felt way too soon. She was also interested in running a half marathon since her horoscope defined 2018 as her year to hop on the wellness wagon (caveat: I have perpetuated the zodiac knowledge in our household and constantly read Soleil's and Leigha's horoscopes aloud much to their dismay, but Soleil's going to kill me for writing this so you should also know that it is her goal just to improve her health and wellness and it has no association with her being a Leo, that's all me, but this is my post so I can write whatever I want!!!!!), and talk of this bounced around in our daily conversations. After many deliberations, justifications, and validations, we pulled the trigger at the end of March, ten weeks before race day. Doable. Feasible. That "what have I done" feeling proceeded to wash over me after I had spent $100 to run 13.1 miles. So dumb. So scary. So ominous. Yet, I was reassured that someone else was running with me and would hold me accountable.
Soleil had run a half marathon before and quickly dived into online training plans and found multiple ten week programs. I ended up running about four to five days a week with a day of cross-training and day of rest. Well, on the weeks that I actually stuck to the training plan...there were some days I just didn't feel up for it, my body was sore, or I had too much going on and it simply didn't make sense.
Race day approached, and instead of feeling nervous I felt at ease. Definitely the complete opposite of how I'd predict myself to feel before running a daunting 13.1 miles. PREPARATION MAKES A DIFFERENCE! I felt confident and excited to run. The day before the race, we zoomed over to packet pick up, strolled around the EXPO, avoided a parking ticket, and set aside our things in anticipation for RACE DAY.
We woke up at the crack of dawn, tried to poop before leaving the house (lol), spent $40 on an uber (the worst part about 5 am), warmed up and were hyped to run/complete/accomplish our goal, stretched near a dead rat, waited for 20 minutes to actually run, THEN RAN OUR HEARTS OUT UNDER BLUE SKIES AND THE SPACE NEEDLE.
My three goals were to 1) complete the half marathon 2) run the whole thing without stopping or walking 3) break the two hour mark. I happily completed the first two and I'm eager to complete the third one at my next half marathon (whenever that is).
Running a half marathon has been one of the best things I've ever done, and I learned a few lessons...
1. Do it because you want to do it.
This applies to literally anything in life. The "it" doesn't have to be a half marathon. My initial motivation for wanting to run a half marathon three years ago was to lose weight and become skinnier. Running one to simply lose weight...yeah no, that's kind of terrible. It is completely fine if that's one of the reasons, but it should't be your sole reason. And that's probably why it took me three years to actually sign up and do one. You should do it because you want to do something you've never done before, want to push your limits, or push boundaries and step outside of your comfort zone and not something as vain as only losing weight. You're going to set yourself up for failure. You also shouldn't do it because everyone seems to be doing it. Again, social media perpetuates the "things" you should be doing and recently I've noticed that I've seen more posts about running a half (which is awesome!), but if running isn't your thing, no pressure. Don't feel obligated. Sign up for a bike race, triathlon, or something you've always wanted to try. You should do it only if you want to.
2. Actually sign up.
Step number 2. Very straightforward and essential. Even if you have every positive vibe and intention in the whole wide world, you can't do it if you don't sign up. Signing up makes it real and tangible. It sets a deadline, holds yourself accountable, and motivates you towards your goal.
3. A reminder of how important setting & achieving goals are.
This was a hardcore reminder in goal making and very much needed and appreciated (thanks universe!). I accomplished one of my biggest goals for 2018. Set the goal, outlined the steps to get there, and executed. A part of the process is recognizing you'll make mistakes and figuring out how to navigate those roadblocks. If it's something you really want, you won't find an excuse and you'll find a way to make it happen. There were MANY mornings where it was pouring rain, dark outside, or too just plain too early. Having people hold you accountable really helps (shoutout to Soleil) and you learn to hold yourself accountable. I would tell myself, "okay because you didn't run this morning you have to run in the evening and miss x, y, and z" or "if you make it 4 miles in this rain, you can treat yourself this evening" or "YOU NEED TO RUN THESE 7 MILES OR YOU'RE NOT GOING TO FINISH THE RACE AND YOU WASTED $100 TO RUN ARE YOU INSANE, GET OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW".
4. Running doesn't suck.
Contrary to popular belief!!!! I've had a love-hate relationship with running since soccer. When running is your punishment, you're conditioned to kind of despise it. Since college, it's been my primary form of exercise, well, sort of. The thought of running ten miles wasn't tangible or appealing, like ever. Slowly building up my mileage changed my perspective and forced me to realize that it's actually really easy to run a long distance. Additional items like good running shoes also make a HUGE difference, a dope music playlist makes you want to run longer, an interesting podcast makes the time go by faster. Plus, it's so good for your mind and body. (Side note: literally no one looks good running. Ask Soleil, my race photos were TRAGIC. Running is the universal ugly sport!).
5. The importance of taking care of your body.
The human body is impressive. It can undergo extreme stress, yet remain resilient. I knew this already from Biology, but I didn't truly appreciate it until running long distances. Exercise is important. This is the only body you have and you need to take care of it. Right now. Like yesterday, actually. Running helps with heart health (holla at the cardiovascular system) and boosts your mood (holla at endorphins). Further than that, you also learn your physical limits and take the time to listen to your body which is equally important.
6. Confidence in yourself.
With each day I completed my designated mileage, the more I believed in my abilities to actually do this run, which gave me way more confidence, and allowed me to love myself more, or at least head down that path. Learning to love yourself is a journey, but if you can run ten miles, you feel like you can do anything.
7. Stretch. Always.
Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. You'll thank yourself. Stretch regularly and rolling out on that foam roller will be 50 times less painful.
8. All sorts of people race.
Big, small, short, and tall. Walking, running, jogging, and rolling wheelchairs. 5K, Half Marathon, and Marathon. Individuals, teams, and families. First timers and 100 timers (wowza). It was really cool to see and be apart of. Everyone was united by participation in the event despite coming from all walks of life.
9. It impacts all aspects of your life.
Obviously, running physically changes you - you're in better shape - yet it seeps into other areas of your life. Having a set schedule forces you to plan and anticipate. If you have work and plans in the evening, you've gotta be waking up and running right as you wake up. Your mood improves. You're more motivated and energized, allowing you to accomplish more throughout the day. Not going to lie, I became excited to run because it became a regular part of my day, never thought I'd say that. You're overall quality of life improves.
10. Support systems really help.
I'm lucky to be surrounded by love and support. I had a lot of friends and family wish me good luck, encourage me by giving tips, and a best friend running with me. This definitely allowed me to be successful. Sometimes you don't have that support system and that's okay. Find people who are interested and build it. If you're someone who is fortunate to have a network, reach out to someone who may need a little boost. Be there for them. Regardless, surround yourself with people willing to help you achieve your goals and cut those other suckers out because they don't deserve someone as awesome as you.
It's been a long time coming and I'm proud that I accomplished it. I had so much fun I want to run another one this year. I really do encourage everyone to consider running one, I'll run with you!