The Road to 13.1 (Part 3)
If there’s one thing I learned from training for my Half Marathon, it’s this: Trust yourself and listen to your own body. Everyone is built differently, so what works for one person might not work for another. This is especially true from a nutrition standpoint.
LB, my training buddy from afar, and I were always amazed at how different our nutritional needs were. For example: She only takes sips of water a couple of times throughout her long runs, while I can go through two small water bottles in an hour and 20 mins if it’s hot. She likes to eat a bowl of cream of wheat before a run, while I can only handle half a banana. There are so many people with opinions out there about what you should eat the night before, when you should fuel mid-run, etc. But honestly, it all comes down to YOU. Through trial and error, you’ll figure out what works best for your body. This is true for all areas of fitness and life in general, not just running. Trying to follow what other people do, or comparing yourself to anyone else is a waste of time. You can learn from others, and draw inspiration, but ultimately your journey is your own.
The most challenging part of this entire experience was learning how to overcome mental road blocks. Things were going pretty well with my training, but when the long runs started getting higher in mileage, something changed. I started building up a lot of anxiety until finally, on the morning of my scheduled 10-miler, I crashed into a giant metaphorical brick wall. It was hot, I was sick, and I couldn’t even make it through more than a mile and a half. The panic of thinking “I can’t do this” shattered me. I’m not one to cry too often, but the floodgates opened and I called or texted every athlete I could think of for advice. “How do I get through this? How can I push past this block? Has this ever happened to you?” I asked them all.
I think sometimes it’s important to break down because it’s the only way to really reflect and see things more clearly. I realized that I was putting so much pressure on the race that the simple act of running — an activity that I’d been so desperate for a year and a half to be able to do pain-free — stopped being fun, and instead was just something to “get through”. I took a couple of days to collect myself and get over my illness, and then hit the pavement with a new perspective. I was just going to run for fun and not worry about the distance. It worked, and I ended up being able to cover the distances I needed with a clear mind. Every long run after that was fun, pressure-free, and had me grinning. Keeping calm is what ultimately helped bring back the joy of the sport.
Finally, race day arrived! All of my training runs had clear skies, so of course it was pouring on race day. In fact, it didn’t even really start raining until the race started. I actually really enjoy running in the rain, but I was a little concerned about my ipod getting ruined or having to deal with blisters. It ended up being great, but my shoes were nice and water logged by mile 8. The course itself was really nice because it started out running right along the ocean for a couple of miles, and then it took us all along these side streets where there were a TON of spectators on the sidelines. At different places there was a guy playing bagpipes, a group of drummers, and several clusters of kids who gave me high-fives. There was also this guy:
I’m really fortunate to have such a kickass brother who will stand out in the freezing rain just to wave to me at the halfway point. It was a really nice boost to see him and LB’s sister there, especially since it was right around a fairly challenging part of the course. He snapped this pic of me that makes me laugh because I look like I’ve been photoshopped in:
Somewhere around mile 10.5 I saw another pair of lime green compression sleeves, and immediately got excited because it was LB! We ran the rest of the race together which was really, really special for both of us. Once we hit mile 12, I had two major thoughts going on in my head; The first was something like this: “!!!!!”, and the second was, “Man, it would really suck to trip at this point.” We saw my brother and LB’s sister again at the Mile 13 mark, and from there we sprinted to the finish line.
I’ve never felt a wave of emotion quite like the one I had when I saw the finish line, but it nearly knocked the wind out of me. I think I could have kept running for miles just on pure happiness. While I still can’t believe I actually ran it without stopping and that we finished so far under our goal time, my main hope was to just enjoy the experience, and I really, truly did. So. Much. Fun!
Thank you for reading this story, especially if you made it through Part 1 and Part 2. I hope that it can help you overcome your own obstacles and that you remember to always appreciate the small gifts in your life. There will always be struggles, and they will always be hard, but there is usually a lesson somewhere in them.
Oh, and I don’t know what most people do after half marathons, but we went bowling. LB schooled us all.
And as always, Remember to Breathe.