In October of last year, I attended the Nike Women’s Marathon to watch my friend run. I was so overjoyed for these individuals as I watched them cross the finish line. Running 26.2, let alone 13.1, miles seemed impossible to me, and I was inspired. I decided that I wanted a new challenge in my life, some unfamiliar territory that I could really dive into head first. This new challenge would be running.
When I decide to do something, I do it all the way. It wasn’t that I was going to pick up running here and there as a hobby, I was going to run my first half marathon! I was so eager and enthusiastic about this plan that I felt unstoppable, but soon was met with disappointment on the first day that I ran, when it was a struggle to complete one mile.
For the past six months, I have been rigorously training for my first half marathon. Over this time of training, my muscles got stronger, my lung capacity increased and my feet became tougher. What I didn’t expect, however, was the strength that would build from within. Running isn’t simply a physical sport, it’s a mental one. A person can be in the best shape of their life, but if the little voice in their head tells them to give up, they won’t overcome that with physical strength.
Over time, running became so much more to me. Whenever I would lace up my shoes and embark on a long run, I was met with many challenges, most that were mental rather than physical. It took me a long time to have faith in my body and my strength and not give up when I felt like I had enough. I remember while I was in Hawaii at the beginning of this year, my training schedule called for eight miles. At the time, I told myself this was impossible. So impossible that I stopped to walk a couple of times. It wasn’t until the weekend after I returned from Hawaii when I told myself I was not going to give up, that no matter what, I would not stop running. Since that day, I have not walked during my long runs.
I spent the last four weeks of my training making a constant effort to keep a strong mentality. Part of my Happiness Project for March was to find the beauty in my long runs, which is what I thought about and focused on during moments of weakness. I didn’t realize until after that I was knocking out 8, 9, 10, and 11 miles without stopping.
Before I knew it, race day was here. I didn’t get much sleep the night before due to nerves that unfortunately carried on into the next morning. Everything I had hoped and worked toward was for this one day. It is hard to describe what was going through my head once my wave group took off. For the first three miles, I was very present and aware of my surroundings and what my body was feeling. Once I got close to four miles, there was a shift in my mental state. I was overcome by peace and stillness, and didn’t snap out of it until I saw the mile marker for Mile Ten. Somehow, I had ran six miles without noticing. When I came to, I started feeling the pain in my body again and realized how tired I was. My mind was trying to trick me into giving up. All I could do was tell myself over and over that I am stronger than my thoughts, that all I need to do is make it to Mile Twelve and the rest would be a breeze. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Keep going.
I didn’t give up. I didn’t give in. And I did keep going. I kept going until I crossed that finish line. Tears started flowing from my eyes and I couldn’t stop them. I actually did this. I ran a half marathon. I beat my self doubt and fear. The best thing that running did for me was teach me that no matter what circumstance, no matter what life chooses to throw at me, I am strong enough conquer it. And that is something no one can ever take away from me.