On my 31st birthday, I was reflecting on my life while sitting in our motor home at a racetrack. How had this past year gone? What did I still want to accomplish? Who did I want to be? And during this time I decided: I was going to run a half marathon. Why? Because if other people could do it, so could I.
Growing up, I was NOT a runner. My sport was marching band and I played softball my freshman year of high school because I liked managing the stats. But I wanted to remove that limiting belief in my head that running was something I couldn’t do. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Here are 5 key takeaways with from my experience training and running my first Half Marathon
- Anything is Possible (and Don’t Mind the Haters): Get it in your head that you can do it. When I first signed up for the half marathon, I wasn’t sure HOW I would do it, but I kept telling myself that I COULD and that made a world of difference. When I told some people that I signed up for a half marathon, the response I received was “WHAT?!…you know you have to actually train for that, right?” While that type of feedback was hurtful, I used it as fuel to accomplish my goal.
- Make a Plan and Stick to It: I think most things in life are easier when you focus on one thing at a time versus the entire road in front of you. There are many running plans out there and you can take it one step at a time. When I signed up for the half marathon, it came with a free subscription to Run Coach. This program had a mobile app and I would receive daily and weekly emails that outlined my workouts. I didn’t follow them completely, but it was very helpful to have some guidance.
- If You Fall Off Track, Keep Going: I signed up for this half marathon on my birthday (May 19th) and had the best intentions of training all summer. But then life gets in the way. We decided to sell our house and move to my husband’s hometown. And if you’ve never moved before (with a small child!) let me tell you: it is all encompassing. We moved at the end of July and then it took about a good month to unpack and get settled. It was close to Labor Day (~7 weeks before the half marathon) when I started to get serious about training. I seriously debated dropping out, but then I told myself, “Why don’t I just see how far behind I am?” And then when I did my first long run, I was on track and that gave me the confidence to continue. It was at that time that I purchased a subscription to the Peloton app and that truly was pivotal to my success.
- Carve Out Time for You (and Don’t Make Excuses): Making the time to train for a half marathon takes planning and coordination. My suggestion is that you have to get creative and do what works for you. Some people like to wake up early to train, but that isn’t me. I have a four-year-old son, and I never know what time he will wake up. I would much rather workout prior to picking him up from daycare or run after dinner. I am fortunate to have a treadmill in my home office, and sometimes I would have my son watch a show while I ran next to him. He was content and I was able to check off my workout for the day. Other times, my husband would take our son to the playground or to visit family while I completed a long run. Making myself and my goal a priority was something I was not used to doing, but I am so glad I did.
- Make a Goal (and a Stretch Goal): I initially signed up for the half marathon because there was a walking option. When I worked at Cleveland Clinic I almost always walked during my lunch break with friends so I thought, “Well, I can surely walk 13.1 miles.” My initial goal to complete the half marathon was 2:59 – so anything under 3 hours. In my mind, completing the half marathon under 3 hours seemed like a huge accomplishment. Then I was chatting with a work friend who was training for the NYC Marathon and he said, “I think you should have a stretch goal, too.” That was so motivating to me, and something that I hadn’t even thought about. I decided that my stretch goal would be 2:45 – so shaving my time by a little over 1 minute per mile. During the half marathon, I kept checking the time on my Fitbit, and I was determined to hit my stretch goal and I did it! I completed the half marathon with a time of 2:43:12.
Running Has Changed My Life
During one of the first Peloton runs I completed, my favorite instructor Robin Arzon said “One run will change your day. Many runs will change your life.” That sounded good to me. Since my dad died 2+ years ago, I have been working through my grief and I found it difficult to find joy in exercise. Training for this half marathon gave me a goal to achieve, a reason to run, and has truly transformed me into a happier and healthier version of myself.
What is something that you want to do that you never thought you could accomplish? My bet is that you can do it. And I am rooting for you and your big dreams.