I am not a runner. I don’t consider myself a runner, and I definitely don’t enjoy it! With that said, this past February, I participated in the Fort Lauderdale Half Marathon, and it was by far one of the toughest mental battles I’ve had to date.
When I don't feel like myself, I have the tendency to embark on a physical journey that will challenge me mentally and emotionally. (One of my other journeys was Fight Camp, training like a fighter-- more on that here!)
Running a half marathon has been one of my goals for the last couple of years, and I finally decided to commit and get it done. Putting myself through a challenge like this helps me to not only reset my routines, my goals, and my priorities, but also reminds me that I can do hard things.
This is very important for our growth- here’s why.
Challenges help you understand who you are-- and, more importantly, who you can become. As the saying goes, it’s not about the achievement itself, but who you have to become in order to reach the goal. Challenges get us closer to our future selves and make that version tangible.
So who did I have to become in order to be a person who successfully completes a half marathon? And how did I become her?
When I was training to be a fighter, one of the ways l supplemented my martial arts training was through other forms of cardio; primarily, running a couple of miles several days a week. I quickly learned I was not a runner-- my mile times were upwards of 15 minutes, and the majority of those minutes were spent speed-walking.
Like anything, with consistency and practice, I actually got better-- my mile time got better (my personal best is now at 7 minutes 42 seconds), my stamina in the ring improved, and running didn't seem all that bad. At the time, I was only running on average about 8-10 miles a week, but it made a huge difference. So much so, I put “running a half marathon” on my 2019 vision board.
As I tried my best to prepare for an early 2020 race, most events were canceled (because of you know what), so I postponed this for a good while. To keep up, I started a new challenge with one of my best friends. Our goal was to run one mile every day, for at least 30 days. We live 3 hours away from each other, so to hold ourselves accountable, we created a shared photo album. Whenever we completed our mile for the day, we would each upload a screenshot of the stats from our Apple Watch. Doing this allowed us to see the progression of our mile times and turn it into a friendly competition for that day.
One of the best ways to stop falling on the excuse train is to actually commit to the goal. This could be financially committing, doing the challenge with a friend or family member, or even just signing up on the list to make it official.
I personally could have delayed the half marathon once again, but although I went most of 2022 without training much and I did not feel physically prepared, I knew I needed to do this for myself. I logged into the half marathon website in early October 2022 and purchased the race ticket. Now I was TRULY committed.
There were so many things that got in my way and could have been valid reasons to quit, but I never did. Here is how I structured my training from October, and all of the preparations that ultimately helped me get to the finish line.
Looking back, my training plan could have been better, but I followed a typical 14-week plan from halfmarathons.net. In my first week, I went back to the beginning of just doing 3 to 4 days of two miles each to build stamina. Almost immediately into my second week of this plan, I had an unexpected work trip that sent me to the Philippines for a couple of weeks, and I ended up not staying consistent with my initial training during that period.
Fast forward to a few weeks later: I had picked back up my training again, regardless of the time lost, in early December-- exactly 14 weeks before race day. I never imagined I could run 6-7 miles the first time I did it, but once I did, it wasn’t so intimidating. I ended up finding the best race paces that worked for me at every mile and increased the distance I ran each week. My goal was to complete the half-marathon, regardless of the time… and that’s what I was going to do.
In all honesty, training by myself was difficult, and there are things I would have done differently in hindsight. The intense training and increased mileage contributed to knee pain in the two weeks leading up to the race. I was so close to completing this goal that I couldn't stop or make the excuse to quit because of the pain. I needed to run this race, or I would constantly think about how the goal had remained incomplete.
After crossing the finishing line at the half-marathon, I felt overwhelmed with emotion. I was in shock that I had actually done it. As I recovered in the medical tent, I felt an overall sense of accomplishment, pride, and the confidence in my ability to tackle anything life threw my way.
Just remember-- you too can do hard things. It doesn't even have to be a physical challenge like running. Perhaps your challenge is performing in front of an audience for the first time, or learning a new skill-- it could literally be anything! Spend one minute writing a list of things you've always wanted to try, choose one that makes the most sense for where you are in life, and get out there and do it!