I can't decide if these are things I learned going after a goal, or from running a half marathon. Do the lessons cross to other things aside from running? I believe so, actually. I believe what I am going to share here is for anyone, it just so happens they come from me working towards and running my first half marathon race.
- It took a bit of time to get where I wanted to be.We first began training for this race back in July. Almost four months. I ran three times a week, most weeks, and worked hard to get a long run in each week. When I began the training I thought I had more than enough time, but by the end of the time period I realized how quickly it went. If I had procrastinated anymore than I actually did I would not have had enough time to prepare. Always give yourself more time than you think you will need, and then some.
- I pushed through fear to get where I wanted to be.Anxiety and fear have made their presence known very well. Especially over the past month or so, each time I stepped out of my house to run I questioned myself. The one time I drove to the lake to run I had to fight the thoughts and desire to turn around and just go back home. Even at the beginning of the race, as they started and the mass began running, right there in the middle of all of them fear and anxiety sat on my heart. I would have been okay stopping and waiting for Captain at the finish line. It was so heavy even tears came to my eyes, but I pushed on. I kept going. It didn't pass until I had run for quite some time. If you are one who deals with anxiety and fear as well, don't expect it to simply go away. Trust that it will be a fight you come up against often, but one that you can win each time.
- Accountability is good but you have to do it for yourself.I checked in with several people through the training time who helped me be accountable for my runs. Between those who made sure I was running, to those who were amazed at how far I ran each week, they helped me get out the door each time. But I couldn't run just for them. I had to want it for myself. If I were running just to impress, compare, or beat someone else discouragement would have been fast and heavy. If you aren't doing something because you want to do it, then it's probably not going to get done.
- Enjoy each milestone along the way.I wish I had done this more. I wish I had celebrated in some way more than just saying, "I did it." Every week I increased my mileage by one mile, which had to be done to get to the race. But instead of celebrating it I treated it like it was no big deal and simply a necessary step. Yes, it was a necessary step, but it was still a big deal. Celebrate all the little steps it takes to get to the big step. It makes the journey more worthwhile and doesn't put so much emphasis on the end goal.
- Do your best as if this will be the only time.About half way through the race the proverbial monkey jumped on my back and I thought to myself, "Just finish, Stacey. Just finish." While there is much to be said to finishing, how you finish is just important. I had slowed down and lost the heart of it. The anxiety and fear made way for apathy and not caring. This lasted for about half a mile when a new thought entered my mind, "What if this is your only half?" I knew I wanted to give it my all and be proud of how I ran the race just as much as the fact that I ran it. Doing something half heartedly doesn't bring the same satisfaction as giving our all, whatever that looks like.
- Run your own race.Captain starts out slower than me, but continuously speeds up as he nears the finish line. I start out fast but then slow down as I go along the way. Because of this difference I start out ahead of him and then he catches and passes me as we go along. If I had compared my running to his I would have come up short. I had to run my own race, and know that some out there would be faster and some would be slower, but all I could do was my own best. Whatever you do, do it to your ability and don't compare to anyone else.
- Listen to yourself through the entire process.I didn't follow a training plan though there are many good ones out there. I didn't do the walk/run style though I seriously considered it for a couple of weeks. I did what I felt was best for me which was two short runs and one long run which continuously increased by a mile. There were a few weeks where I didn't increase because I felt my body needed an extra run at whatever distance I had just done. I didn't see this as a discouragement, but rather of acknowledging what I needed to get where I was going. Just as the Penguin brought his own pace to running and Michael Johnson brought his own style, you need to trust yourself in whatever you are doing to do it your way. Learn from the best and brightest and then figure out what works best for you.
Yesterday I ran my first half marathon, I ran it with Captain, I did it in a sub 2:30 time with my best pace, and my family surprised us at the finish line. It was a glorious day, but there was so much more than what anyone could see. Reaching a goal is always like that.