In the spring, I decided to take the plunge. I began taking the necessary steps to make a far-off, crazy dream a reality. I started training for a full marathon, 26.2 miles, and each day I am one day closer to making the seemingly impossible possible. Even just a year and a half ago, if you even mentioned running a 5k, I could not even fathom what that was like. Then the running bug bit me a little over a year ago…and I’ve been hooked ever since. But still, there was no way I could EVER run a marathon. I just wasn’t built for that.
Or could I? Before I ran my first mile, the thought of running a full mile seemed impossible. But then I did it. Before I ran my first half marathon, the thought of running a half marathon seemed impossible. But then I did it.
Notice a pattern?
Now, not every runner’s dream is to run a marathon–many simply run for fun, for health, or for a variety of reasons. All of those reasons are completely respectable, and I can relate to them. But for me, even dreaming of running a marathon was an indication that I was changing. I was beginning to believe in myself again, little by little. After some very draining, crushing life events in the past year, this was HUGE for me. Not everybody understands it, and that’s okay. It’s not for them to understand. Dreaming this dream was a significant sign of hope. Renewal. Rebirth. Christ as my strength, making me a new creation.
Now what do I do with this dream of mine?
Deciding to train for a marathon was not a quick process: countless hours dedicated to workouts, hundreds upon hundreds of miles logged, focused nutrition, a plethora of early morning alarms, time spent running instead of socializing–those are just a few of the many sacrifices one has to make throughout this journey. Was I ready for this hard work? Am I ready for this? Could I handle it? Can I? Or should I just stick to my “comfort zone” of half marathons? (but not really a true comfort zone if you understand me, seeing as I’ve only done a couple, and they’re still challenging!)
If your dreams don’t scare you, then they aren’t big enough.
I prayed about it, discussed it with my husband and friends (who have been nothing but encouraging and supportive, thank you), and then decided…there is no better time than the present, right? (and if I’m being honest, I added it to our “before baby bucket list,” soooooo there’s that :))
Fast forward six weeks, and here I am. I am in the middle of week seven out of twenty in my training plan. I signed up for the Grand Lake Marathon in Celina, OH on September 27, 2014–one day before I turn 24. I’m choosing to celebrate another year of life this way, because really, running has given me a richer life than I ever imagined. I am so thankful.
I have decided (a little late, per usual) that it would be fun to keep track of this journey–after all, it’s not just the last 26.2 miles that matter–every mile leading up to it matters. I already document (or over document, some might say ;)) this journey on my Instagram account, but blogging is another avenue to go into more detail about the highs and lows, etc. of each week.
So this below came to fruition: I will record a lesson (or two) that I learn each week throughout the training process. Though there are only 20 weeks to my training, I thought it would be more fun to make it 26, because after all, it’s more appropriate. Here’s what I have learned on this journey thus far, and it is my hope to update at the end of each week with a new lesson learned!
Lessons I am learning through chasing my 26.2 dream:
1. Discipline. Maybe this is the most obvious lesson. I am in new, foreign territory with being involved in anything associated with athletics, so I’ve never had a training plan to follow. But, I know that you can’t cheat the training. You will get out of it exactly what you put in. Sticking to your training plan is supremely important, and it means many days of lacing up those running shoes even when it’s the last thing you want to be doing. You’re tired from work, you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, you’re sore, you’d rather watch another episode on Netflix or read another chapter of your book, etc. Discipline is an incredible skill that is highly valuable in any area of life. I know I strive for discipline in a multitude of contexts–discipline in my faith (prayer life, Bible reading,…), discipline in my housework habits, discipline in my finances, etc.
2. Grace. This is continuous (though really, all of these lessons are). I am not great at having grace for myself yet…but, funny enough, that’s where the grace part comes in! Not every run will be record-breaking. Sometimes the goal is just to finish. Don’t feel the need to constantly beat your last record…you will just wear yourself down mentally and physically. Also, when your training plan has 6 easy miles on the schedule, run them at an EASY pace–don’t PR them. Since the beginning I always felt like I had to run hard for every run, but that is simply not wise training. The plan is laid out in a certain manner where easy effort runs, tempo runs, hill runs, cross training, long slow distance runs and such…they all have MEANING. I am coming to terms with the fact that not every run will be my best; in fact, some will simply not be good. There will be natural ups and downs. I also have needed grace in the nutrition department, too. Though I try my best to nourish and fuel my body well with healthy foods 80-90% of the time, there are times where I don’t succeed. And that’s okay! I’m human and mess up. A lot. I’m holding myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.
3. You are your only competition. Do NOT compare yourself to others for they cannot run YOUR race. Your only competition is the voice inside your head telling you to quit / the person you were yesterday. God made us each individuals on purpose. I think that about sums it up.
4. One foot in front of the other. Sometimes you are literally in so much pain that you have to focus on the rote action of running. I am learning to run through tired, heavy legs. Having a mantra to repeat in times of great struggle has helped me. Run happy, Molly. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
5. Listen to your body. Now this doesn’t mean giving into my desire to go get fro yo instead of run my scheduled 6 miles, but it is important to be in tune with your body, or you can risk injury. Just a couple weeks ago, I suffered from a pretty bad calf strain. I had committed to doing the Runner’s World Run Streak (running at least 1 mile per day for 40 days straight, Memorial Day-July 4th), so that meant running on my rest days, too. When I strained my calf, the pain was so intense that I couldn’t even make it running down the driveway without tears, but I so desperately wanted to get my mile in for the day. My stubborn self was so upset when I had to take two days completely off from training (and I probably should have taken even longer, but thankfully it worked out in my favor). But I learned discipline through this, too. REST DAYS ARE IMPORTANT. I decided that completing the Run Streak was not worth it during marathon training because I was overworking my body (even if it was just running a mile on a rest day, running that mile at max effort & making it a PR was not healthy). I’ve also learned to be in tune with my body in regards to hydration & nutrition. Most days I drink at least 96 oz. of water, but I have to drink more with the heat and humidity.
6. Quality running shoes (and gear) make a significant difference in comfort. I’m all about a good bargain, but I’ve learned that running shoes are not something to skimp on through this process. I’ve been told to get new running shoes with every 300-500 miles logged. My old pair of shoes were beginning to give me blisters and had just gotten too worn that when I finally did take the plunge and get fitted at a running store (where they analyzed my running stride and feet), I felt like I was running on clouds. Yep. Definitely worth it. Same with running in old tshirts versus dri-fit materials, big difference.
7. Doubts are normal. Having days where you are sincerely doubting your abilities? Maybe it’s even a full week. Those periods of time will come. That was last week for me. I had to keep reminding myself why I started and that determination is often worth more than natural talent. Just rise above these and don’t quit. They will disappear when you give it your all, and that’s the best thing you can do.
8. Training is a gift–just like running. You get an opportunity to pour your heart, soul, and spirit into something you are passionate about. Try to enjoy every single mile because you won’t get those miles back. Having the opportunity to work exceptionally hard for this goal/dream is not a luxury everyone has, so you shouldn’t take it for granted.
9. You will want to talk about running. A lot. I mean, this is only normal after spending 20-40 hours a week running, right? Thankfully my husband is pretty tolerant and indulges me with these conversations, and I’ve joined various running groups where we can be as obnoxious with running talk as we would like. (By the way, I’m nearly convinced that runners are some of the BEST encouragers, supporters, happiest people ever. At least within these running groups!)
10. You will analyze your life, past and present, on every long run. That mistake you made on a test back in 8th grade? Oh you’ll remember. The previous relationship that makes you want to cringe because you have no idea how you had that large of a lapse in judgment? All of those memories–good and bad–will come flooding back. I’ve had several runs where I’ve cried. I know…so melodramatic of me. But running really is therapy. It is an opportunity to come to terms with everything that has made you YOU. I know I come back a much happier person after running because it releases so much more than sweat!
11. Running is mostly mental, beyond a certain physical standpoint. The ability to go the extra mile is largely determined by your thoughts. You have to MAKE yourself believe you can do it. I think of it as mental strength training–sometimes you have to flex those brain muscles and just. keep. going.
12. Good music is a great motivator. Find what works for you. Many people prefer upbeat, peppy tunes. But you know what? If you run better to slow, sappy music, do that. You do you. I can’t run without listening to my Christian tunes, no matter how upbeat or “slow” they are! Christian music fuels my runs because it goes beyond the music and encourages a time of praise and worship, too. Never underestimate the motivation one new song on your playlist gives you. For me, I always want to get out and run right away just so I can listen to it. 🙂
13. Copious amounts of sweat may lead to becoming plastered with small bugs. I think I will leave it at that for this week. No explanation needed.
I’ll be back soon with more wisdom gained through the training process. Thanks for following along. Happy running!