If you’ve been around awhile you know that I’ve been trying off and on since 2006 to be a runner. I trained halfheartedly for a few half-marathons over the years…never taking myself beyond the 10-mile mark before race day. Therefore, I inevitably walked at least a mile or more of the actual race. And then there was that one time I didn’t train hardly at all for a full marathon and ended up walking over 18+ miles of it. That was fun.
So…let’s just pretend those years and subsequent failures didn’t happen, for the sake of this entry.
Now…this time last year. I had been doing boot camp for 6+ months and had run 2 5Ks. My best 5K time was 32:30 and I was damn proud of that as it was 3+ minutes faster than my times previously. I decided…I’m going to run the Cotton Row 10K.
It’s a famous race in Huntsville because there is a Hella-Hill at the midway point. I had always been too scared too try to train for it, but somehow I got it in my head: I CAN DO THIS.
And I did.
So, I thought about trying to run a whole half-marathon. Do it the right way. I signed up for a training group that started in August 2011. I told myself: I can do this. I can run an entire half-marathon.
And I did.
Then my friends I had made along the way, we got it in our heads to try trail running. Someone mentioned a 25K on our local trails. We thought: We can do this.
And we did.
And then I found a trail marathon in Chattanooga. I knew it was far enough away to give me time to train so I emailed Dave and said, Can we do this?
And in 10 days? Along with a few others from our running group that we convinced to join us?
It turns out that through this entire last year, the hardest step has always been just letting myself say: I can do this.
The training is tough and time-consuming. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s not the hardest part. The hardest part is that initial debate in your mind. When you first let the thought of a big challenge enter in your subconscious. Maybe it’s a 5K, maybe it’s an ultra marathon. Whatever it is…the first step is just letting it fester in the back of your mind until you can finally say, I can do this.
Because, it turns out adding distance is much more a mental game than a physical one. We slow down substantially on our long runs. We are running them a good 2-3 minutes/mile slower than I ran my half-marathon. And we are taking breaks every 5 or so miles. Walking, refueling, using a restroom. The physical part? You adapt to that, one step at a time.
I hadn’t run one step since my Team In Training half-marathon in 2010. And since I didn’t train for that half-marathon (walked most of it), the last time I really ran before that was 2007. Other than that one 13.1 mile fundraiser in 2010, I was sedentary since 2007. Almost 3 years of nothing but sitting on the couch before I started boot camp in October 2010. I didn’t start running until this time LAST YEAR. I’ve been running semi-regularly since last May. I started really running, at least 3 times a week…last August. In other words? Where I’m at right now boils down to about 10 months of really running. TEN MONTHS. I had another 10-months of a fitness foundation (boot camp and the periodic 5K) before that, but basically? 10 months to turn me into the runner I hope to be until the day I die.
But in that 10 months I’ve learned that the mental part? Is always the hardest. Allowing yourself, for that one second, to believe that maybe – JUST MAYBE – you could do it. I signed up for a 5K in 2010, thinking that boot camp had probably gotten me in good enough shape to do it. And I did it. Then I started thinking, well…maybe if boot camp keeps me in 5K shape…I could try a 10K.
You have to find that part of you who doesn’t think you’re too fat, or too slow. Or in my case: TOO BUSY. Because there is a part of you that knows that there’s someone bigger, slower, and busier doing the things you fear. You have to allow that part of you to consider the possibility that maybe you can do it. And that’s where it starts. That’s how it starts. For me? It took several starts to stick but now…in 10 days…I’ll be running my first marathon. And I’ll be doing it on trails. All because I let the part of me that thought I could, make decisions for once, ignoring the much-larger part of me that thought: Never, not in a million years.