I ran a half-marathon on Aug. 4 – my only goal had been to cross the finish line, still standing, in less than three hours.
It was a humid, rainy day, thus there was not a lot of crowd support. With the exception of my fabulous family, who made it to about four different stops on the route, cheering me on and giving me high fives, the sidewalks were pretty quiet.
I finished the race in 2:33:16, well within my goal. I walked through every water station and at the end, had to take a few walk breaks, but I was thrilled with my time.
I was not thrilled with my performance, or with how I felt while running the race. It was easily one of my worst runs. The gels that I ate around mile seven upset my stomach. It was humid to the point of exhaustion. I was cranky when I crossed that finish line, and the disgruntled feeling stuck with me for a few days. I think my immediate reaction upon finishing the race was “I cant believe I have to run twice that far in October.”
It took me a few days before the reality set in that I had just run a half-marathon, something very few people can say they have accomplished. Im not sure when the glass flipped upside down, but I went from “I cant believe how awful that felt” to “holy cow, I just ran a half marathon!” Im choosing to focus on the latter.
Similarly, my 16-mile run was painful. I actually started to cry while I was running, because my ankles and hips just ached so badly. It was hot. I wanted more water, a shower, my bed. But at that point, I still had 5 miles left, so I dried my eyes, toughened up, and ran.
And once I was safely within the confines of my little house, I burst into tears.
After a shower, a granola bar, and some Gatorade, I felt great! Alive, healthy, and strong. I wasnt even that sore the next day.
When I spoke to my Dad a few hours after the run, ranting about how I hurt, he stopped me mid-complaint and said “Yeah, Jess, but did you stop to be impressed with the fact that you just ran 16 miles!?”
In everything we do, for every race we run–on the road or in life–we can choose to focus on the bad, or we can choose to focus on the good. It is a conscious choice that we get the opportunity to make. The minute I acknowledged that Id run a half-marathon, the humidity and upset stomach didnt matter so much. As soon as I patted myself on the back for running 16 miles, the thirst and memory of achey legs disappeared.
This weekend I taper down to just (JUST!) an 8 mile run before ramping up to 18 miles next weekend, then 20 miles two weeks later.
I remember writing about eight miles as the point where I transitioned from “somebody who runs” to “a runner.” I remember how I doubted my ability to persevere at 13 miles and again after 16 miles. But today, Im looking forward to choosing to be incredibly impressed with myself that when I complete miles 18 and 20, Ill have gone the distance.