I started running in March 2015. My first run as an adult was about five miles and it was ugly. My running partner and friend, on the contrary—former collegiate distance runner that she is, was agile and fast. So fast in fact, I still joke that she brings her wings to races. My chest felt like it would crack. My legs were aflame and I couldn’t imagine doing it again. But I did.
For several runs afterward my body hated the first two miles. I’m not entirely sure how I pushed through or why I even wanted to—but somewhere the pain gave way to strength. The runs became more consistent and mileage grew until the next challenge was to enter a race.
Around Halloween I accomplished my first 12K and during Christmas vacation,my first half marathon—a fact that completely amazes me. Equally amazing, was learning about myself in the process.
A half marathon is 13.1 miles. A really fast person might finish around one hour and 20 minutes (running a six-minute mile, by the way, is pretty darn fast!). A lot of competent runners might shoot to finish under 2 hours (about a 9 minute mile—also fast). I knew these numbers and I also knew how I performed in training and figured I’d be happy finishing in less than two-and-a-half-hours. (To put that in context, that’s running, at a sustainable pace for as long as a feature film). Of course, the faster I ran, the sooner I’d finish but in order to finish, pacing was crucial. Complicated, right?
Here’s my lightbulb moment. After about 10 miles it started to get hard. Really hard. I thought about stopping. I thought about walking the rest of the race. I said to myself, “If I hold back, if I take a break, when I don’t meet my goal, at least I’ll have a reason—an excuse.” The alternative was giving it all I had and facing the reality that my very best effort was…inadequate.
And that’s the reason we self-sabotage, isn’t it? We don’t want to give our best effort only to realize it wasn’t good enough. If we hold back, then we can excuse our “almost” and we can tell ourselves there will be a “next time.” We can hide behind our fear, keep our pride intact and feel justified in our near miss.
Somewhere around mile 10, I saw this rationale for what it is…a lie.
I would not give this race anything less than my best and whatever time I achieved at the finish line would be an honest representation of my ability. Pride be dammed.
I ran on through the rain and snow. I ran on despite soaking attire and blistered feet. I ran my fastest even though older people and heavier people zoomed past me. I did my best.
I crossed the finish line with an official time of 2:06:37, 9 minutes and 36 seconds per mile, which was a faster pace than my best training run.
I earned myself a gorgeous medal and a T-Shirt but I also earned the opportunity to see what I’m made of--when I’m really trying. I learned I can be alone with myself for a couple hours and not go crazy. I learned my body—every inch of it, is faithful and wonderful. I learned that training really works—when you work it. Most importantly, I learned my best is good enough.
There is something profound that happens to you when you push your body to its limits—and live to tell the tale. So go ahead and start training for that big race and leave your fear and doubt where they belong—in the dust.