I used to see packs of runners on the street early in the morning, zooming past as I yawned and lazily collected the morning paper. These runners always wore fancy workout gear, and they ran with such determination and vigour that you knew there was no stopping them. They made running look easy.
Somehow I ended up in a pack of runners this summer, when I decided to sign up for a running clinic and train for my first half-marathon.
I hated running when I started. It hurt to start. It hurt to keep going. And it hurt the following day when my muscles were achy and sore. Running was a chore. And the final race distance of 13.1 miles made me tremble in my shoes.
I am now halfway through training, and my perspective has gradually shifted. Here’s what training for a half-marathon has taught me about life:
1. When You are Moving, Progress is Inevitable
When I started out, my short runs seemed pointless. I kept thinking, “How will running 2.5 miles help me run 13.1 miles?” What I didn’t realize was that by getting myself moving, I was slowly training my body to handle the longer distances. It’s easy to feel like you’re not making any progress when you work on the little things. But you will be surprised by how far your ongoing actions get you. As they say, big goals start with small steps in the right direction.
2. It’s the Little Things that Matter
When I first started training, I completely underestimated the importance of the tiny details. Soon I learned that the more prepared I was for my run, the more enjoyable it was. It was the little things that made all the difference: double knotting my shoelaces, eating Greek yogurt for breakfast, listening to upbeat music, and stretching every day. There may be small things that you can do for yourself to make your goals easier to accomplish. It’s the minute details that really add up. What tiny things would make a difference for you?
3. You’re All in it Together
When I signed up for the running clinic, I figured I would connect with a few people who were working towards the same goal. Little did I know just how much of a gift it would be to run with a group, week after week. When we met up for our runs, everyone added something, no matter their age, experience level or pace. There is a huge benefit to having a support system around you when you are working towards goals. There is an irreplaceable sense of comradery that grows when you connect with like-minded people. After making progress, a high-five from a friend can really make your day and give you the energy you need to keep pushing forward.
4. You’ve Got to Trust the Process
I had my doubts with the training schedule when I signed up for the running clinic. Despite knowing that hundreds of runners successfully completed the clinic race, I kept thinking, “Is this actually going to get me through the distance?” No matter what you are working towards, there are others who have been there before you. There are proven processes in place, and tried and tested strategies for success. Sometimes you have to take a step back from your worry and doubt, and put your faith in the process.
5. Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Moment
I started out my training thinking, “Let’s just get this over with.” I soon realized that there was a lot to appreciate: The weather, the interesting people, the thrill of running, the exercise, and the sheer excitement of building towards an unbelievable goal. Instead of wishing we could just accomplish our goals overnight, and setting our sights on the finish line, it’s important to soak in the experience. Chances are, you will never have the same opportunity again. It’s up to you to find the fun in your goals.
6. It’s Not as Hard as You Think
Training for a half-marathon has not been as hard as I anticipated it would be. When I started out, all I could think about was the looming final distance, which seemed impossible to fathom. I didn’t realize how much stronger my body would get through training, and how much my confidence would increase in the weeks leading up to race day. Oftentimes, we underestimate our abilities. We get discouraged by the space between where we are and where we want to be. Yet if we start to shift what we think we are capable of, everything starts to change.
Featured photo credit: Young lady running on a rural road via shutterstock.com