Half or Nothing. I was about to embark on my first half-marathon when I read these words on a fellow runner’s t-shirt. There were approximately 120 racers in the field that day of varying abilities. There were veteran runners intently focused on obtaining a personal best, and others who just hoped to finish. I was in the latter group. It may have been a half-marathon, but it took a complete effort for me to finish.
I breezed past the first-mile marker full of adrenaline and thought, “That was easy…only twelve more to go.” I quickly found out that not all miles are equal.
I found hills in miles two and three, and an oasis disguised as a water station at mile four. I took quick gulps from one cup while pouring a second cup over my head; the freezing water ran down my back, jolting me from my runner’s daze.
I found inspiration in miles five through six while watching the sunrise over rolling farmland; the fresh, morning breeze glided over my skin with every step as I breathed in heavy gulps of air filled with the sweet smell of fresh-cut grass. I found Joe Cocker’s “The Letter” at mile seven, the gravelly lyrics, driving rhythm, and soulfulness of the song filled my body with more energy than a Cliff Energy Chew. And I found God at mile nine as my legs turned into concrete, and the morning air turned into mid-morning humidity. (There are no atheists at mile nine of a half-marathon because it is at this point where you make deals with God- for strength, or a quick, merciful death.) With no spectators to cheer me on, and with no more Joe Cocker songs in my playlist, I dug deep, and in the process, I realized why I enjoy running. You earn everything- nothing is given or taken for granted. Others may be faster, but we are all fighting unique challenges, running our own, individual race. I pressed on.
Renewed energy filled my body at mile ten, knowing I only had three miles to go, and I found a crowd of volunteers at mile eleven, full of drinks, snacks, wet sponges and unrelenting energy. I trudged the last two miles and let out a war cry as I crossed the finish line. My time was slow, but my spirit soared. It’s hard to describe the emotions that fill your mind at the finish line, but if you run, you know the feeling. All of the early mornings, the aches, the pains, the uncertainty and doubt, they all bubble over in this moment.
It made me think of the beginning. This story isn’t about running, and it isn’t about me. It’s about setting goals and pushing yourself beyond self-imposed limits. I posted a blog about New Year’s Resolutions in January and shared some goal setting strategies. Running a half-marathon was a goal I set that very day.
I know many people have run 13.1 miles, but until September 15th, I hadn’t, and honestly, I thought I never would. If you are reading this, know you don’t have to wait until New Year’s to set goals. I hope that you start right away. Whatever race you are running, trust me, it feels incredible to finish. Even if you don’t begin working on your goals now, I encourage you to write them down and put a plan in place. It’s so much more rewarding to work toward your goals than to grow comfortable with your limitations.
“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.”-