I’m not a runner. I’ve always disliked running (or jogging, if you will) for what seems to be no purpose. I’ve played soccer and basketball, both of which involve running, but only as a tool to play the sport. My wife has always enjoyed running and the last few years has run a full and a half-marathon. I remember how proud I was of her accomplishment and I began to feel a spark of inspiration to start running myself. I also saw the throngs of people of all shapes who were also participating in this arduous trek. I thought maybe I could do that too.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later, after realizing I was not getting any younger, that I thought I should try to do it. I got quite discouraged as after running a few minutes I would immediately tire and give up. I kept at it though. I told myself just run one minute longer than the last time. Sometimes I wouldn’t and sometimes I would though. But I kept at it. Then one day I actually made it to three miles. I was elated – not only mentally for accomplishing that but physically with the endorphins.
Last year my mom died, suddenly and unexpectedly. I felt lost, my underpinnings seemingly cut. Perhaps as a way of coping with the loss or of channeling my grief someway, I decided to sign up for the half-marathon. Now, mind you, I had not run an inch over three miles so doing 13. At that time, that was way out of my league. I started researching plans and programs for running the half-marathon. I finally settled on one that was a 10-week program. I did several weeks of running before that just to train my body and get it used to doing this foreign activity. I’m now in my 9th week. Perhaps they’re trite or been said a million times, but I learned several things along the way and I feel that they apply to any goal in life you may have.
Make a plan. You need to set a goal and a plan and schedule to get you to that goal. For me, I found a training program that had a schedule of run days and distances. Whatever your goal is, running or otherwise, it helps to have a road map to get there. Not only do you need to track progress, it’s important to know the investment you’re going to make in achieving the goal. If the goal is something important to you, nurture it. You may also have to sacrifice other things for the sake of your goal. At the same time, make a plan that is achievable.
Expect difficulties but stay committed. Anything worthwhile in achieving is usually going to be challenging. Accept that there will be difficult things you have to overcome. I sometimes felt fear about the long weekend runs – that it would be painful or that I wouldn’t be able to do it. There will be times that you feel like you’re not making any progress or that you’re actually going backwards. Keep at it and take a big picture approach. We often get comfortable in our status quo. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone may make your mind or body rebel. Rise above it. You will grow as a person merely in overcoming. There is so much more in potential inside of us that we don’t tap into. Seek that inner strength – use the gifts that God has given you.
Enjoy the little victories. It is important to recognize when you’ve made progress even if it’s small. Congratulate, praise, and even reward yourself. It will help in overcoming future difficulties and challenges. To do this, you need mini-milestones, small steps. For example, if I’m doing say an 8-mile run, I tell myself it’s eight 1-mile runs instead and I achieve each one incrementally. Also it helps to reflect on the previous times you overcame and when your discipline won out over laziness. A few weeks ago I ran 12 miles. When I look back and realize that a year ago I couldn’t run half a mile, I get quite a sense of accomplishment and a recognition that I can meet challenges and improve.
Be positive. My wife gets on my case because even though I’ve been training for this half-marathon, I still complained about how I hated running or I would moan about a long run that was imminent. She’s right. How your think and feel about the work needed to achieve your goal greatly influences your motivation and success. Visualize succeeding and getting past the obstacles. Uplift and praise yourself. Sometimes you have to trick yourself into liking it. I found that even doing something as simple as smiling while I ran made me have more energy. As noted above, you’ll have challenges, but having a good attitude will go a long way toward meeting your goals.
Have a support system. I trained for the 1/2 marathon by myself – part of my independent streak I guess. In hindsight I should have signed up with a group. Even when I’m running around others I don’t know, whether a 5k race or an afternoon run at the park, I seem to do better. Being around others who are going through the same path will help you in knowing you are not alone, that this is worthwhile, and that it can be done. And when you participate in a group who are sharing the same goal, you can motivate and praise each other. It’s a lot easier to hear it from somebody else than tell it to yourself. One thing to realize though is there are going to be people who are better than you. That’s ok. They may have been doing this a lot longer than you. So don’t beat yourself up. Also, you need loving people around you, who even though may not be working on the same goal, who can encourage you, hold you accountable, and listen to you when you vent about your difficulties or talk about your accomplishments.
The half-marathon is January 16. Nine days away. I don’t know how much I’ll run after I finish 13.1 but I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I could do something I was way outside my comfort zone. What other challenges can I take on?