Two and a half years ago, I ran a half marathon for the first time. Throughout my twenties, I had watched my cousins, friends and colleagues train for half marathons and marathons around the world and thought that was something I could never do, especially when my skinnier early twenties gave way to a me about thirty pounds heavier than I’d like to be.
The summer before I turned 30, I mentioned to a girlfriend that running 13.1 miles was something that I wanted to try at some point and the next thing you know, I had signed up to do a race with my friend Liz, and two of her college friends, in Savannah that fall.
While I was training for the race, I felt like I was struggling. Struggling to get every run in, even though at the time, I worked from home and could run anytime I wanted. I struggled to wake up in time to go to the personal training sessions I was paying for, even though I felt great once they were over…and admittedly, I enjoyed them, too. I struggled to eat healthily, even though there was a voice in my head telling me that I should really be losing weight as long as I was doing so much running.
In hindsight, I’m not sure I have ever worked as hard as I did when I was training for that race and I was in quite good shape, too. I had weekly personal training sessions, did a longer run every week up to ten miles two weeks before the race, and worked in some shorter runs in between.
By any definition, that’s a lot of exercise and I did it while managing to run my own business and relaunch this blog, which was really pretty neglected for the better part of 2013.
On race day, I finished about ten minutes faster than I anticipated, I loved running through the streets of Savannah and seeing every inch of the city, from its low income housing to the beautiful historic districts on the water. After the race, I felt completely accomplished and proud of myself, a feeling I really don’t let myself enjoy very often at all. I understand what people mean when they say they get a “runner’s high” and that day, I was already thinking about running more.
And then I didn’t run again for, oh, six months.
I realized that if I didn’t commit to a race, I would never keep up with my workouts and signed up to do another half marathon in June. Then, life happened and it wasn’t until the following year, or last spring, that I hit the pavement again. And if I worked my hardest for the first half, I did the exact opposite for the second one.
I fundraised for a charity that is near and dear to my family and that was the only thing that kept me from purposely oversleeping on race day. However ill prepared I was, I finished the course and again, felt that elated sense of accomplishment I remembered from the year prior. If I could do a half marathon without the proper training and manage not to irreparably injure myself, what could I do if I really tried? And why don’t I do this more often?
Once again, it took me another six months to commit to running, this time by signing up for a three-stop tour pass for the Rock n Roll Marathon Series: in 2016 I’m running three half-marathons. I’m running my first race in Nashville in a few weeks, where my best friend and her husband are meeting my boyfriend and I there. Post-race, we can enjoy a mini-vacation (read: we can eat and drink, and then eat some more and I can do it moderately guiltlessly).
The motivation not to fall on my face around mile 8 (or worse…we have all heard the horror stories of the things that happen to runners…) is strong enough to keep me running 3-4 times per week and doing yoga in between, which I’ve found myself really enjoying, more than I ever thought I would.
I have some theories as to why I vacillate between complete couch potato and dedicated semi-serious runner but that’s for another day. Lately though, I’ve been really enjoying using up precious mental energy to focus on the former: why do I so regularly let myself succumb to the part of me that enjoys Netflix, my couch and eating chocolate chips straight from the bag when I equally love feeling strong and fit?
What I’m getting at here, 800 or so words later, is that I don’t think it matters. Today, when I started thinking to myself about how much harder, faster, longer (no Kanye West puns here) I should be training, I let myself feel proud of myself for about 3 seconds, and enjoy what I’ve accomplished so far.
Even though it isn’t easy, it feels so much better to stop and feel gratitude for what I have accomplished than to stand on the treadmill thinking about how my fat rolls look in my tank top and should I be wearing such form fitting workout clothes? Even though I do it, I know a lot of us do it, there is truly no sense in looking around the gym to see if I’m the fattest person on a treadmill or if everyone in a yoga class is thinner and fitter than I am.
I know that what actually matters is appreciating where I am in my fitness journey, no matter how long it took me to commit to one. I’m writing this so when I do start wondering why I should even bother when my body isn’t perfect, I can remember how good it feels to let myself feel happy about what I do have: a body that can run 5, 8, 10, 13 miles even if sometimes, I am just doing it for the brunch afterwards. If I happen to inspire you too, that’s icing on the cake. Mmm…cake.
Now the next question is…where should I run my second and third half marathons this year? Chicago in July? Virginia Beach over Labor Day weekend? Los Angeles this fall? San Antonio in December? Check out my options and weigh in on your favorite city.