Why Run a Half Marathon When You Hate Running?
One of my New Year’s resolutions was to run a half marathon. My goal was to finish the race regardless of my time or my place, knowing that I trained properly and to the best of my ability. I thought it was a realistic goal, but many days throughout my three-month training process had me thinking otherwise. To me, running is boring. For some it’s a way to relieve stress and decompress, but for me, unless my music playlist is on point, I can’t motivate myself to get out the door. A 3 to 4-mile jog here and there is nice with beautiful weather or to clear your head, but, for me, running for two hours straight became more of a stress creator than a stress reliever. This experience, which I originally thought was going to a hobby that I’d enjoy, ended up teaching me a lot about diligence, determination, and myself.
The main thing I learned is that I am extremely hard on myself. I subconsciously knew that all along, but this training process has taught me that the only one putting pressure on me is me. For each training week that went by, I would stress more about what I didn’t do than what I was actually able to accomplish. I was beating myself up for only running 15 miles a week when I should have run 30. I had an angel and a devil on each shoulder pulling me equally in opposite directions. One was saying, “Give up. This isn’t worth the agony,” while the other was saying, “Finish what you started. Don’t be a quitter.”
The second thing I learned is that you can be as physically fit as you possibly can, but if you aren’t “mentally fit,” you aren’t going to achieve your goals. I really tried to change my attitude during the training process. After the first week I suffered from a fall that put me out of commission for a week. I let it start me off on the wrong foot and take over my mind. I would even tell myself, “Listen to your body. If it’s telling you not to run, don’t, and that’s okay.” But saying it wasn’t enough, because I wasn’t believing it. I would end up upset with the situation and myself and waste time exerting negative energy rather than moving forward. Other times, I felt so ready for the process to be over that I would constantly be thinking about how happy I would be once I didn’t have to train anymore. These mental blocks prevented me from enjoying and thinking during the training process.
One thing that did get me through these speed bumps was talking to a friend. Whether that meant training with one who pushed you just a little harder, seeing a friend at the gym and realizing she was struggling just as much as you were, or grabbing a beer after a hard run with another friend. Whether we were running for the same or different reasons, we each had something to bring to the table and could empathize with one another.
Lastly, this half marathon training process has made me question why I do things. My dad has told me over and over again that, "We do things for one of two reasons, to avoid pain or to receive pleasure. Whichever is the greater, wins." I knew that the pain was outweighing the pleasure, but I couldn't admit it. Why did I choose to continue to suffer just to complete my goal? Am I too “Type A” and goal-oriented? Did I run to be able to say “I ran a half marathon”? To say, “I am not a quitter”? To say, “I really wanted something and did the best I could to get it”? I think each of these are true in some way, but my motives became less important to me two days before the race when excitement and confidence started to set in.
Looking back on the past three months, I can’t say that I would choose to train for a long distance race again, but I can say that it was worth it. There is a combination of things I can thank for my mental and physical achievements: the expo, the 25,000 people that were running along side me, the carb loaded dinner which was filled with lots of laughs and nervous excitement, and knowing that my closest friends would be waiting for me at the finish line with hilarious signs. But above all, what excited me most was that, regardless of how positive or negative my training experience was, I did the best that I could. And running the half marathon at a faster pace than I had expected, crossing the finish line knowing that I gave that run 110%, was one of the most rewarding experiences and gratifying feelings I’ve ever had in my life.