I’m not a runner.
I’ve never really liked running. It’s kinda boring, it’s really hard, and did I mention it’s boring?
So I’ve avoided the sport for most of my life. Instead, I enjoyed easier forms of exercise like spinning, fitness classes, and recently barre and boot camp. These involved more music, a lot of breaks, and the opportunity to just hop out of the room if I felt like it. I guess you could call it “non-commital exercise.”
Last fall, things started to change. I was in the middle of a personal challenge I called “a month of yes,” where I said YES to any opportunities that came my way. One of these opportunities was a request to join a relay race scheduled for the following summer. 24 hours of running, split up into a team of 12, spread across the perimeter of Lake Tahoe. 178 miles total. Um, sure… YES! I was clueless but it was six months away so it felt far out of reach at the time.
Spring came fast, however, and I realized it was time to get going. I started to train. One mile. Two miles. 12 minute/mile pace. I realized the best approach for me was to not get overwhelmed right away, and it worked. I teamed with a friend. Well, she started out as an acquaintance and quickly became a friend. (You make friends with your running partners fast in this sport).
We were both committed. Tuesday and Thursday mornings were running mornings. No questions. No excuses. Some days we brought cranky kids in running strollers. Some days we brought dogs. We talked, we laughed, we gossiped, we confessed. Hell, we even cried once or twice. Our morning runs became much more than a workout; they were cathartic and therapeutic for two moms exhausted by the life stressors of having young children, jobs, bills and the realities all moms face.
The 178-mile relay race was a great success. Finishing my first race was exhilarating and all I could think about was my next challenge. Only days after recovering from the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey, I signed up for my first half marathon. And this is how you go from non-runner to runner. You start small and work your way up. An “easy” four-mile run slowly evolves into an “easy” eight. Before I knew it, I was running, 14… 16… 18… I was down to a 10-minute mile and wondering who had I become and where did that 12-minute mile girl go?
On October 22, I ran my first marathon. Cloverdale, California. I felt confident, having completed a 22-mile training run only two weeks prior. But I was not prepared for the head games that often come with a race setting. Poor pacing, inefficient fueling, and some negative self-talk challenged me by mile 8. There were more than a few thoughts of quitting and assuring myself I could do an easier marathon in the coming weeks.
But I stayed strong. I ran through the head games, the aches, and the blisters. By miles 23 I knew I had this race in the bag and my confidence exploded into elation and gratitude. I crossed the finish line to my husband and two boys gleefully cheering me on. It was undeniably one of the proudest moments of my life.
If you are considering a marathon in your future, I have a few suggestions to heighten your likelihood for success.
- Start small. Start with a 5K or 10K and work your way from there. I just saw a friend on Instagram mention she’s on week 1 of her week 30 marathon training schedule. 30 WEEKS! I would be so overwhelmed by that number, I would probably quit by week three.
- Find a running buddy. Or two or three. When I first started, I did not understand the value of running with others. But now, I make a point of it. Making a commitment to meet someone can make all the difference on a cold, dark morning where the bed is begging you to stay put.
- Make a training schedule. I literally googled “marathon training schedule”. I found a generic 12-week schedule and BOOM, I had a starting point. I printed it out and crossed out runs as I completed them. My kids loved helping me cross the numbers out, too.
- Get your family’s support. I simply could not have accomplished this goal without my family’s full support. My husband committed early mornings for three months to watching the kids so I could run. Yes, I had to bring my boys with me several times in the double stroller when there was a scheduling conflict, but 95% of the time, my husband was the unsung hero who dressed, fed and entertained the kiddos while I got my sweat on.
- Keep your eye on the prize. Sometimes the big picture is daunting. I would be three miles into a run and think “How could I possibly do 23 more of these?” That’s a great way to throw your goal by the wayside. Instead, focus on the finish line. How will that feel? What will that look like? I pictured my husband and kids standing by the finish line cheering me on. I imagined the rush of seeing the finish line for the first few seconds and knowing all my hard work has paid off. I pretended to hold and taste that celebratory free beer in the after party. When you visualize what success will look like, each mile gets you closer to that accomplishment.
I ran a marathon. Even just writing that feels weird. I’m not a runner, and I ran a marathon. I cannot emphasize enough that if someone like me can do this, anyone can. And if you follow these five simple suggestions, you too will join the 1% of the population to accomplish this feat, too. And THAT is a goal worth pursuing.