Back in January, a good friend of mine, asked me to run a half marathon with her. This friend has been athletic all her life and a half marathon was one of her bucket list of things to do. I agreed to join under one condition: ONLY IF WE WALKED. It's laughable to think I'd ask that but as someone who works out twice a year and hated running since the 9th grade, it was the only way I'd do it.
To prepare for the event, we met up four times and walked about three miles of the course each time. Everything felt pretty doable although I had lots of doubts since our completion time would never add up to 13.1 miles under 4 hours. Despite what reality was telling me, I kept my anxiety away and hoped for the best.
On the day of the event, I felt silly bundled up in 4 layers of clothes and 2 layers of tights. Temperature was about low 40s at seven in the morning and I had no clue what laid ahead of me. All I thought about was my good friend looking to complete the run for a medal. When we got to the starting line, I realized it wasn’t where we began our practice. Ten minutes in, the unfamiliar path and added distance were throwing me off. Anxiety began to kick in for the first time and my dense body started to panic with the pressure to pick up more speed. And that’s when jogging began. Despite the mental struggles, a scraped knee and unbearable pain in the calves, I dragged my exhausted body and finished with a medal in 3h 32min. In that moment, the sensation of accomplishing the run was one of the most exhilarating feeling and the experience taught me some of the greatest life lessons:
Ignorance Can Be A Blessing, Just Dive In
If I knew what it'd take for me to finish the half marathon, I most likely would have turned down the offer. Fortunately, my ignorance was a gift and provided me the opportunity to struggle and come out feeling fulfilled and accomplished. The excitement and rush from accomplishing something so seemingly impossible in that moment was more rewarding than any multi-million dollar product launch that I've ever worked on in my career.
Unfamiliar Paths Are Hard Because Your Body Says So
The two hardest stretch of the run happened to be when we were on paths that were not part of our practice walks. One would think that the first stretch should be the easiest to run with full energy. However, that was not the case. Less than ten minutes in, my anxiety was sending panic signals as I began to question how much longer I can go without passing out. We were walking and jogging on a flat and paved road so there was nothing difficult about it. It was just unfamiliar. The inability to see the distance from the familiar stretch made it more difficult to endure. It made me realize our body has a way of sending negative signals when things are unfamiliar or appear difficult even when circumstances are not that different from what you've experienced before. Don't fall into the trap. Mind shift to override it with a positive attitude. Visualizing an end to the first stretch probably would have helped me get out of the stress.
You're Definitely Stronger Than You Believe
When our body senses negative sensations and we choose to stay in the game, the fight or flight instincts will step in and fuel us to conquer the impossible. Endurance was critical during the entire event, especially when running is the only way to keep the muscles warm and body moving towards the last 2 miles. Looking back, what I thought I could accomplish in the first 30 min of the run was at least 50% less than what I accomplished. It taught me that when we think we are maxed out, we are only less than 50% there. Thinking back, I believe my body was training and adapting throughout the event as I noticed jogging became less uncomfortable over time. Don’t underestimate your strength, keep challenging your body and mind to elevate your potentials.
Find A Partner When Conquering The Hard Things
Having a friend and partner in crime made the process so much easier. Our energy and determination really helped feed off of each other. Being the one who was always trailing behind, my more experienced partner helped pace the run and kept me going. Most importantly, the reward is sweeter when you have someone who you can look to and share the experience of a life time.
Chunk The Hard Stuff Down Into Bite Sizes
Another important strategy that helped me going was setting short targets along the way. We'd identify a visible object in the distant to reach for and break with speed walks to regain the energy for our next target. I think it can work for conquering anything. Break down the big goals into doable, short sprints can propel you to stay energized and confident to reach the finish line.
Life Is About FinishinG Your Firsts
Giving up the hard thing is always the easiest choice we have and I think that tendency to seek what's comfortable is part of our fight or flight instinct acting out. There has been many moments when I chose to give up because something seemed impossible or not wanting to disappoint with failure. However, those choices have set me back on life experiences that would have propelled me forward sooner. To build courage and see who you really are, you have to experience. It is the intense emotional rewards that come with firsts in life that you will remember and provide the clues you need to live out your authentic passions.