Once upon a time, about a week after I officially signed up for Crossfit, I had the crazy idea to sign up for a half marathon as a non-runner. A non-runner, you say? Without getting into a philosophical conversation about what makes one a runner, my distinction is this: If you are passionate about what you are doing and define part of your life with running, you are a runner.
I am not.
If you want to read a bit on my conflicting views on running check out my posts where I ran 3 miles without walking for the second time ever, contemplated dropping my half-marathon, the one where I first ran a full 10k, the #twomilesuck, my first sub-9:00 mile, my most miserable two-mile run, a happy six-mile training run, my struggle with balancing Crossfit and running, finding solace in 9 miles, an injury, and then finally finishing a half-marathon.
So I want to share things I have learned a long the way that have helped me along my training..
Confession: Running is freaking emotional
I cried on nearly every single training run. One mile, five miles, seven miles. Tears of frustration, anxiety, grief. With every run that started or ended in tears, my coach would continue to tell me that I need to learn to let go; learn to use running as a way to cope with stress, not as a cause of stress. This just never made sense to me. I never understood finding the “zen” in running, or that running could be peaceful.
But what I learned is that it is okay to cry. Running for me became very emotional and crying was a way for my body to let go of the negative feelings and emotions. Once I cried, I felt better. It was like a weight had been lifted.
And despite the infinite number of tears from negativity, sometimes, there were tears of pride, realizing that my body is capable of things I never thought possible.
Once I accepted that running was going to be emotional no matter what, I finally my longest training run tear-free.
Confession: I don’t have it figured out, but neither does anyone else
When I started considering a half marathon, I was fully inspired by all of the bloggers writing about their training runs and their races. All of those so with so much passion for running, and those that struggled. I saw them put in the time and effort so assumed they were all experts. But you know what? They weren’t. And neither am I.
I have finished a half marathon, yet I still feel just as clueless as probably most of the others that did theirs. There is always something else to know and learn. There are things along the way I would never have considered in shorter distances, such as running nutrition or “no new on race day.” I can tell you what I did, and what worked for me. But I can also tell you countless others that swear by excessive carb loading and running 5x a week for 12 weeks and hydration belts and GUs and gels and supportive shoes.
Based on feedback from any of my struggling blog posts or even reading other bloggers recap their own training, I bet every single one of them has had their own insecurities and doubts, struggles and fears.
Confession: To be a better runner, you have to run
Despite probably a million and one exceptions to this rule, I needed to run to become a better runner. Yes, Crossfit increased my endurance, stamina, and mental toughness. The team environment and supportive athletes and coaches increased my confidence. Plenty of others have run in events with minimal to no formal running training or mileage.
But I needed to run to prove to myself that I was good enough. That I was strong enough, and mentally capable of doing it. Once I was able to see on paper that my overall pace was getting faster or that I was covering more distance than I ever had before, it was what I needed to start to mentally let go. I looked forward to my long runs and being able to challenge myself and push myself that much further.
Confession: It does get better
After realizing that there will always be a “#twomilesuck” and that seasoned runners I looked up to still experience the same thing, I came to accept that I could not get upset or frustrated until I passed two miles. At that point I could determine the mood for the run.
After realizing that it is okay to walk when I need to and okay to finish any run at my pace, it was easier to dissociate from the negative feelings. Even though it was often my legs or my breathing that was keeping me from staying focused on running, it was ultimately my mind that was holding me back.
When the focus becomes, “I am going to do this no longer how long it takes me to do it” and “You are fully capable of doing this”, rather than “You have xx more miles to go” or “Why did you ever sign up for this?”, it is amazing how much less stressful the runs became.
When race day comes, it is 110% worth it. Running a half marathon is right up there as one of my proudest moments in life. I never thought it would be possible, but I overcame so much mental anguish to get me to that finish line.
Yet I still don’t feel like a runner..
Have you ever had similar realizations throughout training for an event?
What is one thing that you have realized now that you wish you knew before you started training for something?
Do you consider yourself a “runner”?