Last summer, I competed in a half marathon race. I awoke early that morning, had my typical breakfast of avocado toast and coffee, and donned my racing gear. I gathered my running “fuel” of nutrition blocks and electrolyte drink. With my race number secured to the front left leg of my shorts, I got into my car.
I was nervous.
But I was also confident I could at the very least match my previous time of 1:48:30. I would’ve been elated with a time of 1:45:00 and secretly believed I could do it (although I wouldn’t admit it to anyone else).
As I drove to the event, I wasn’t overly anxious or on edge. I pulled into the parking lot feeling confident. I’d been training for months and had done two nearly three-hour runs a couple weeks prior. This would be cake, right?
After arriving, I jogged around a bit, warming up my muscles, doing a few sprints to get my blood pumping. I was feeling good and ready to go. Ready to get it over with, at least.
The temperature was quickly rising. By race start, it was 77 degrees and warming. The gun went off, and I started running.
I felt great! My first mile was a swift 7:52 pace. I slowed down a little but continued at a pretty good clip.
Then mile 7 hit. I started slowing down but fought to speed back up.
By mile 9, the thoughts started:
Maybe I should just quit.
This is so hard. I’m so hot. I wish I could just stop right here. Maybe I can. I could stop. Should I? No. Maybe. Keep going.
The heat rose to over 80. My knees started to ache. My back hurt. I was having trouble breathing. I was out of water. The next (and last) water station was nowhere in sight. My legs felt like lead logs beneath me, and each step was a struggle to keep moving forward.
How can I make it another four miles? I’ve done this so many times. It’s just four miles. C’mon. I can do this.
Every part of me screamed to stop. I wanted nothing more than to sit in the cool shade near the river—or jump into the swift current—and end that miserable run.
Just two miles to go. I can do anything for two miles. Come on, body. Come on…
I dug deep and inched along slowly, over a minute slower per mile than I’d started the race. That might not seem like a lot, but every minute adds up, especially when you’re going for a goal time. And especially when you feel like you’re dying a slow death, right there on the greenbelt, with hundreds of people ready to trample over your body the second you drop.
But I kept going. I slogged it out. Every…painful…miserable…rotten…horrible mile.
I thought I had fully prepared for this race. I’d consistently run further than a half marathon distance for several weeks prior. I’d trained at that exact time of day for weeks. I’d brought water and calories and I’d dressed in cool clothing. I did everything I should have.
And yet, when the time came, I still had to dig deep and suffer through it. Sometimes that’s just how it is, you know?
I don’t want to get overly philosophical, but I do think my experience, though not unique, has many connections to everyday life. To business. To trails. To growth and success.
There are times when all I want to do is throw in the towel, take easier projects, not challenge myself. Yeah, it would be easier to be a less involved mom—there are times when I’d honestly rather read a book or take a nap than be “in the moment” with my daughter. Sure, I could sit and watch television every night instead of working out or helping around the house.
But, like so many other people, I try to push past the discomfort because I know the prize at the end is worth it.
And you know what? It was completely worth every single step I took that day. I accomplished something important. I learned a lesson about perseverance and determination. I proved I could achieve a goal, even when it didn’t go as expected.
It’s worth it in other areas, too. The smile on my daughter’s face when I give her special attention. The peace in my marriage from spending extra time to help out. The gratefulness my clients feel when I help them achieve their dreams.
My next challenge? A full marathon. It was less than two months from that race. Yet despite my half marathon gone horribly awry, all I could think was, “Let’s do this.”Note: Yes, that’s me in the photo at the top of this post as I neared the finish line of the Fit for Life Half Marathon for a time of 1:50:33. That look of pain and suffering is real, folks.
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