Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Going the distance!

A few weeks ago, I bought shiny new neon green shoes and a pretty new Nike GPS watch, and set out to begin training for an event that’s been on my bucket list since I was five, but also strikes fear deep within my soul: The New York City Marathon. On Sunday, I finished my first half marathon in Fairfield, CT in less than two hours. Although I didn’t train as hard for the event as I would’ve liked, I’m proud I finished in the time I did despite the intense blood blister that built up at mile five. Thinking back on it, the middle five miles or so blur together, but the last few were quite a struggle. I did it, and I’m already looking for more half marathons to race in until the big day on November 4th.

I like to think of myself as athletic. I also like to think of myself as disciplined, tough, motivated and often stubborn. I’ve mapped out an entire training plan based on some marathon books I’ve read and my current fitness level and I am absolutely terrified of the next few months. It’s going to be one long, exhausting, but ultimately, rewarding journey. Most weekends well into training I’ll be logging 30 miles in just a weekend—hopefully I’ll get to do some of that in CT and not just doing mindless loops around Central Park.

I used to hate running. I used to always say—I only like running if I’m chasing after a soccer ball. Because my level of fitness has always been at least decent, I can do a few miles, but my brain usually would just shut off. Treadmills were almost unbearable for me at times because I would just hit the big red off button and think, “Eh, I did enough.” Doing more than 30-45 minutes was mentally impossible to fathom. Not only this, I exercised for all the wrong reasons. I would think, “Well, I have to burn this many calories, because I ate that big milkshake, and that was 700 calories…” Unhealthy thinking like that gets you nowhere other than mentally tortured.

Now, when I’m in the middle of an hour plus run, I feel powerful. There’s something exhilarating about knowing how far you’ve already run and forgetting it at the same time. There have been some runs in the past few weeks that I stumble into my apartment or house in CT and think to myself, “Wait, did I really go down those streets? I don’t remember that.” Running is a meditation for me. Yes, I check in with my body and breathing to make sure I’m feeling okay and pacing myself well, but I also am all alone. It’s just me out there. I don’t think I could run in groups or running clubs. It’s not a social thing for me, really. I love getting lost in my thoughts, listening to a great song and using it to push me up a hill, imagining my dad running next to me on his favorite route, and just allowing any creative thoughts to pop into my brain.

I find that I have to allow whatever happens to happen. You can’t force anything on a run. If you push harder than your body can go, you will peeter out. If you go to slow, you feel unfulfilled, if it starts to rain, smile and soak it up.

I went into a running store the other day to buy new socks. (Yes, blister problems) I asked the man working there to advise me on which pair I should buy. He said, “Well, you look like the type of person who jumps in the puddles rather than runs around them.” I took this as the biggest compliment. I have fun when I’m running now. I love it. I use it to feel powerful and fulfilled rather than to punish myself.

This gets me to a broader point–when I look at my running schedule for the next 20 weeks leading up to the big day on November 4, 2012, I am reminded that everything in life is a journey. Yes, I know, cheesy, cliché, overdone, and we all know this, but it’s also important to have fun along the way. Jump in those puddles when you’re running, and feel proud of yourself for being out there in the first place. 

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