Yesterday, while flipping through old pictures on my camera, I realized that tomorrow is an important one -- it's my half-iversary!
On January 8, 2011, I accomplished what is still one of my biggest accomplishments yet - completing my first half marathon. I did it in style, running the Disney World Half Marathon in sunny Orlando, kicking off 2011 with five other Delta Gammas, including my little sister! And while I have run another since (with my dad, following graduation), nothing is like finishing 13.1 miles for the first time.
Actually, that's a lie.
The feeling around mile 6, while running through Cinderella's Castle, is one I have never experienced in my life. During my race, mile 6 was when I realized that I was capable, powerful, and maybe even unstoppable.
If you're reading this and you're short on some self-confidence, grab your credit card, log onto the Runner's World race finder, and pick a half marathon at least four months away. Sign up. Google "half marathon running plans," pick one, and write your workouts in your planner. Use pen. Tell all of your friends about your race - better yet, get them to sign up too - and then, load some new music on your iPod, lace up your running shoes, get out the door, and run. Keep running for the next four months.
Then go out and finish your race.
I think the half marathon is the perfect distance. 13.1 miles is absolutely long enough to be challenging (and long enough for you to feel a sense of accomplishment), but not so long that you'll get injured going from couch to race. And, it's fun! The "wall" that marathoners talk about hitting around mile 20 is avoidable and/or minimal. It's a distance that can be fun.
Plus, training for and completing a half will surely end with you falling in love with running.
My dad is a runner. Even cooler, my dad is a marathoner. I remember when I was younger and he was training for the Marine Corps Marathon, which is held annually in Washington, D.C. His training looked awful, consisting of hours and hours running a continuous loop around the local high school track, and I could never understand why he did it. I mean, when I tried to run two miles, it was torture!
I hated running. I hated it when I had to do it for softball, I hated it when I did it occasionally with my dad, I hated it when we had to run the mile in gym class. If you had told 17 year old me that I would not only run a half marathon, but that I would enjoy it, I would laugh. In your face. Hard.
And if I'm being honest, I hated running when I started training for my half. It made me feel out of shape, I thought I was slow, and sometimes it made my legs hurt. But something magical happened, and somewhere along the way, I fell in love.
Running is unlike any other sport for several reasons:
One, it's all you. If you don't complete your workout for the day or you eat like crap the night before, it affects nobody else except for yourself. And that prevents you from lying - after all, is it even possible to lie to yourself?
Two, it's all you. I have found running to be an amazing stress reliever, excellent zone out time, and possibly better than any therapist out there. Setting out on a run - whether short or long distance - forces you to be inside your own head for a period of time. With the endorphins flowing, there is a sort of clarity that, at least for the duration of your workout, makes you feel like you can tackle all of life's problems. My dad used to tell me that he would sometimes go for 1-2 hour long runs on his lunch break, and would come back with solutions to work problems that he wasn't able to figure out at his desk.
Three, it's cheap and flexible! You can literally run anytime, anywhere, provided you have a pair of tennis shoes (and I suppose a light, if you're planning on running at night). For this reason, typical excuses don't work. You don't have to lug heavy equipment with you when you travel, and you don't need another person to run with.
Lastly, running doesn't go anywhere when you (stupidly...) decide to quit it. It is a sport that you can leave for a year and then pick back up. And when you do, you will briefly have the same love-hate relationship for a little before you fall back in love.
Over the past year, running has helped me when I needed to keep my head clear, and it has helped me to develop a more positive body image. And like I said, it has made me feel unstoppable.
Following my own advice, here we go: Friends, I will be running the Charlottesville Half Marathon on April 7th of this year. My training plan is in my calendar, and I will be running with my dad. All of you are welcome to join us, and I'd be happy to share my plan with you as well.
April 7th is also the day that my dad and I will be signing up to run our first full marathon together - the same race I watched him train for during my childhood - as online registration opens for the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon. October 30th is the day that I will finish 26.2 miles.
2012 will be another year in what has been a love-hate relationship with running. Only this year, it will be mostly love.