For most of my life, I have hated running. I’ve gone through phases where I’d try to “get into” running, but most of the time I’d give up after a few weeks. I just never understood why people liked it – to me, running for longer than a mile or two just seemed boring to the point of being tortuous.
In June of 2015, I went to cheer on my boyfriend’s younger sister at her third half marathon of the summer. She absolutely killed it, and looked amazing doing it. Weirdly, I found myself inspired. I had absolutely zero desire to run something of that length, but I figured maybe I could train for a 5k or something. I told her about this new goal of mine and a few weeks later she asked me if I would run a half marathon with her. To this day, I still have absolutely no idea what possessed me to say yes… but I am so glad I did.
In September of 2015 I ran my first ever half marathon, and definitely not my last! In 12 short weeks I went from someone who hated running, to someone who loved it. It may sound dramatic, but training for this half marathon quite literally changed my life.
Running isn’t for everyone, and I still have days where I hate it (not every run is fun!), but it has taught me a lot of really important lessons and is still a significant part of my life. As I begin training for my spring races, I have found myself reminiscing to my start as a runner and all of the things I learned while training for my first half marathon.
What Training for a Half Marathon Taught Me
First of all, I learned that I don’t actually hate running. I had just never given myself enough time to get good at it. Most people don’t really like things that they are straight up bad at, and not many people are good at running right off the bat. In the past when I’d tried running, I was doing a lot of things wrong. I was not in great shape, and tried to go way too fast too soon, which caused me to get tired out right away and feel discouraged. Once I gave myself permission to go slow and focus on the miles I was running rather than the amount of time it took me to run them, I learned to pace myself and build up endurance. And suddenly instead of dreading every run and hating every step, I found myself excited for every run as a new opportunity to make it even farther. Plus, as my distances increased, my speed eventually did, too!
One of the biggest things I learned from my training was discipline. I firmly believe that discipline is the single most important factor when it comes to running, working out, or achieving really any goal. Motivation is important, but it is temporary and transient – discipline is what keeps you going even after your motivation fades. It is easy to feel motivated right after you decide to do something, or when you have a lot of energy, but that motivation comes and goes. Discipline is what gets you out the door and running even on the days when you feel like crap, the weather sucks, or you’d rather be eating a pizza and watching Netflix.
Some days, even once you start running it can be tough to keep going. This is where mind over matter comes in. I saw a quote once that said “Running is just a series of arguments between the part of your mind that wants to stop, and the part that wants to keep going.” When I was first starting out, the part of my mind that wanted to stop was much louder than the part that wanted to keep going. It was screaming at me to stop, telling me I was too sore, too tired to keep going. But it was wrong. I learned that running is a lot like a roller coaster – there are ups and downs. One moment I would feel like I could not possibly take another step or I would throw up, and then a few minutes later I’d feel like I could run literally forever!!!! I learned how to push myself through the pain to feel not only the “runner’s high,” but also the incredible sense of accomplishment after I finished a long run… that feeling was always worth the temporary discomfort.
I used to always be the type of person who felt like I could eat like crap when I was working out regularly, because I was burning some calories. Training for a half marathon completely changed that for me. As my long runs got longer, I quickly learned that eating the right things was extremely important – running 6 miles after eating a frozen pizza, for example, does NOT feel great. Don’t get me wrong – I still indulged in some quality cheat days now and then, but overall I naturally started to lean towards healthier food choices, simply because it felt better.
Finally, and possibly most importantly, Training for a half marathon taught me to love my body on an entirely new level. Like many other women out there, I often found myself being very critical of my body. While running regularly certainly helped me tone up and feel better about myself physically, I also began to appreciate my body in a different way – I loved my body not only for what it looked like, but for what it was capable of. I had never considered myself to be particularly athletic or fit, and never in a million years would I have thought I could complete even a 10k, let alone a half marathon. Proving myself wrong was an amazing feeling, and gave me a whole new appreciation for my body and what it could do.
Before training for the half marathon, I thought of running as a pretty boring hobby. It turns out that it is far from boring, and it is so much more than just a hobby. Running has taught me to challenge myself, to treat my body better, and has showed me how strong really I am – both mentally and physically… and although I never thought I would say this, I am proud to call myself a runner.