That’s it. The Transformation of a Non-Runner to Completing a Half Marathon
Glancing up towards the end up the street and back again.
Just have to pass this house two times.
Just have to put one foot in front of the other.
That’s what I told myself January of 2016 when like most people, set one of those ‘feel good’ goals in the hopes that this year will be the year it sticks.
Only difference this time, quitting wasn’t an option.
I was never a runner nor harbored any athletic ability. In high school, I often ditched PE class to avoid the monthly one mile run, but the few times I did show up I often ended up last thanks to my short, stubby legs.
Fast forward to almost ten years later and I was ready to give it another shot and not just running a mile or two, I was going to run a half marathon with my boyfriend, without ever having to stop to walk.
D-Day was May 1st, 2016, only 5 months away. This meant we had to go from running 2 miles to 13.1 in just under twenty one weeks. (Noteworthy: 21 weeks traditionally speaking, much longer than standard half marathon training programs).
Thanks to a dear friend of ours, we had a detailed calendar with each days training plan already worked out. Looking back, I can say that it was this calendar was essential for completing this goal, but even more so, having someone right along side me, achy muscles and all.
It is absolutely imperative when you set new goals to print them out and hang them where you have to look at them every, single, damn day. This is a little life hack that tricks your brain into holding yourself accountable, reminding you of things you need to accomplish and also helps you envision what is to come.
So we followed our coaches suggestion and printed out our color coded, daily calendar for the next 5 months and most of the weeks looked rather similar, two off-days, strength training, hills, sprints and then there was Saturdays.
Saturdays are what kept me up at night, secretly wishing for the weekend but also hoping it doesn’t come too soon. Saturdays were always the long runs, increasing by one mile each week. Which doesn’t sound too bad 2 miles then 3. But as week 7 approached and it wasn’t about running anymore, it was about a reward mindset.
What motivates someone to run 13.1 miles? 26.2? Tough Mudder? Pushing their body to limits that most people don’t even dream about, some even call crazy.
To each person that means something completely different. For me, it was proving my self-doubt wrong, I can be a runner. We love putting ourselves into categories — we are math people, we are the artistic type, we are not good cooks. These are limits we create for ourselves, and it is these self-fulfilling prophecies that hinders any sort of growth.
But from getting from I am not a runner to I can run a half marathon, I had to find rewards that motivated me to keep pushing, to celebrate very little milestone. And that reward was not hard to find, for me it was initially splurging on a high carb meal (I love Spaghetti) or Boba tea from my favorite tea house. For my boyfriend, it was ice-cream. And these worked for a while but eventually I didn’t need those tangible rewards because the rewards came from somewhere unexpected — in my head.
Friday night entailed planning an optimal route (avoid running by our house, more on that later), target time, and what time to start our run. I needed to have a plan in place so there was no questions when I woke up what my day looked like. No room for slacking or procrastination and the first step in my visualization process.
Beep, beep, beep. Open my eyes and after the fogged cleared, we began our ritual.
Light breakfast; banana + protein shake + water.
Get dressed; shorts, running shoes, heart monitor, phone arm band, and most importantly my Jamz Spotify playlist.
Checked the time. And it was zone time.
Zone time can only be described as the mental place you go when nothing in the world matters besides running. Or at least that is the goal.
I began imaging where my next mental ‘checkpoint’ would be and I would see it with my mind, if I could only make it that far, farther than last time I was doing good. As soon as I got there, my mind instantly went to the next checkpoint.
These checkpoints turned into my own personal little rewards, reminding me if I made it this far there is NO doubt I can make it to the next.
What’s one more mile?
What’s one more loop?
In the middle of these checkpoints, I imagined what it would feel like to cross that finish line, what the air would smell like, what the signs of the cheerleaders might say, and the sounds of the cheering crowds.
As close to reality as I possibly could because I knew one day, it would be reality.
That isn’t to say it those five months of running was easy and every Saturday we killed it. Absolutely, not. Some days six miles felt like one and the next week six miles felt like ten. Somedays I woke up wishing for some sort of ailment to appear so I wouldn’t have to do my runs. But luckily for me, those ailments never came, instead it was just mental roadblocks.
Oh and I had a few of them..
The moment we turned down our street toward our home all my focus went right out the window! All I could think about was getting home. I am almost there, I can slow down. I need water. My legs hurt. I’ll never make it.
It was like an instant flood of excuses and I just wanted to be done and it was a roadblock I could never shake. But we found a way to avoid that roadblock. Simple, plan our routes so we never pass our home, only when we finish our run (another reward!).
Another roadblock was knowing which mile we were at. My boyfriend used an app that tracked us and when we reached another mile it would tell him and he would proceed to tell me. This completely threw me out of wack. My mind would lose focus thinking about how much farther we had to go. So he learned very quickly to just let me be and not bother me with that nonessential information.
If there is one piece of advice I could give anyone who is interested in running a half marathon, research your marathon! After picking our half, we never gave it anymore thought. Terrain, number of people, season, none of that ever crossed our minds, until we were at mile four and realized the half marathon we chose was a hill marathon.
If you remember me mentioning hills were part of our original training plan, once a week run at an incline. After about week two, we ixnayed that idea and replaced it with just a shorter run mid week.
This was the only part of our plan we did not follow. BIG MISTAKE.
Lesson learned. Just do a little research on your half or full marathon terrain, your future self will thank you!
But, even with those unanticipated hills, we accomplished our goal. Run a half marathon without ever having to stop and walk.
It was everything I ever imagined it would be. Not even proving to myself I could finish it, I always knew I could.
Rather it was the cowbells ringing as sounds of encouragement. The hilarious signs along the roads (‘If Trump can run, so can you!’). The people who woke up at 6AM just to cheer us on. The metal around my neck.
That’s what lives in my memory.
If you’re where I was last January, mulling over New Year, New You resolutions and hoping to find one that sticks. Ask yourself this:
What do you wish you had started, this time last year? How much farther would you be? What are your roadblocks?
And then imagine yourself in 5 months if you started that training today. What your body would look like, how many words you could have written in that time, how much money you could have saved. Really immersing yourself in those thoughts so they feel real, the more real they feel, the closer you are to reality.
Now get to work. Your older self will thank you.