Step by step, ya big baby

This marathon weekend is a big deal to me. I would never have bought tickets to the damn thing and flown all the way to Orlando to do what I can do perfectly fine over in Cali. But a good friend of mine insisted and here we are.

I struggled at first, this is crazy — am I really going to do this? Can I do this? I’ve never run a marathon before — who am I to think I can run one now and a 5k, 10k, and half marathon the three days prior?

Once the thought “Yes, I’m going to do this and I’m not going to complain” settled in my mind, I was stuck with the question: How?

I knew there was no way I could do this thing without at least one full marathon under my belt. I turned to one of my best friends, Google, for the solution to my turmoil. I found one within reasonable distance (Ventura) and perfectly timed between arriving from Korea in May and January for the Disney World marathon. Sweet.

Then, a training plan. There had to be people out there that had this training thing down pat. I could piggy back off their expertise, right? Enter Hal Higdon and his free training plans, bless his soul. I copied and pasted it into an Excel sheet, formatted it a bit and this became my bible for the 15 weeks before each marathon.

I was set. 1) My mind was made up — no half-assing nothing. 2) I had a marathon lined up, and 3) proven training plans for the marathon and Disney marathon weekend.

All I had to do was execute — show up everyday and do the damn thing. I woke up at ungodly times to run — think 4 am easy on a weekdays before work and 5 am on weekends. I planned my days and weekends around the training plans. The first time I hit 13 miles, I was pretty mind blown, because almost every weekend after that, I was upping the distance. That means I ran the distance of 15 half marathons — 18 including the Ventura marathon, yesterday’s official half, and today’s full — since June (when training started). Does that even make sense? Haha.

I honestly don’t know where this came from — this determination. It most definitely involved fear of getting my ass whooped or getting hurt. But it mostly had to do with honoring a decision I made for myself.

It wasn’t even a struggle getting up. It was so consistent and like clockwork. When I was traveling for work, I’d ask where the gym/fitness room was when I checked in so I wasn’t bumbling around the next morning when it was time to hit the treadmill. I always made time.

Don’t get me wrong — there were some days I missed my alarm and had to cut my run short. There were two consecutive weeks I skipped because of arch pain. Then there was the weekend I went camping with friends. I was serious about it, but flexible and understanding to myself enough to enjoy life too haha.

It was when game time came, I realized the purpose of all the training. It was the mileage. It really didn’t matter the time, the pace of all the training — at least not for my recreational running. It was the mileage. Once I hit 20 miles, I could feel the burn, the tiredness. Though there was nothing in me to stop anyway, the mileage was my backbone. All those days of putting in 3, 5, 8, 15 miles added up. They told me I could. They asked me why not?

Felt that was a valid question. I remembered the consistency and dedication, the hard work I’d put into this personal challenge, not for any glory but simply for the ability to tell myself, I told you you could.

During those crack of dawn and after work-and-traffic runs, I didn’t know what was really happening. I didn’t need to. I simply showed up and executed the plan. Then when came time to perform, it was like cake. Yeah, I’ll go as far as that. There wasn’t a struggle, doubt, fear of failing. I had put in the work. I would have had to work to fail at this point lol.

As I ran, the thought “step by step” repeated itself in my mind. When I saw the ant-like figures running alongside the other side of the lake in the theme park or the other side of the vast vast vast parking lot, and asked myself, How? How am I going to get there? I automatically answered, Step by step, that’s How — ya big baby.

Felt that was a valid explanation. Step by step. The whole way. Not just the marathon. But every run prior. It was always step by step. I didn’t have to understand the purpose or the effect of each run. I just needed to be present and put one foot in front of the other. Step. by. step.

And when I did, I ingrained within me the discipline, my resolve, the inner purpose for subjecting myself to this suffering, as others called it. The consistency of the steps brought me to a place I no longer had to think and contemplate about what I was doing. It became motor skill. It became automatic. I became a machine. More than my body, my mind was being trained to become what it once was not — determination, fearlessness, commitment, and, might I say, stubbornness. Well the last one I already had haha. Anyway.

All it took was step by step. It was the only thing that would do.

I look back and I’m amazed. People, you don’t understand. This whole thing, this 4-day event did so much for me as a person. I don’t care about Disney and the medals and the free event gear. I watched myself grow a spine and choose the right course to do what I wanted to see myself do. I said no to fear, no to laziness, no to inaction. And the journey was worth infinitely more than the sum of the cost of the entrance fee to both marathons, the flight to Orlando, the Airbnb, the rental car, the running shoes and gear.

Maybe for some, this is juvenile. Maybe this is a duh concept. No shit — put in the work and watch it pay off. I’m a slow learner, a late bloomer. One thing though, when I learn, it becomes a part of me and I see it make stuff happen in real life. And I don’t care how late I am — I’ll take whatever I can get when it’s right for me. I need it — every bit haha. I have too much to grow and learn to get hung up on a timeline.

So, with this thing behind me, I look forward eagerly. What can I do with all this? What’s next? The possibilities are endless and the lesson is transferable in any situation, relationship, job, pursuit. For the time being, a triathlon seems like the right thing to do. Yes — Goleta Beach Triathlon here we gooo!!