They look at me like I’m the odd one, and perhaps I am. There’s the blank expression along with the response us runners are all too familiar with: “but, why?”
I wish I could say my running journey began with an epiphany or an against-all-odds tale. But in reality, I started running because I couldn’t afford a gym membership. I’d just finished university, and I needed a way to keep fit without crippling my bank balance in the process. I am not a natural runner, so you could say signing up for a half-marathon probably wasn’t my brightest idea. But you learn a lot about yourself in 13.1 miles that can be translated into all aspects of life. Here’s what I learnt about training for a half-marathon.
It’s as much a mental battle as it is a physical one: We talk a lot about runner’s high – the euphoric rush of endorphins we get when we exercise. I’m sure it’s the main reason why people continue to enter ultramarathons. It’s safe to say, endorphins are highly addictive and I completely thrive off them. And even though, we earn our bragging rights on those moments, we rarely talk about when the bad runs outnumber the good ones, the injuries we endure, or the catcalling episodes. We don’t talk enough about how difficult it can be to motivate yourself to leave the house, or how to come back from halted performance. The self-doubt levels go through the roof. Our internal monologues persuade us that it’s much better to quit than try. And whilst our bodies are physically more capable than we believe, most of the time the difference between us getting to the start line is overcoming the mental battle. No matter what your goal is, believe you can and you’re already on the way there.
Progress isn’t a linear process: There’s an unexpected bill to pay. That job wasn’t for us. We get injured. We lose something. The journey to every goal has setbacks. But it’s not about making the perfect path to progress, it’s about how resilient we are when we bounce back from these setbacks. And if you want it that bad, you’ll try, try again, and try some more. My training was littered with all sorts of hiccups, and at times, my defeatist attitude sucked. It reminded me that sometimes you’ve just got to be hungry enough to make it work. It’s not just about achieving the goal, but the determination and lengths we go to in order to accomplish them.
You don’t need to seek permission to be who you want to be: For a long time, I didn’t see myself as a runner – I was just a person who ran. I wasn’t worthy of the runner status because no one had given me permission to use it, and I didn’t feel qualified to class myself as one. It wasn’t my profession, and I’m not an expert. It was my disclaimer to hold my hands up and say: “I don’t know what I’m talking about because I don’t have a qualification in it.” Well, that’s BS. If you run, you’re a runner. If you write, you’re a writer. It’s as simple as that. Seeking other people’s validation in terms of which labels I used to describe myself wasn’t a new concept to me – but my journey to the finish line taught me that you choose who you want to be. Own it.
In running 13.1 miles, I learned a lot about the blueprint of who I am as a person – my internal monologue, my drive to succeed, determination, and the power of the human body. If I could achieve that, what else could I do? From that moment, I was so grateful to have found love for this sport, and for the sport to have found me.