So on Sunday I did my first half marathon. I was very nervous, I have only ever wracked up 15km previously so 22km was a tad daunting. However, as I pounded the pavement, desperately hoping I wouldn’t get a blister or a pull a muscle, I realised something about the task at hand. I wasn’t super human at all.
In the days prior to the run I had so many supportive comments. Comments like “I am so amazed, I could never do that”, “wow, I can barely run a mile”. I am always surprised by these comments because 2 years ago I would have said the same thing to someone running a half marathon.
The idea that running that distance is somehow reserved for the elite among us is nonsense – I am far from elite. However what did make me feel super human was overcoming an overwhelming fear of failure, an overwhelming fear of inadequacy, and the battle in the days leading up to my run where I came up with every excuse possible not to take part.
What was going on in my mind?
I have been running for years now, I started before I fell pregnant nearly 5 years ago and stopped during my pregnancy. I re-discovered running a few years ago and have developed a love hate relationship with it. I love how it makes me feel after a good run but I hate trying to fit it around my schedule. The idea to do a half marathon first came to me after I read a wonderful book called Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, in fact this book was so inspiring for me that I was convinced I was destined to run ultra marathons across dangerous terrain…but I decided to start with a half marathon on the Kent coast and see how I fared before tackling that.
In the months running up to the race I have been attempting to train (and failing miserably). I wasn’t particularly dedicated to my training, partly because in the back of my mind I was convinced I wouldn’t actually do the damn thing. To be honest I was convinced I would get an injury before it, my childcare would fall though, I would get sick or I would just bail out. As the day got closer I began obsessively checking Pinterest training plans and convincing myself I was so unprepared I might was well not bother trying.
The worst thing running through my mind though was “it’s just a half marathon, you can’t even do a full marathon”…WTF brain! How dare you?! 22km is a bloody long way. I had managed to get myself into a cycle of “I can’t do it”, “I’ll fail”, “It’s pointless anyway because it’s not a ‘real’ marathon”.
By the weekend prior to the marathon I set myself an ultimatum. Run 15km or cancel the marathon. I ran 14.72km…damnit. I had tried so hard to run 15km and I was so close, I couldn’t cancel the bloody marathon. I would do it and I was sure I would suck at it. But hey ho, it didn’t matter it was only a half marathon anyway.
The week before I scoured Instagram for finishing times and what I should be aiming for. All those pictures of smiling faces, medals and great finishing times. I could never do that, probably best I cancel.
The day of the run
I don’t eat before I run. I just can’t, it gives me a terrible stitch. Although, I had never run 22km before so who knew what would happen if I ran on an empty stomach. Running for over 2 hours on a single cup of coffee can’t be good for you but all the research said “don’t do anything different on the day of your race”. So I left the house with my husband, son and brother (babysitter extraordinaire) in tow. To be honest, even in the car I was convinced I would get an upset stomach or something would be wrong with my entry and I wouldn’t get to run.
We lined up at the start line and the whistle blew. Shit. I was doing a half marathon. That kind of brings me to the point where I decided to write this piece. I was running along looking at all the amazing people beside me. The people running for charity, the ones running 100 marathons, the ones who had done 52 marathons in 52 weeks – these people were all super human. Not me I was shuffling along with sore feet.
It was at this point that I realised it wasn’t the running that was super human, at that point it was that I had beaten my brain. My negative, anxious brain. That is what I am so proud of. I had a million excuses not to do what I did. I knew I wouldn’t be as fast as all those #Instarunners, I knew my Pinterest board had a hundred posts about what I *should* have done differently. I had that voice in my head telling me “pfft, it’s only a half, that’s not a REAL marathon”.
Yes I finished!
When I finished (2hrs 25mins, 76th female and 296th overall) I was a bit down. My brain caught up with me and reminded me I could have done better, should have trained harder, should have done a full marathon. Luckily this morning I couldn’t be more proud. Proud yes that I ran it but more proud that I did it even with my brain stacked against me.
We are a society who fear failure, who compare and contrast constantly. Sometimes your biggest win is beating that. Life isn’t about what the rest of the world sees, it’s not about the before or the after. It’s about realising each moment you’re in, realising what you’re learning, achieving, and doing. When you begin to analyse your greatest triumphs outside of the seemingly obvious you can really begin to understand who you are and what your real achievements are. For me, winning over my negativity and self doubt is a constant battle. I am so proud that I am chipping away at it, one half marathon at a time.
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