"Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it."
Not too long ago I ran my first 1/2 marathon here in Dallas. 13.1 miles: thirteen point one. On paper, 13 is not a big number... on a map, it doesn't even look that far. I mean, you can drive 13.1 miles in less than 15 minutes on a good day. But running such a distance with my own two feet for the first time is something I will never forget, and probably the most ridiculous and rewarding thing I have ever done.
Those 13.1 miles gave me a new perspective on life, MY life, and I learned so much about who I am and what I am capable of. So, WHY in the world did I decide I wanted to run 13.1 miles in the FREEZING cold, up-over-and around downtown Dallas? Honestly, I still don't even know, I guess I thought it would make me feel cool or something lame like that, and besides I wanted to get myself in shape. I signed up for an 8 mile race on Thanksgiving and figured well, if I can run 8 miles, I could probably add on 5 more. I ran 8 miles in 1:20:00 (not the best time, but I beat my goal of 1:30 and didn't stop to walk). that felt SO good. I was kind of in shock actually when I realized the distance I had covered. When I finished that race, and looked back at the highways and streets that I had run across I knew in that moment- I WAS HOOKED. I felt so accomplished. To set a goal- and beat it is one of the most self- rewarding experiences in the world. I wouldn't have ever really thought my body was capable of holding up for that amount of time and distance. A few weeks later- it was 1/2 marathon time.
After exceeding my own expectations for the 8 mile, I set a goal for myself to finish the 1/2 marathon in 2:30:00. Really?? Running for over 2 hours- pretty insane if you ask me. But, I really felt determined to do it, yet always in the back of my mind there was that self doubt that I was going to have to stop to walk and the proof is in the timing- you can't lie and tell people you ran a certain distance when you didn't. . .and also, it's totally embarrassing when you are kinda bragging to people you are gonna run a half marathon and then you don't do well. Nobody likes to look like a fool. So there was a bit of pride involved here. And also, I'm new at this, so I wanted to do it right. . . **I finished my race in 2:08:40.
As the date got closer, I got more and more nervous that I wasn't going to do well. Seriously, it was like flashing back to when I used to perform piano recitals and would get so nervous about screwing up in front of everyone. Looking like an idiot. I wasn't trying to win the race, by any stretch of the imagination. I just wanted to get a good time, and beat my goal. Oh, not to mention it was for a great cause. But still, I kept thinking, what if I don't make it? What if my body shuts down and I get kicked off the course for taking too long. . that would be humiliating. As I became aware of all these self-defeating thoughts I started to realize how hard I am on myself. Why was I having negative thoughts about myself when this is supposed to be something for FUN?! I tend to do that a lot.... I am capable of a lot, just when things get challenging or uncomfortable I try to find an alternative route or just let it go. And sometimes you find little ways to cheat in life that you think nobody will notice. With running, however, you can't cheat anyone but yourself. And if you can live with selling yourself short- that's great, but I cannot. I will not. Challenges are temporary. And without challenges nothing would be worthwhile. You can hide from them for a while, but they won't go away. When life gives you obstacles you figure out how to work around them and get to where you want to be. You do what needs to be done to get where you want to go. Period.
As I became aware of how these negative thoughts about myself would creep into my mind, I realized that not only was I training my body, but I was training my mind as well. I would say that running is about 80% mental and 20% physical. Your body will go if you tell it to go. I mean yes, at a certain point your muscles will give out but we tend to stop as soon as that feeling of discomfort hits.. . push through it! Until you physically fall over, you are not done. You have to believe it though. Once I put it in my mind that I CAN run this distance- even though it won't always feel good, I CAN AND WILL run this distance. The morning of the race I woke up early to drink a shake, and just chill out. I spent about 45 minutes stretching and taking my mind to a really positive place visualizing myself running and crossing the finish. I was so excited. Who gets pumped up to run 13.1 miles at 8AM on a Sunday morning in the freezing cold?! ..... obviously me and 25,000 other people!
I started the race and I just set a good pace for myself. . . Didn't want to go to fast and burn out or hurt my knees. (i have a history of odd knee problems). Before I knew it, I saw the 4 mile marker. It came pretty quick! Next thing I knew, I looked at my watch as I was crossing the 8 mile sign- it was about 55 minutes into this event. I had to look again because I killed my time for the last 8 mile run I did. I decided to slow my pace a little. . I was making good time, so I just needed to watch my breathing a little and vibe out the rest of the run. Once I got to mile 10 I was pretty shocked. That is a long way to run, if I do say so myself. By this time I could feel every muscle in my body from my toes, to the back of my neck, to my stomach, to my chest, through my arms down to my fingertips screaming at me to just stop running and start walking while at the same time my mind was saying uhh-NO. Like, i gave it a thought- stopping would be so easy, just walk for a minute... then my mind said NO again.When you experience something like this, you become aware just how profound the saying 'mind over matter' really is! I remember thinking: "WOW I just ran 10 miles, 3 to go, if I stop now, I am going to regret it forever- this is what I've been working for, it's just a movement. Keep moving those legs Rachel Coy. Breathe, this is only temporary. I am not done yet. My mind is stronger than my body and I'm not done." You may laugh at the fact that I was actually talking to myself, more like fighting a battle against my own body, but it's true. I could feel my body just pulsing with pain from being outside of my comfort zone, but mentally I was not done, actually- as funny as it sounds, mentally I was about a mile ahead of my body pace-wise. So I just kept moving. I think this is what they call in running- lingo 'the wall'. Your body wants to shut down, but your mind knows it's not an option. I started to think about other things too, my family, my great-grandmother who is 100, barely 5 feet, probably 80 lbs or less, and can still climb up and down a flight of stairs. I was going to finish these miles no doubt about it.
I was just moving my legs at this point. I couldn't really speed up or slow down . . . I was coasting for lack of better description. I could see the finish. . . when I saw the 13 mile marker I was elated. That .1 was like a terrible tease because you knew you were SO close, but not there yet. Seriously??.. how far is .1 mile!? TOO FAR after running such a long distance! When I saw the finish line I sped up. Not sure how, but I just kept thinking 'finish strong. finish strong.'
So Miss Oprah said it right, what you put into running- is what you get out of it; in the same way as in life- what you put into it, you get out of it. But also and most importantly, life is a mental game. Get your mind right. Mental strength will take your body places you never thought it could go. It will get you through challenges you never thought you would overcome. What the mind can conceive and believe, it can and will achieve (lightly quoted from Napoleon Hill). So anyways, even though I'm fairly new to the world of running, for me it has been a confidence boost, a reality check, and a source of balance in my life.