Two years ago, I ran the Colfax Half Marathon for the first time. After a small collection of three-mile races and one very muddy six-miler, I felt like I was ready to take on the challenge of running 13.1 miles. I trained for months, building up runs from three miles to six, eight, 10 and, eventually, the dreaded 13. I hated just about every minute of it and said I would never make the leap to marathon.
It was probably the biggest lie I ever told myself.
Once I crossed the finish line at City Park in 2017, my life changed. It was the first time I had set a serious fitness goal for myself and had actually accomplished it. Despite how much I hated training, I couldn’t get over my sense of triumph at running the distance.
Before I had the chance to catch my breath, I was already asking myself: “What’s next?”
I set my sights on the next distance, doubling the miles I had just done — a full marathon.
Setting goals for yourself helps to build confidence. Running a half marathon made me feel like I could do anything. Having a goal also helped me to build focus. I had to keep pushing so I could cross the finish line once again. Keeping that image in my mind helped me when I wanted to just lay down and quit. Literally.
The joke I hear from most people is that training for races means that you start running and you just don’t stop. In reality, running is as much a mental training as it is physical. I’ll be out on a run, doing pretty well, when suddenly the thought “I still have five miles left,” crosses my mind. For me, ticking down the miles until I’m done is the fastest way to kill motivation.
Marathon training is something else. When you work eight or more hours in a day, finding the time to fit in a 20-mile run is next to impossible. During training, my knees buckled. My emotions ran wild. I was worried I wouldn’t even make it to the race let alone run another marathon ever again.
Having already run a half marathon was a life-saver in these moments. When I stopped to think about it and cleared my head, I knew I had already made it halfway. I had done it before and could do it again. If I had the strength to run 13 miles, I could push myself to run 13 more.
Once again, I choked back tears as I crossed the finish line after 26.2 miles on Jan. 7, 2018. And I wanted to know what race was next.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of reaching your goals. Although the training was hard, I knew it would all be worth it in the end. In my life, goals have been a way to challenge myself, to see how far I could go.
So what is next?
Last month I crossed the finish line once again for the Colfax half. But this time, I shaved exactly one minute off my average pace for the race, running 10-minute miles the whole way. I’ve set my sights on the Boston Marathon, which has a qualifying time for women ages 18-34 of 3 hours and 35 minutes. That means I would need to run eight-minute miles during the whole marathon.
For context, I ran my first marathon in 4 hours and 53 minutes, or about 11 minutes per mile. I have my work cut out for me.
But I’ve set a new goal: to run Boston by the time I’m 30, two years from now.
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