Sorry for the lack of posts recently, we have been enjoying the sunshine and family time. We did our last run of the training plan as a family yesterday and are really excited because IT'S MARATHON WEEK! More on that tomorrow.
We have been after our sister-in-law since we started the blog to throw down a guest post, and she finally obliged. She will in all likelihood become a regular on here, we just haven't told her that yet. Without further adieu....
Last Fall I signed my daughter up for a 100-metre kids’ race at a local park. She ran alongside her cousin, Lucas (they ran holding hands).
There were other races taking place that morning (1 mile, 5K, and 10K.). When the kids completed their race I strolled on the grass with my husband TJ, Lexie, Leigh, and our gaggle of children, making our way to the playground, when a woman caught my eye. She was running the 5K race. There was nothing extraordinary about her; she must have been a few years older than me, her dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail, head bent in focus and determination. My mind went completely quiet as she ran past me, and then a single thought came: I wonder if I could do that.
If you know me, you may know that I suffered with severe childhood asthma, allergies, and have never, NEVER done anything that could be called an ‘intense’ form of exercise in my life. This thought of running – of ME running – was crazy enough to be considered cause for alarm.
And yet here I am, several months later, running and LOVING it. I have learned a lot on my running journey so far. These are a few lessons that have been important to me:
1. Hard work pays off
I shocked myself (again) by actually following through on my plan to try running. I followed the Couch-to-5K plan created by Jeff Galloway, which involves running for short intervals followed by walk breaks. Over the course of nine weeks the length of the running intervals increases until you can eventually run 5K by the program’s end. I started by running for only one minute at a time. By week 6, I decided to see how far I could run (before feeling worn out), and discovered I could do the entire 5K. I had to do a lot of strength training (and a lot more running) until I could run without feeling weak, but I am amazed at how quickly the heart and lungs can be conditioned.
Throughout my life I have struggled with either over- or under-estimating the value of my own efforts. Running is an activity that has allowed me to see the benefits of my work very quickly. Setting a goal and working towards it, slowly but surely, one minute at a time, helped me learn that diligence will produce results. The lesson I struggled to learn with my mind I have had to learn through my body.
2. The power of vulnerability
When I first contemplated running, I can remember asking myself, “Do I really want start an activity in which I will get injured?” (Injury is practically inevitable due to the repetitive nature of running). Surprisingly (yet again) I decided to go for it anyway, to open myself up to an experience that would simultaneously offer joy and accomplishment as well as pain and suffering. Running has offered me a way to discover my own strength and to experience struggle – both of which are necessary to live bravely and confidently. (A little overdue, but hey, it’s coming….).
For more on this topic, watch this awesome TED talk:
3. Mental toughness
It takes a lot of mental grit to run. The mind, just like the body, needs to be up for the challenge. As I worked through Couch-to-5K, I was surprised to find that I was talking myself through runs: You can do it. You’re almost there. More surprising is the amount of trash talk that comes out of my brain when tackling a big hill or a time goal. Most surprising of all was when once during a run my mind started to spew out portions of a Jack Donaghy soliloquy from an episode of 30 Rock to keep me going. I never know what my brain will come up with, but it somehow knows how to get me to hang in there.
I am excited to be running, to be getting stronger, to see how fast and how far I can go. I am so glad I decided to take on this physical (and mental) challenge; it has been one of the most thrilling, strenuous, empowering experiences of my life.