There have been only a few things in life that I cannot express or struggle to find the words to describe. The first is the rush of endorphins that hits you when you meet the one you are destined to marry. The second only occurs when that rush of passion hits you reminding you that you are on the right life track. The last is that feeling (aka “runner’s high”) as your legs speed up, you forget the pain and self-doubt, and the adrenaline seems to take over as your legs start to propel like a fine tuned sports car engine towards the finish line.
I caught the running bug soon after losing close to 200 pounds in college, and I couldn’t get enough. I truly believe that most bodies were not meant to endure a full marathon, let alone mine. With a 4:02 Philadelphia finish and a once in a lifetime experience running the NYC Marathon, I decided to officially retire from running 26.2 miles and give my joints a break. Half marathons only now!
26 miles is longer than I want to drive in a car on any given Sunday, let alone run 26.2 miles. When I set out to run a full marathon, I had already lost over 190 pounds and was starting to feel bullet proof. If you’ve ever run a long race, the challenge is not only physical, but mostly mental. I started training in the summer of 2010 with a goal to run the Philadelphia Marathon that November. At that time I was working at Accenture as a financial analyst. My supervisor, manager, and colleagues all thought I was crazy, but sure enough, each and every one of them supported me and was understanding, especially if I had to leave work right at 5pm to start my training run. This made for a great support network, as well as a constant supply of ‘cheat’ candy and invitations to “grab pizza for lunch.” Marathon training began to consume my life and I had found another obsession to replace the weight loss obsession I slowly transitioned out of. My typical weekday started with a large breakfast at 6:30, followed by a 10 hour work day, running 6-10 miles, and finishing up with some chicken, rice, veggies and a nightcap of emails. #LivingTheDream
As race day arrived, I was fortunate to be able to sleep over one of my good friend’s apartments in Philly. He was so generous, he gave me his entire apartment overnight, which included a nice 3 a.m. fire alarm wake up. Pumped and anxious that morning, I proceeded to the starting line, where I met up with another friend who was only half crazy and running the half marathon. We entered our respective starting lines, wished each other luck, and the marathon began.
Miles 5, 10 and 15 flew by with the roar of the crowd and lots of excitement. Things were feeling pretty good, that was until mile 20. The wall doesn't just hit you, the wall picks you up and throws you off the top of the mountain to start over. I hit that wall at mile 20. Luckily reading endless issues of Runner’s World had prepared me to realize what was happening and I feverishly choked down 3 “energy gus” that I had shoved in my pocket at the last aid station.
“Your mind will quit a thousand times before your body will. Feel the fear and do it anyway”
If you Google “Mindset, you will find results that show you quotes and examples of overcoming great feats of adversity. There is a reason why if you ever ask a runner for a piece of marathon advice, they will say “train your body for the first 20 and your mind for the last 6.” Unless your body is physically breaking - I mean stress fractures, debilitating injuries, or extreme life circumstances, chances are, your body is equipped to handle the challenge but your mind may not be.
I finished my first marathon in 4 hours and two minutes. One would think that's a great time, especially for someone weighing in at 210 pounds, but deep down I knew I had sub 4 hours in me. That hunger and eagerness kept me going for years. Years later I would have my shot at New York City - but life changes and priorities change - and that’s totally OK. While I did not finish NYC in sub 4 hours, I did remind myself that anything in life was possible and put myself on a trajectory pursuing my dreams, which would ultimately change my life. Maybe someday I’ll recap that marathon or even come out of retirement and run another marathon. Never say never...
The human mind is so powerful - it has the ability to be that one thing holding us back from pursuing our dreams (self-doubt, fear, negativity), but it can also be the game changer in making amazing things happen (confidence, fearlessness, determination). By focusing on our mindset, visualizing accomplishments, pushing off doubts and insecurities, we increase our chances of achieving seemingly impossible tasks.
What marathon are you setting out to conquer? How are you exercising both your mind and body so that you are strong enough to overcome it?
Until next week, let me know what you want to hear about, and catch me in the comments!