I really don’t know what happened; the best way to describe it would be that I accidentally ran a half marathon last week.
Um, yes. Without meaning to, I ran 13.1 miles.
I signed up for the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon last year with every intention of training like I have in the past. For a few years now, I’ve liked the routine of rebounding from the holidays with half-marathon training. But this year, with a new job and starting the year on a really restrictive diet that didn’t allow me to exercise, plus lots of work travel, I never got around to all the training. It takes me 12-14 weeks to be trained and ready for 13.1 miles. My best half-marathon time is 2:09 and my ultimate goal is to eventually run a half under two hours.
This year, I knew that wasn’t even on the horizon, but I had paid the registration fee and the Mini is such a fun race to run, I didn’t want to miss it. So I headed downtown with a friend and with plans to run as much as I could and then walk the rest. I work out consistently and run about eight to twelve miles a week, but I have not run more than four miles at a time in quite a while. I like what running does to my body and my mind, so while I haven’t been pushing myself with long runs, I’ve been running.
In my head, I knew I could run five or six miles without killing myself. The momentum of the race, the cheering, the loud music, the electric air–all those race day fixtures give you a little extra push and make you go a little farther than you think you can.
So with a few miles under my belt and no race day prep, I crossed the start line carefree and optimistic. It was a beautiful day, I was running through a city I loved, and I felt good.
Running 13.1 miles can seem never-ending, but walking 13.1 miles actually is. It’s so slow. I was all by myself and that’s super boring. I don’t remember the exact moment, but at some point between miles five and eight, I just told myself I was going to run as much as possible to get this over with as quickly as possible.
By mile eight my body was revolting.
There are so many things that happen when you train for a half marathon that makes race day not so bad. All those training miles build up calluses on your feet. Your legs become gradually stronger so they don’t cramp and give up on you. You work on posture and breathing so your body can relax and run. You practice fueling and energy supplements so you can finish with energy and not death. Most importantly, all those training miles are mental battles. You want to give up every mile. I am completely serious when I say the majority of your time training for a half marathon is spent talking yourself into not quitting.
I didn’t have the luxury of those things as I ran. I had no gel or gummies to replenish my reserves an hour into the run. My feet weren’t prepared for mile after mile and by eight, I could feel nothing but blisters as they slowly worked their magic. By mile nine my back was hurting and my shoulders were sore. Running is so much more than just moving your legs and my body was reminding me of that with every step.
I’m not sure how I did it. It was very surreal. Even as I ran, I wondered where I was getting my energy, my strength, and my willpower. I took walking breaks when my body raged against my brain, but for the most part, I ran. I ran like Forest Gump, and I just didn’t give up.
I crossed the finish line happier than I can even describe.
I have lots of proud running moments: running my first half marathon, running my fastest half marathon, running a half marathon with my dad.
But crossing the finish line at 2:30 without training might be my most proud moment. I am in awe of the strength of my body, with what it is capable of, and how hard it can work when I put my mind to something. I didn’t run that race fast; when I ran, my pace was consistently a ten-minute mile (some quicker), but with my walking breaks, I ended with an overall pace of just under 11:30. So many people ran faster than me. I normally run faster than me.
This race wasn’t about time or speed; this was about doing something that seemed impossible–that I didn’t feel prepared for–and just doing it anyway. So often the voices inside my head tell me I can’t do things. I, like most of us, am my own worst critic and really good at believing the lies that come, seemingly, out of nowhere.
This battle wasn’t about 13.1 miles. It was about so many things in my life I don’t feel worth of, capable of, or good enough at. It was a battle against the part of me that says you’re not skinny enough, you’re not fit enough, you’re not strong enough.
I won some wars during those 13.1 miles that I didn’t know I was equipped to fight. Triumphing felt momentous because I didn’t feel prepared, didn’t feel like I could do it. But during that two-and-a-half hour run, I learned I’m more ready than I know and more powerful than I ever thought possible.
I’m guessing we all are, actually.