Last Saturday I ran a half marathon on a whim. Never in my life did I ever think I’d write a sentence like that, let alone do something like that. But, there you have it.
I had thought about signing up for that race about six weeks ago, but decided I wasn’t ready for it – that I wasn’t far enough along in this training session to run 13.1 miles a month before I had planned to run 13.1 miles. Then I realized I already had plans that weekend so the race was officially out.
Then my training was really starting to pay off and I felt more confident in my abilities. And then the weekend plans were cancelled. And then, as I sat on a plane four days before the race I thought, “I think I can run it. I think I might sign up.”
So, I checked the weather (I started this race 3 years ago but then it was cancelled due to bad storms) and all looked good. I reconsidered – back and forth several times. Until finally, I signed up.
It was a beautiful, crisp morning. I was a little uncertain of my attire at first (tank top and shorts in barely 50 degree temps), but after a few miles I was warmed up and very happy to not be overdressed. The sun shone. The wind (usually) blew through at the right time. The course was flat and easy to traverse. I ran with a good friend and her friend for the first half. It was so nice to have them alongside me – we talked sometimes, but not always.
Let’s stop there for a moment – I talked while running. Granted this wasn’t a sprint, we were at a good pace for our abilities. But, I was talking. I could run and talk. I didn’t feel like dying. In fact, I felt strong and confident that I would run the whole race and get a PR. I think I announced that to my running buddies around mile 6 or 7: “I’m going to PR!”
Somewhere after 7 I knew I could pick up the pace a little, so I pulled away and took off on my own. It was around this point that I Facetimed my nieces because the oldest really wanted to come see my race. Since that wasn’t possible, I figured I’d show them what I was doing. Again, this is a miracle – talking on the phone while running. Never would I have thought!
Of course, the last 1-2 miles were tough, they always are. But, I never stopped running. I knew I still had the strength to keep going. Even when we went over the New York St. bridge (why is that in every race?!). Even when going into the wind while on the bridge incline. Even when I was ready to quit and had to pee and all of the sudden was starving. Even when the finish line was in sight and a huge gust of wind came my way. Even when a woman was right in my path when I was trying to sprint to the finish. Even through all that, I kept running. It was hard, yes, but I didn’t quit.
Tonight I had the pleasure of hearing Parker Palmer and Carrie Newcomer speak and perform. Carrie sang “You Can Do This Hard Thing” to which I did a good job of keeping myself together. After that Parker asked us to share in pairs what it is that helps us manage those hard things – what do we turn to in difficult times to help push through. I mentioned to my mom and friend Shannon that running reminds me I can do hard things and survive.
Do I enjoy getting up at 6 am (sometimes 5:15 or 5:30 or 5:45 depending on the mileage) to run before work? No, not really. Do I enjoy overheating and sweating buckets? Not particularly. Do I like it when I run 4 or 5 miles away from my house meaning I have to turn around and do that all over again? Not always. But, I do it. I do it because it’s hard and when I’m done I know I’m stronger. I do it to remind myself that my body is strong and powerful and can withstand a lot. If my body can do that, so can my mind and soul. We’re in it together, the three of us. If one is strong, we’re all strong.
I have done hard things. I can do hard things. I will do hard things.
I did PR on Saturday – by 13 seconds. It’s not much, but it’s a PR! More important than the time is how I felt. In the past I pushed my way through these races not feeling so great – tired, pained, out of breath. Even though I followed a training plan, I always felt a little behind when race day came. I’m trying a different plan this time and I can see a huge difference. I felt it on Saturday – I was at ease and comfortable running. I could talk with friends and family. I was confident that I’d run the whole thing and apparently halfway through I called a PR! Even though I wasn’t much faster, I was much stronger. The small hard things I do every day are paying off.
I’m not sure how often I’ll do a half marathon on a whim. But, now that I’ve done it, I have one more moment to reference back to when I’m faced with a hard thing. I have one more example of doing a hard thing and coming out stronger.
There are many hard things ahead. Starting with the doctor’s appointment on Monday. But everyday I live is another testament of me surviving the day before and the day before that – all filled with hard things, some bigger than others. And, as long as I’m here, I know I can do this hard thing too.