During the last semester of my senior year of university, I purposely curated a schedule with easy classes on only two days a week. I wanted to spend the final remaining months of college enjoying this special time and feeling free from intense amounts of stress. Even though my intention was to have time and flexibility to enjoy those remaining months, I very inconsistently decided to sign up for a half-marathon with some of my classmates. I must have been persuaded by group-think and the empowering influence of goal-setting. Along with three other girls, all ranging in athletic ability, we decided to run in a Nike women's half marathon in Washington D.C. From the time we signed up, we had a little over four months to train. I was terrified.
While I have grown up with a mom who could run a marathon a day if she had the time, I was a little resistant to the idea of running for hours just for fun. I have played sports my whole life: soccer, swimming, softball, volleyball, basketball and I was not shy about the idea of athletic training. However, the real motivation to train and complete these long 13.1 miles was fear. I was afraid that I would not be able to finish the and my friends would have to drag me across the finish line.
I found a four-month half-marathon training schedule online, printed it out and taped it to my mirror. In the dead of winter in Boston, I started training outside. For those of you not familiar with Boston, it is a small city. In fact, when I was trying to train for 9, 10 or 11 mile runs, I ran out of places to run - sometimes, I had to loop around the city twice. Nevertheless, I was incredibly proud of my prioritization of long runs and intense training weeks. Once I saw myself complete 9 and 10 mile runs without walking - my confidence grew. I knew that if I just kept picking up my feet, I would make it to the end! During the training process, I did experience some on-and-off knee pain, but taking days off in between long runs and ibuprofen helped me manage.
Finally, early May came and it was time to fly to D.C. and get this behind me. We went a couple of days early to enjoy the city and pick up our registration packets. The morning of the race, we woke up at the crack of dawn, walked to the starting place of the race and stretched out our muscles. I popped two pain killers in the back pocket of my running pants that I was planning to consume at mile 8. Then the horn was sounded and off we went. We all distributed into the hoard of women running the race - I wasn't the fastest of our group but I also wasn't the slowest; this is exactly what I wanted. For the most part, the miles passed with ease, my perfectly curated playlist carried me from mile to mile. One of my dearest friends from university even snuck in a recording of her voice onto my playlist that fueled me to press on. What a great friend, right?
Around mile 7.5, I decided it was time to pop the pain killers. I went into the back zipper pocket of pants to take out the medication, but I could not find the pills. Instead, I found disintegrated sweaty dust left over from the pills. However, that would not stop me. I scooped it out with my finger and like a drug dealer, I licked the ibuprofen dust into my mouth. Don't you dare judge me - I needed it!
Then I zipped up the pocket and I kept picking up my feet until the end of the 13.1 miles. I will forever be proud of my persistence and commitment to train and accomplish the physical goal. I went on to run two more half-marathons and writing about this now makes me itch for one more.
When I look back at these races, I feel a deep sense of belief in myself. Accomplishing these physical goals helps me believe that I also have the strength and commitment to achieve mental, professional or other personal goals. I have since learned that my mind and body respond positively to external challenges - setting goals, establishing project deadlines and living intentionally practices purpose with my actions.
What were you good at in 8th grade?
Art work by Alessandra Olanow © alessandraolanow.com