Recently I ran a half-marathon (13.1 miles). It was my second half ever–the first was 2 years ago. I went into training for this one with a wildly ambitious goal. While that goal was not achieved, I am proud of myself for getting the race done. I wanted to share the lessons I learned on this journey with you, for motivation and inspiration!
First lesson is naturally about perseverance. Obviously with a distance run, there is a lot of perseverance involved. But beyond that, becoming a runner at all took a lot of perseverance, because I was terrible in the beginning. See, I have never been a runner. In high school, I got out of running the mile as often as possible. I played tennis my freshman year, hated it, and then gave up on sports entirely. So throughout high school and college, and into adulthood and young motherhood, I was very inactive… okay, I was a couch potato! But I was always naturally on the thin side, so I didn’t think much of it. As I talk about here, it took learning about the concept of “skinny fat”, and a genetic predisposition to Type II Diabetes, to get me up and moving.
My first attempts at “running” were a laugh. I could only run for feet at a time, but I kept up with it. For the first time in my life, I started a routine and kept with it. After a few months, I could manage a 5k (3.1 miles). A few more months, I made it to 10k (6.2 miles). The first half marathon I ran was about 14 months after I started running. By then, obviously, I was hooked!
But another move, and another deployment by my husband, left me falling back out of it. That is where signing up for another half helped with perseverance. It gave me the motivation to start pushing myself again, and of course I had a goal to beat my previous time!
So, second lesson: proper goal setting. In my first half-marathon, I had a time of 2 hours 17 minutes. So for the second, I naturally set a goal of 1 hour 45 minutes. Umm, Kate, that is nuts. A half hour improvement without constant distance training is fairly unobtainable. I am not a very fast runner, which is fine, but I should have been more realistic from the beginning.
Which brings me to my third lesson: accepting when goals are not going to be reached, and readjusting expectations. I don’t consider myself a failure for not reaching my original goal. Or the next goal, which was to just beat 2 hours. My final time was 2 hours 11 minutes. So, I did beat my previous time by 6 minutes, and I didn’t slow to a walk at all, except at drink stations. More importantly, I finished!
I hope this post has offered some motivation and inspiration to set realistic goals and adjust to those goals as needed, but mainly just to persevere in getting going in the first place. Running is a great, simple choice for staying active, and races offer a great source of motivation to get out there and push yourself.
If you are just starting out, check out the Couch to 5k app (C25k) or if you want to set a big goal, get the Couch to 10k app, which starts from the beginning but works you all the way up to 10k. They start you slowly with walking and jogging intervals, and build up to longer jogging periods.