I forgot to bring my iPod on my run over the weekend, so it was just me and my thoughts for ten miles. I'm currently training for the Philadelphia Half Marathon, and I was thinking back to this time last year, when I completed my first 13 mile run EVER. Not only have I come a long way in the running world in terms of "stats" over the last year (completing two marathons as well as a handful of other running milestones), but I also feel like I've made leaps and bounds as far as how I feel about myself as a runner.
Somewhere between mile 18 and 19, I just started to walk. Of course, I promised myself it would just be to assess the pain, and as soon as I felt it was okay to run, I would start again. Which I did. For about half a mile. From that point on, I was half running and half walking to the finish line. At one point I was running along with a pacer group, and although my original goal time was no longer a possibility (yes, I know, first time marathoners aren't supposed to set goal times), I set a new one right there. I just had to keep up with this group for about 4 more miles. That didn't last long, and I soon fell behind the group.
No matter how disappointed I was during those last 8 miles, crossing the finish lines was still an amazing experience. I was able to ride that "high" through the rest of the day while celebrating with my friends and family. But when I got home that night, I was replaying those moments over and over in my head. I just couldn't figure out how an injury-free and seemingly perfect training went wrong. Over the next few weeks, I asked around and talked to runners who were more experienced, but in the end, I decided that as a runner, you'll have good days and bad days and my marathon was just a bad day.
When I say I'm going to "race" this half marathon, I don't mean I'm going to try to win. Let's be honest, I'll be just beyond the halfway point when the winner crosses the finish line, but running is a sport you race against yourself, always trying to improve. I want to cross the finish line knowing I pushed myself as hard as I could. I want to set a goal and reach it not because it happened, but because I MADE it happen. I want to know that when I start to get tired, I'm going to push myself even more.
I know that I can run 13.1 miles, which eliminates so much of the anxiety that goes along with a first time marathon training plan. Physically, my body can do what I want it to do - I've done it many times before. I've even done it pretty close to the goal pace I set for myself. So when I line up at the starting line in November and someone asks me if I'm ready, the answer will be, "ABSOLUTELY". Am I going to trust in my training? Sure. But more importantly, I'm going to trust in myself. I'll trust that I'm going to run at my own pace no matter how quickly or slowly the people around me are running. I'll trust that I won't start to slow down when I feel tired. I'll trust that I'm going to take in the atmosphere of the event and enjoy myself, because that's what this is all about.