Life lessons I learned from my first half-marathon

Ok look, I know I promised I wouldn’t write any listicles. But I’m about to drop some real truth bombs, so listen up. For the past, what feels like 2839473289 months, I’ve training for my first half-marathon. I started off not being able to get through a single mile. Literally, when the treadmill hit 0.66 miles, I had to stop to catch my breath or nurse a leg cramp or something.

Even when I pushed myself to run more, I had to deal with all kinds of ridiculous beginner runner injuries like shin splints and swollen ankles and knees and I pretty much felt like an old lady limping on one foot around campus for many weeks. But thanks to the Couch to 5k app, a lot of Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid m.A.A.d. city” album on repeat, and the Map My Run app, I can now proudly say that as of Feb. 15, I’ve run a half-marathon in 2 hours and 30 mins, at an 11:04 pace. Not the greatest, I know, but to be honest, I’m just so proud that I finished. Running for hours at a time allows for a lot of introspection and unnecessary navel gazing so here’s the closest I’m going to get to disclosing the meaning of life on this blog.

  1. Consistency trumps skill. To get from 0.66 miles to 13.1, there is literally no shortcut. There’s no crash-course. You can’t “cram” training the night before, like you *cough* I *cough* study for exams. There’s no way to get from 0.66 to 13.1 other than consistently training for multiple days a week. I feel like if I applied this to all of my other goals, I would be much more forgiving of my initial inability, and have a lot more patience for the process it takes to go from mediocre to competent when you’re trying to develop a new skill.
  2. Competition is a good thing. When I was training by myself, I was running at a pace that was usually slower than 12 minutes. It was pretty bad. But just being surrounded by people on race day — people of all different skill levels and abilities — it pushed me to run and hold a pace much faster than I thought I was capable of. If I looked at competition as a healthy motivator instead of taking it as an attack on my personal abilities, I’d probably have a much healthier relationship and state of mind when dealing with it on a day to day basis.
  3. Don’t compare your first race to someone’s 20th. I was pretty happy just to finish the race. It’s ridiculous to expect to kill the game if it’s your first time playing. It’s great to have people to look up to and to motivate you and give you a goal to keep in mind of where you want to head. But putting your accomplishments in context with your experience is important.
  4. Rest and recuperation is just as important as training. This is something that I only realized in hindsight because “rest and recuperation” feels a lot like doing nothing. When I was dealing with pretty frequent injuries, making sure to abide by my rest days and making sure to cross-train are what helped me get over them. I guess that extends to every day as well. Don’t feel guilty about taking a reasonable break if that’s what’s preventing you from burning out.
  5. Mind over matter. Every time. When I was training on my own, exhausting the same routes and same music playlist every week, I was able to run about 6-7  miles without having to stop. On race day, with an entirely different and challenging route, a new playlist, and the energy of people around me, I was able to push through 10 miles without having to stop. It’s crazy how much of the challenge is a mental one.
  6. Success isn’t a defined destination. This is a conclusion that I’ve been arriving at, not just through running, but in other aspects of my life as well. You always feel like a beginner. There is no moment of “making it,” no matter how many goals you achieve and hurdles you overcome. I finished running my half-marathon, a goal I was working on for months. But immediately after finishing, I found myself idolizing the people with faster paces, or the people who went on to finish the full marathon. There are always people ahead of you, and always people behind you. The expression “Work until your idols become your rivals” is bullsh*t, because it assumes that your idols aren’t working towards their goals either. Your idols are not waiting for you to catch up, so the best you can do is keep working until you attain a level of self-contentment that’s not dependent on the achievement of people around you.
  7. It takes a while to love something. I think all of us have this secret wish that we’re going to find a skill that we’re magically amazing at and love immediately. But with running, I didn’t actually enjoy the process and look forward to running until really late in the game. I guess with anything, you have to invest energy and effort to really develop a passion for it. Now, after my first rest week in months, I’m anxious to get back to running.
  8. Sometimes, problems look worse than they actually are. During the half-marathon, we ran on NW 16th St., that Gainesville natives know, is absolute hell. Crazy rolling hills that I’ve never run before. Every time I’d see a hill, I’d think, “There’s no way I can run that.” But every time, I’d start the incline and realize that it was nothing close to the struggle I thought it would be. Definitely need to apply this my life. The most difficult part of a lot of challenges is to just get started.

Ok that’s it for now. This half-marathon has been a great confidence booster for me, and I’m hoping to ride this wave of motivation through the rest of the semester.

race

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