This weekend, I finished my third half marathon in my hometown race, the Surf City Half Marathon. 17 months ago, I hadn’t run farther than one full mile, and that was more than 20 years ago. I was not (and still am not) a big fan of running. It’s painful; it can get really boring, and you have mental battles with yourself. So why do I do it?
I’m not sure there is an easy answer for that.
It would be great to be able to say that running saved me after my divorce, but that isn’t really true. I didn’t actually start running till I had things “figured out.” When I first left my 11-year marriage, I began running, just not physically. I ran from life. I ran from my problems. I ran from the scary, overwhelming emotions that come whenever something huge and devastating happens in life. Then I stopped.
And I started physically running. There wasn’t an existential reason. I just wanted to start a healthy habit and running was the least expensive (ha!).
Running Is a Mental Game
You may have heard (if you’re not a runner), that running is more of a mental game than a physical one. I really didn’t understand that until I began running. I’m not one of those people that love to run. In fact, I don’t like it much at all. I don’t get the runner’s high; it hurts, and it can get boring just running for hours with nothing but your thoughts in your head and music in your ears. I’m not one that thinks much when I run. I don’t ponder or do much deep thinking – I’m mainly calculating how long until I can be done.
But running largely is a battle between you and yourself. No one else is there to fight with. And for me, it’s the only time in my day where there is only one thing on my mind – and that is running. I’m not thinking about the stack of bills that need to be paid. There is no mom guilt weighing me down; no thoughts of deadlines, articles or grammar errors. All I think about is putting on foot in front of the other.
My Third Half Marathon and PR
This weekend, I hit my PR. For those that aren’t runners, that means personal record. I wasn’t trying for a PR, in fact, since I took 10-weeks off after my marathon, I ate poorly, stopped exercising and had 4-weeks to prepare for this half marathon.
Everything was going okay until I reached mile 9. Looking at my time wondering when this was going to be over, I realized that I was actually making good time and might have a chance to come close to my record of my best race.
For the next 2-3 miles, I had an internal battle of should I or shouldn’t I – classic angel/devil on the shoulder style. On one hand, everything hurt and I was dying. It was hot, I only had four weeks to train for this, it doesn’t really matter because I still get the same medal at the end, etc. On the other hand, my competitive nature reasoned, I could beat my record. The internal dialogue waged on as I willed my feet to carry me for “just a few more miles.” Back and forth, back and forth. I could either try for it or make excuses…every step I flipped, and I flopped. Finally, at mile 11, I decided that I needed to go for it. I was so close that if I didn’t give it all I had, I would be mad if I come short by just a tiny bit.
When I crossed that finish line, I felt good. I still wasn’t sure if I beat my PR, but I knew that I didn’t make excuses and settle, and I went for it. That’s what running has taught me: I can, I will, and I have faced myself, and my battles head on. I don’t run from them. I don’t run from life. And for what is probably the first time in my life, I truly respect myself for meeting tough physical and emotional challenges head on and not allowing them to break me – whether it’s a painful divorce or a difficult long run, I can survive anything.
(For those that are curious, I did beat my personal record, coming in at 1:57:18; only ten seconds faster than my best time, but I’ll take it!).