Run, Forrest, run
If there’s one thing that younger me NEVER thought I would do, it would be running a marathon. In fact, I used to fake stomach aches to get out of running the mile in elementary school. The day would inevitably end with me close to tears and regretting my lack of athletic abilities. But of course, I couldn’t complain. I didn’t leave my couch that much, and books were my companions rather than running shoes.
But as I got older, I found I enjoyed getting up and moving. I’m not going to lie, it was incredibly tough at first. But a body in motion stays in motion. Once I started working out, it got easier every day. Between running and playing tennis in high school, I got on my feet more and felt that addictive running high everyone talks about.
At first, all I could do was a lap around my cul de sac. Then it was down to a stop sign a quarter-mile from my house. After that it was a full mile. Through the process, my dad was a huge motivation. With 50 marathons under his belt, he isn’t slowing down. He would knock on my door at 5 p.m. every day, asking if I was ready. He coached me to go a little farther every week until I was finally in good enough shape to run cross country in high school. That was huge for me, a formerly chubby kid who used to sweat walking to class.
My senior year of high school was when I ran my first half marathon (13.1 miles). I previously had only run seven miles consecutively. Surprisingly I felt great, thanks to the shape that I was in already and the adrenaline that I felt on race day. I also ran with my aunt who has a similar pace as me. Finding a running partner that runs the same pace as you or pulls you to go faster is great motivation, because you can keep each other from the temptation to stop or walk. Once you stop, it’s a lot harder to get going again.
I ran through my first college years, and last spring I decided that this fall, I would run my first full marathon (26.2 miles). It was daunting, and I knew that there was a LOT of work that I would have to put in. I ran every day when I studied abroad in Dublin, and kept going through the summer. My running schedule went like this: Saturday long run, beginning at 10 miles and working up two additional miles every couple of weeks, ending at 20 miles three weeks before the marathon when tapering began. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday ranged from four to six miles. Tuesday was a mid-week long run, approximately half the distance of the Saturday long run. Sundays were always my rest day.
Having a schedule like this really helped keep me on track. My dad also provided a lot of mental and emotional support as well, keeping me going when all I wanted to do was STOP RUNNING. I just had to picture the end goal: crossing the finish line, being able to cross it off my bucket list. I ran in the mornings as early as I could, as I had the most energy then and it was also the coolest in the hot and humid Iowa summer.
It is my firm belief that if you’re in good enough health, anyone can run a marathon with enough determination and preparation. If I could give someone a few key pieces of advice though, it would be to find a reliable running buddy to keep you accountable and motivated, run at the best times for YOU (even if it’s at night, at lunch, in the morning, or whenever), stick to a calendar with manageable increases from week to week, and stay focused on the goal: it’s going to feel AMAZING when you cross the finish line, you’ll get in great shape and gain confidence that translates to other areas of your life as well. I will never forget the feeling of finishing that marathon, and I would definitely call it one of the best days of my life. If it’s something you’re interested in then you should definitely go for it! Pardon the cliché, but you really can do anything you put your mind to: even a marathon.