Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Why And The After

As we enter the week after my very first marathon (yay!), I'm left contemplating the why.  Why did I start training for a marathon?  Why did I want to run one in the first place?  What made me decide that now was the time?

To be honest, I have no idea.  I remember when I first heard that people actually ran 26.2 miles.  Hans and I were watching an episode of The Biggest Loser, and for the first time they were having their contestants run a marathon as the final challenge.  I remember my thought process when I heard that, too.  "That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard of!  Those people are going to injure themselves.  That's too much for the human body.  These people have not trained for this, and only super-elite athletes do stuff like this."  I then remember being shocked at what they accomplished (and I'm still impressed by their times).  Maybe that's when I started to see an endeavor like that as something that I could do someday?  I do know that it has something to do with how I see runners.

Runners, to me, were always svelte, gazelle-like creatures.  When I first decided to lose weight, back in college, I spent a good deal of time on the treadmill in an effort to achieve my goals.  I just wanted to run a mile.  If I ran a mile, I would be a fit person.  Well, I ran a mile, but I still didn't feel like a fit person.  So, maybe I had set my sights too low.  Maybe it was the 5k people who were the gazelles.

It took me A LONG time to reach 5k.  I'd start and stop and start and stop, and I just couldn't get the hang of it.  So, I sought help.  I signed up for the Up & Running course in the hopes of reaching my goal.  This was a great decision on my part, and the camaraderie and guidance provided through this simple online course was wonderful.  It was, in fact, enough to get me through my first 5k.  I finished in about 35 minutes (right on my goal).  I was on cloud nine for about a day, but I quickly realized that I wasn't where I wanted to be.  I still didn't feel gazelle-like.  Maybe the 10k would make me feel good although I knew a marathon was somewhere in my distant (way distant) future.

So, I started training for a 10k.  It took longer than I'd planned to get to a 10k, but it was much easier to reach than the 5k.  I dealt briefly with some lack of motivation and some physical issues (flu bug, knee issues, and neck issues), but once I got back on track, I was ready to go.  By the time I had reached my first 10k, I was seriously contemplating the marathon.  Should I jump straight into the marathon, or should I aim for a half marathon first?  Would I have time to train?  Would I fit in with all the gazelles?  When I ran my first 10k race, and beat my goal by 6 minutes, I was on cloud nine.  I made a decision that night...I was signing up for a marathon!

Now that I'm reflecting back on things, I'm starting to notice a pattern.  Are you?  I didn't feel good enough about myself, so I kept trying harder.  To me, this is both sad and awesome at the same time.  It's sad, of course, that I didn't feel good about myself, but I'm kind of proud that I was able to keep pushing forward instead of crying into a cup of hot chocolate (trust me, I did that for a few years too).

Anyway, the training for the marathon was such an eye-opening experience.  There were people of all shapes and sizes out there...not just gazelles.  I was faster than some of the gazelles and slower than some of the, well, not gazelles.  I learned that it was a challenge, but that one does not need super-human powers to do it.  You just have to be a little crazy and have a lot of heart.

So, how do I feel now?  Do I feel like a gazelle?  No.  Definitely not.  There are still things that I'd happily change about my body and things I want to do to improve.  That said, I'm also much more comfortable with my body.  Instead of a gazelle, I feel a bit like an ox (perfect because it's my Chinese zodiac animal).  I may not be super fast, but I'm strong.  I'm determined.  I can carry through even if it isn't easy.  That's a freakin' fabulous thought!  For the first time in as long as I can remember, I am genuinely proud of myself.  I did something that even I wasn't sure was possible, and I feel great about it.  It will take me a while to come down from this.

In the mean time, to make sure I don't return to that spot of self-loathing, I'm signing up for more.  I want to run more marathons.  I want to improve my time.  I want to keep going to ensure I never fall back.  I never want to be that person who says, "I used to run marathons.  What happened?"  I want to be the person who says, "I ran my first marathon in 2012, and I never looked back."

To that extent, I have at least 2 marathons planned for next year and a couple shorter races.  Holy crap!  I'm that person who runs multiple marathons in a year!

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