In 2001, I ran my first marathon. I had attempted a marathon a few years before, but shortly after I announced my plans to everyone I knew, I got injured and had to stop running. I didn’t realize at the time that no one but me cared that I had failed to reach my goal. I was mortified and scared to try again. When I was able to run again, I limited my runs to four or five miles, sometimes six or seven miles if I felt especially peppy.
When I signed up for the marathon, I had just started graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I was still wearing shorts in October while the leaves turned orange, and there were miles and miles of gently rolling hills and country roads I had yet to discover. One of my classmates was planning to run a marathon. If she can do it, why can’t I? Like that fly in the meth lab in that season three episode of Breaking Bad, this thought would not leave me alone.
When I completed a ten mile run, I decided it was legitimate to sign up for the marathon. I logged onto my dial-up internet connection and searched for the right race. My criteria were pretty simple. It had to be in driving distance and it had to be at least four months away. I printed the registration form for the Myrtle Beach Marathon, mailed it in with my check, and wondered if I was crazy.
I found a beginner training plan and filled each workout in on a blank calendar that I had drawn by hand. I ran four days a week, cross trained two days a week, and took one day completely off. Sundays were for long runs. Mondays, Tuesdays, and sometimes even Wednesdays were for hamstrings that felt like bricks, leaden quads, jaunts on the elliptical, and forcing myself not to exclaim, “I am so sore from my 15 mile run!” I would not hear of Facebook for another six years, but even then I was aware of the douchebaggery of the brag-weakly-disguised-as-a-complaint.
On days when I knew I would not have time run after class, I set my alarm for 5:50 am and told myself “Get your lazy ass out of bed,” when it went off. Not the most positive self-talk, but it worked. I was either at the gym or on the road by 6:10am.
On Friday and Saturday nights, I engaged in my usual boyfriend-hunting shenanigans, involving copious amounts of alcohol, cigarettes (because, alcohol) high heels, dancing, and occasional vomit. Still, I got in four or five miles before I had be at my part-time job by 9am on Saturdays, and I faithfully showed up for my running club’s Sunday 8am run. It never occurred to me to eat a proper breakfast before a run, or to eat a real meal immediately after a run. Napping was something I’d never even thought to try.
I did not think I was superhuman. I was 22 years old and it had just never occurred to me that I might not always be this young and therefore able to do such ridiculous things to my body without provoking its rebellion.
Also, I was scared. I was motivated to train for and run this race for many reasons- the challenge, the sense of accomplishment, the positive changes in my energy level and mood- but none of these were as motivating as fear. The idea of running 26.2 miles positively terrified me. So I trained, day in and day out, knowing that if I could at least do that, maybe I could run the marathon. Skipping a workout was not an option. My homemade training calendar was taped to my bedroom wall. I crossed off every single workout after I completed it.
During the four months that I trained for that marathon, I developed a habit of regular exercise that has stuck with me ever since. Up to that point, I’d been a sporadic exerciser; I’d exercise if I had time, if I felt like it, or if I’d eaten too many cookies. Although I loved how I felt when I exercised, but I did not make it a priority.
Since training for that marathon, I discovered that I had more energy, felt happier, coped better with stress, and was sick less often when I exercised consistently. While my classmates complained that they had no time for all of our projects, reading, and papers, I felt I could work faster and more effectively if I’d made time to run earlier in the day.
Since then I have run five more marathons, I have completed two ironman triathlons, and I have done countless other races. And while being an athlete as become a central part of who I am, it is still the regular exercise, not the competition that I value the most.
This post was brought to you by the Finish the Sentence Friday (FTSF) Blog Hop. The prompt was “The best decision I ever made was…”
Please visit the FTSF (Finish the Sentence Friday) blog hop hosts:
Stephanie at Mommy for Real
Kristi From Finding Ninee
Janine from Janine’s Confessions of Mommyholic