It has been two weeks since I completed the Philadelphia Marathon and I am still in disbelief. It was the most surreal and exhausting thing I have ever done. I am so thankful that I ran a marathon and most importantly, that my body let me.
After we moved in May I got out of routine and wasn’t exercising much. I knew that in the past, signing up for a race helped me stay disciplined. So I did what any normal person does, I signed up for a marathon. To help me get in shape I used Hal Higdon’s plan. I followed the “Novice 1” plan and began training in July. Each week I completed 4 runs, 1 day of cross training (which usually was just walking) and 2 rest days. His plan is easy to follow and you can really customize it to your schedule. Working as a restaurant manager, I had to tweak my running schedule according to what shifts I was working during the particular week. What really helped me was knowing what I “had” to do each week so that way I knew what I had to commit to and I stuck with it. Even during 2 vacations I took!
While this may be so cliché and corny, I want everyone to feel like they can do it. It really is about putting in the time and effort. I was never and will never be an athlete, let alone a runner. Yes, I run. But I don’t have the build to run and I while I eat mostly healthy, I do not limit myself to certain foods merely because I want to be at a certain performance level. I’m simply a girl who wanted something bad enough to go for it. So if you are even considering whether or not to train for a marathon – yes you can.
Why exactly did I want to do it? One very simple reason. Something that I chanted to myself on the hardest, painful, sweatiest, hottest or rainiest days. Because I never thought I could. Sure I played sports in high school. But I was never great. In fact, I remember struggling to even complete the required 2 miles. But I knew I had the heart. And I dreamed of what it would feel like crossing the finish line.
The training was HARD. At first, every run was physically difficult. Then my body became strong! And my endurance was excellent. The long runs actually became enjoyable, where I’d drift off to another place and my legs would take me to places I’d never traveled to by foot. And then, oddly enough, I didn’t even mind the runs, other than feeling bored. The weirdest part? 10,11,12, even 15 miles didn’t feel like a lot.
Towards the end of training you go through a process called tapering, where you run less and less, until eventually you’re running only a few miles the week of. It was a scary feeling because as marathon day approached I feared I wasn’t ready. Even though I knew I had ran the miles and prepared myself the best I could.
But nothing can really prepare you for that day. It was one of the most emotional days of my life. And the most tiring thing I’ve even done. But my legs carried me through as my mind drifted to a place I’d been to on so many long runs. A place where I knew I could do it. And when I couldn’t dig any deeper, I reached out to the crowd for a friendly smile, wave, funny sign or simple, “You can do this!” Of course my family was the best support, cheering us on! (Jay and my sister ran as well.)
And running – not walking or crawling, across the finish line, I felt a sense of accomplishment that few can understand. And quietly, tiredly, I whispered,
“I did this. I did this for me. I did this, because I never thought I could.”