10+ things I learned from training for a 1/2 marathon

Last year one of the voices in my head pointed out, “well if we are going to do this half-marathon thing we should do it before we turn 40”, the idea was loosely planted but I hadn’t committed yet.  I decided to let it linger on hold until after Christmas and see how the new year felt.  Sure enough coming back from vacation the idea was starting to grow into a plan, that yes I can and I should rise to my challenge!  But, where?  So I started searching on the various websites that keep track of where and when you can run a marathon.  I had seen there was one in Vancouver in May, but I couldn’t get on board knowing I would already be 40 by then.  It had to be the first week of April so that I would have at least 12 weeks to train.   This narrowed it down a lot, and then sure enough there was an option in Puerta Vallarta, where 10 years before in the same month I came to Mexico for the first time.  It was a sign that this plan was meant to be.  April 7th, Puerta Vallarta, 1/2 Marathon 8 days before I turn 40 years old!  The stars aligned and there was no turning back.

I had been inspired by a few friends who quite regularly decide they are going to train up and run one in a given year - and they run marathons!  All of these friends were ‘fit’ and ‘athletic’ but not hard-core types, so they all made me feel like it was a very achievable goal.  I found myself a local, highly recommended coach and I was off to the park 5 days a week to run in circles.  Here are 10+ things that I learned from my experience:

Be careful with your words, especially to little kids, especially to your own kids. It kept resurfacing as I kept improving my distance and times that my high school gym teacher told me I wasn’t ‘a runner’.  This always stayed with me, so that every time in the last 20 plus years I tried running and didn’t like it the first go, I remembered her saying ‘you are not a runner.’  That message stuck.  So maybe consider that you don’t have any idea what anyone else is capable of, keep your doubts to yourself and spread encouragement instead.

Training is the work you have to put in to get to your end goal. It is important and easier to train if you have an end goal and should hold it present in your mind while training.  However life is what happens working up to that new goal - you have to enjoy the work.  Life is the work.

Mindset is everything. From day one, I held the line of thinking that thought about how I was going to finish, and put a stop to any lines of thinking that considered ‘what if I can’t or don’t finish’.  Sounds obvious, but my whole training session was either an uplifting experience or a long and drawn out if I imagined a negative outcome. 

Change is incremental and small, and it isn’t graphed on a straight line. Nature isn’t graphed on a straight line.  We are nature, we ebb and flow.

Effort matters, be kind to yourself, celebrate your small wins.

Visualize where you want to be, then visualize the plan week by week to get there.

Rest days are at least as important and potentially more important to give your body time to incorporate your effort and make changes. This is in terms of muscle mass, muscle memory but also neural connections and mindset. 

Community is important. Even if it is just showing up at the same park everyday and smiling and nodding at the same people, it connects you to the work, to your training on a much deeper level.  It humbles you.

You can always make time for something that is a priority in the moment. Exercise is self-care.  Exercise is an investment in your health and wellness.  Exercise is therapy.

We are seasonal creatures, we cycle with the moon and the sun. Tap into your own rhythms.  Wake with the sun, rest when it rests.  Getting up early to exercise outside is one of the most rewarding changes you can make to your life today.  You don’t have to run, you can walk or ride a bike.  Look up, take in the sky, the trees and the birds. 

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