Forty minutes and fifty-three seconds is the time it took me to run my first 5k. Or was it in fact the two months that it took for me to actually run that distance that we should count? The year is twenty twenty, the month is March and I am drenched in sweat, with a stronger body odour than a teenage boy, but I am smiling. I am smiling as I have finally done it. I have finally completed my 5k running journey.
To fully understand this achievement we have to go back (no, not back to the future Marty) back to New Year. When the New Year of twenty twenty came around I was twenty three, and just starting to get my adult life together after university. I had just landed a job in my chosen career a few months prior, I had a boyfriend and I had recently moved into my own place. But something was missing. I needed an outlet for my mind and my body, as it felt like all I was doing everyday was staring at screens. It seemed like a never ending cycle of moving from one screen to another, starting with my work computer, then my TV at night and finally my phone before bed; as I finally completed the latest level on Candy Crush. This had to stop, for my sanity if nothing else. I had to take the plunge and start a hobby that would get me outside and away from all of the screens. I decided to begin by taking myself for a walk, as it was a relatively easy activity and involved no sweat. But then I would see them, the runners, gliding through the roads and the fields gracefully like gazelles, but yet with such a strong purpose. I wanted to be like the runners, strong yet graceful, peaceful yet purposeful. I also figured that it couldn't be a lot more effort than just walking, as all it was was walking fast. Boy was I wrong! There is a reason it's a totally different sport from walking, and any runner will tell you that. Your body temperature increases a lot more, as does your heart rate and your general body exertion. Skipping over many months of running and life lessons, after building my running up in thirty-second and one-minute increments over a few weeks eventually I achieved my 5k.
So now you are all caught up we can move on to the mental journey. The whole idea of running the 5k was so I could run for my mind and body and get some screen free me time back in my life. And that was great and worked well, for about a year. But then the thoughts started. Similar to the old thoughts of 'if I can run for thirty seconds I can run for a minute,' it escalated to 'if I can run for 5k then I can run for 10k'. In September and October of twenty twenty one, I completed two 10k events, and from there it snowballed, into a half marathon at first, then last month I finally took the leap and booked a full marathon.
Now we can go back to the future. April of twenty twenty three to be precise, when I will be completing my first marathon. Can you feel the confidence radiate through the words as you read them? That's because I have been on a physical and mental journey to get to this place where I know I am prepared on every level for success. You may hear a lot about training for a marathon, or any challenge really, but I think it breaks down into three key components: body, mind and heart.
The easiest to explain of the three aspects. Are you physically strong enough to do this? Have you put in the training? From a biological perspective, the human body is more than capable of running a marathon. In fact, most people that can run a 10k can probably run a marathon. It would hurt like hell the next day, but they would be able to do it physically. Why do more people not run marathons then? I would say that is because the body is the most basic and essential component, but the least challenging of the three elements.
Picture this: your legs are aching, you have a stitch in your right side, and you are exhausted and panting like a dog, while lashings of freezing rain soak you through to the bone. Do you want to be outside running or inside in a cosy blanket drinking hot chocolate and watching reruns of The Office? Most people would understandably pick option b, but to run a marathon you have to pick option a, as in harsh physical and mental conditions it takes a very resilient and determined person to keep heading for that finish line.
Getting the level of mental strength to keep going no matter what obstacles you may face is a long process. You won't just have physical pain and conditions to battle but also your own mind, as it will try and offer you outs and excuses to stop, like 'you ran ten miles yesterday you deserve a break.' You literally have to battle your own thoughts like that with ones of strength, such as, 'I may have run ten miles yesterday but that just means I'm prepared to run twenty six today.'
My favourite trick for days and times I can't be bothered or think I am losing the mental battle and can't go any further is five mins or the nearest mile. I bargain with myself and say we will run for five mins or to the next mile. Then when that is complete you may as well do the next mile or five minutes. Then before you know it they all add up and you have finished the race.
Admittedly blood pumping around your body is great for running, but I'm not talking about the heart in that sense, I'm speaking of passion, courage, and loving yourself. Running a marathon is terrifying in many ways, the distance, the self-doubt, and the obstacles you may face, so you have to have the courage to know that you can do it. If you don't believe that you can do it, you will never be able to do it. You also have to want to finish as much as you want to breathe in order to complete it, which is where the passion comes in. Why are you doing this, where is the fire in your belly from? That right there is the passion. Finally, you have to love yourself as you need to remind yourself how strong and powerful you are in order to complete it.
Would you rather?
So what's the point in me telling you all of this? Some of you may want to run marathons, but I'm certain not all of you do. The point is to highlight how you can apply the mental learnings of marathon training to everyday life. Ready?
- Would you rather be the person generating optimistic suggestions (eg I can run ten miles so I can run twenty six) or pessimistic suggestions (eg I ran 10 miles so I'll take a break)?
- Would you rather be the person too scared to apply for a job or the one that was scared but courageously applied anyway?
- Would you rather go through the mundane motions of life, or do something because you feel truly passionate about it?
- Finally, does it motivate you more to get up when you tell yourself you are a fat, ugly loser, or when you tell yourself that you are a healthy, balanced person that will achieve success today?
The importance is to always use your inner strength to put a positive spin on everyday life. By having a positive mindset you will be surprised with what you can achieve.