I was out with a friend for dinner last night and she asked me, “How did you figure out you loved running?” And I really had to pause to think about that… I told her it all began for me 6 years ago because of Oakland Adventure Boot Camp, or really, in the absence of it. After I started going to the gym and stopped going to boot camp, I kept challenging myself to do what my boot camp trainers had challenged us to: run the entirety- all 3 miles- of Lake Merritt. That seemed SO HARD to me back then! “Justholdonasecondhere- you want me to run, without stopping, all the way around the whole entire lake? It’s so big! Who does that?! 3 miles?!?!?! No way!!!!”
Despite how daunting those 3 miles seemed to me at the time, I kept trying and trying and trying to propel my body around that lake 3 or 4 times a week, every week. I’ll never forget the moment I finally accomplished my goal of running the whole entire lake- I was elated and so proud of myself that I went ahead and signed up for my first 5K race in April 2009 and for about a year, that 3 miles was my long run.
And just look at me now- almost 4 years later and I’m training for half marathon #10 and full marathon #3! What was once my long run- 3 miles- became longer and longer. So, to me, the definition of a “long run” is any distance you are nervous to tackle, any distance that the voice in your head says “oh this is going to be hard!”, any distance that is longer than what you think you can accomplish.
It is a very proud and satisfying moment when you prove yourself wrong and complete your goal mileage. Running long boosts your confidence to take on more- if you can do 3, then you can certainly do 4, so why not try 5, and hey let’s give 6 a shot sometime, and on and on… and that is how I learned to love running: by finishing the long run.
I’m sure everyone has heard that running is 99% a mental game. If you BELIEVE you can, then you WILL. I was never an athlete growing up. In fact, I did everything I could do to get out of P.E.! Even when I first started running, I still saw myself as a wanna be, but then I would take on longer distances and challenging races and when I was done, I could sit back and tell my brain to suck it, “You thought I couldn’t do it, but I did and I am certainly going to do it again!”
Just because I have completed two marathons, nine half marathons, and countless 5Ks and 10Ks doesn’t meant that I don’t still doubt my ability now and then. My last half was in November and it didn’t go nearly as well as I had hoped so I decided to take some time off, embrace the indulgences of the holidays, and start training for half #10 when 2013 came around. Because I am anxious to have half marathon #10 actually GO WELL, I’ve ramped up my training to include several 10 milers as well as a couple 14 milers.
This past Sunday was my first 10 mile run since November. And wow was I nervous! I can’t really explain why I was so nervous, I mean it was just a training run, but I guess my brain needed some re-wiring after that last half marathon disaster. My desire to race well for this next half got me up and out the door. Yes, I accomplished those 10 miles extremely happily and that feeling of fatigue in my legs afterwards was a constant reminder of the glory that can be found in the long run- I was nervous but that didn’t stop me from working hard and achieving my goal.
I just started my summer season with Team in Training and as mentor again, I have the honor of helping newbies to our sport achieve their goals of completing a half or full marathon. It is such a joy and inspiration to me when I hear a participant say, “Wow, I just ran 2 miles! I’ve never done that before! I can’t believe it!” Well, believe it! 2 miles long run today, 4 tomorrow, 6 next week and on and on towards that 13.1 or 26.2 finish line goal. Never give up trying, always push yourself to do more, and KNOW YOU CAN DO IT. Praise the long run and all that it can teach and prove to your body and your brain. As A.A. Milne wrote, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” It’s so true… and I am certainly proof of that.