My first ever half marathon is a mere one month and three days away which is both terrifying and exhilarating. Brandon and my sister are running with me. Brandon is running because he is a saint on earth and agreed even though he didn't have much of a choice considering I only asked him after I had already registered us both in our first ever. Kayla has run a few halfs in her life and so she has been fielding my panicked questions and concerns with patience and encouragement - because 13.1 miles is A LOT of miles if you've never run that many before.
But over the course of learning to run, ya know what I've learned? 1 mile is A LOT of miles to run if you've never run that much before. And truthfully that's where I'd say I had started.
A few years back (about five to be exact), my sisters and our men registered for my first ever 5K, the Color Me Rad race. At that point, I had a two year old and a barely six month old baby and was way out of exercise habit. Growing up as a volleyball player, running had always been a punishment - so I learned to hate and avoid it. I found other forms of active living much more enjoyable and never considered myself a 'runner.' So, heading into the months before my first 5K, I was so anxious about running the race. I was embarrassed to run in front of anyone, worried I wouldn't be able to finish or keep up, and slightly horrified that it was three miles all at once!
So I began 'training' in a small way, I started running laps around our yard. First I started at a half a mile goal, running the perimeter of our yard and then when I got more confidence; heading out into the streets of our neighborhood. I kept pushing a little farther until I finally ran three miles all together (without dying - much to my surprise and delight!) about a week before the race. The color run was fun and after I was able to finish the race (jogging the whole time!) it felt sort of silly that I was ever afraid of a 5K in the first place. Isn't that the way with life, it's scary until you do it, right?
Since that first 5K, I've run quite a few others over the years. Personally, I never run for time but rather the opportunity to run with people I love and to help raise money for whatever cause is putting the race on. One of my favorite races is the Santa Hat race at our hometown Christmas parade that I've run with Greyson for the past two years and the races I've done with my baby sis, just the two of us running in the morning and then heading back to the rest of our days like it was no big deal that we ran three miles before the rest of my family had even finished waking up on a weekend morning.
And now, three miles isn't scary to me anymore. I usually like to prepare a little bit before a 5K, but honestly there have been times when I've showed up to a race without running for weeks but I was sure that my body and lungs could handle three miles at once. It wasn't exactly pretty (or fun or fast) but I'm confident I can run three miles if I had to. #zombieapocalypse ....which is a HUGE deal knowing that when I started this all I was afraid of one mile.
Bullet, our dog, has also been a source of running inspiration for me. He is a malanois-mix and needs the exercise to help him be calm. Any chance he can get out makes all of us feel happier. Even when I don't feel like going, seeing his tail wagging and knowing it's helping him is motivation enough to get me out there. Isn't that the way with Mums? to benefit ourselves, it's not tempting enough - but for someone else in our family, by golly, we can muster up the strength!
I've also found motivation in tracking my mileage. I use the Runkeeper app (let's be friends!) and seeing how many miles I can tally up over the course of a week or a month helps me stay moving. I live by the truth that it doesn't matter how fast you're moving, as long as you're moving. Because, friends, I am one slow runner...I'm talking S.L.O.W.
The other night when I ran my longest run so far ever which was 6.5 miles, I was averaging about a thirteen and a half minute mile. This is NOT fast. like at all. but you know what, I RAN SIX AND A HALF MILES no matter how slow I was moving. A mile is a mile...and six and half miles is six and a half miles regardless if it takes you an hour or an hour and half. When I told B my pace, he was all like, "oh gosh, the half marathon is going to take us like three hours!?" and I was like, "dude, the finish line is the goal." (he's a saint doubly because despite the fact that he could probs run thirteen miles without any training at an 11min pace, he'll stick by me the whole time because, you guys, he is serious #husbandgoals).
Besides feeling better about my physical self and strengthening my body and lungs - running has also increased my outdoor time and my solitude/peace time. I only run outside (we don't have a treadmill, nor do I belong to a gym), and I run without headphones almost always, so my brain moves into overdrive with planning, daydreaming, and reflective mode (after that initial "omigoshIhatethissomuch" thought phase in the beginning of a run, hah)
If you read here regularly, you know I have a thing about how being outside positively effects everything in your life - but seriously, it does. I am so grateful to running for this part of outdoor experience for me - getting to notice our neighborhood in a new way, to be grateful to the breeze when I'm sweating, to learn the distances from our front door to the high school and back.
And I'm sharing this all, not to brag or boast (bhahhahah! certainly not with how slow I move!), but because back when I was first starting - I wish someone would have told me that it was normal to be afraid to run a mile if you've never run a mile before (or haven't in a very long time). Or that running a 5K for the first time feels terrifying but that it IS possible. And that if you can feel brave enough to try, your body will surprise you and you can learn to run and not hate it....learn to love and crave it, in fact! And I wish someone would have told me that who cares if you have a 15 minute mile or a thirteen and a half minute mile or a ten minute mile - because it's the miles that add up, no matter how long it takes you.
The truest thing is, my body isn't perfect - four kids later it definitely isn't, but even before then - it's darn near impossible to find a pair of pants that fits my thighs, booty, and waist and be the right length...(where my fat bottom girls at?)- but running has reminded me that my body works! It works in all of its imperfect, jiggling, curved fullness. It may be slow and sore and tired - but it's mine and it works.
So running for me has become a gift and a challenge. A gift to my brain for the removal of distractions and chaos of everyday life - and a challenge to keep moving forward in the literal way. That this old girl still has many miles left on her, no matter how slow -That I can accomplish forward motion..which actually is a pretty good metaphor for life in all of it's winding, bending paths.
xxoxo onward, friends.