Less than I month ago, I decided that I was going to learn to run. It started as a joke on Facebook, but it quickly turned into the start of a lifestyle change for me. Friends suggested that I join them in their quest to run the half marathon at the San Jose Rock N Roll. Knowing that going from running 0 miles to running 13.1 miles would be absolutely crazy, I decided to register for the five mile “mini marathon.” Here’s the lessons I learned at each mile.
Mile 1: You Must Warm Up
I was so excited about being with 16,000 other runners that I completely forgot to warm up or stretch. I’ve been consistently increasing my running/walking intervals during my own training sessions. All of my training sessions include stretching and a five minute brisk walk. I made the mistake of starting my run straight out the gate. No stretching, no warm up. By the end of mile 1, my legs felt like cement and my left knee was already starting to hurt. So lesson learned in my first race… No matter how exciting it is to start off fast, no matter the adrenaline rush, no matter what… you must warm up!
Mile 2: Go Your Own Pace
I was there with friends and family. Everyone wanted to start off together, but it became clear very early that it wasn’t going to work. I’m a very slow runner. I’m a beginner. There’s nothing wrong with a slow pace. There’s nothing wrong with the crazy dude who ran all 13.1 miles in an hour either. You have to own your pace. It’s your body, your feet, your muscles. There’s no point in comparing yourself against other runners. Some will be faster than you, some will be slower… unless you are the crazy dude who ran a half marathon in a hour (seriously, what’s up with that???)
Mile 3: Running is a Mental Challenge
When I hit the mile 3 marker, my left knee was in agony. I had abandoned my two minutes of walking, two minutes of jogging interval and was just walking. I wasn’t even walking fast. I wanted to quit. I considered giving up. The most I had trained in my month of running was 2.5 miles. I thought I had done too much; signed up for something that was out of my league. So I slowed down. I listened to my body, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. During this mile, I realized that a huge part of running is mental. I had to fight my mind as much as I had to push my body.
Mile 4: The Kindness of Strangers
When I came into the 4th mile, a lady was holding up a sign that read “You’re a Perfect Stranger, But I Am Still Proud of You.” I got teary eyed, I’m not gonna lie. A lot of the folks on the course were waiting for a specific person, but they still cheered on everyone. There were signs everywhere. There complete strangers telling me that I could do it. I felt so connected to my community. Their cheers were my fuel to push through.
Mile 5: Always Finish Strong
With the end in site, I pushed myself to jog across the finish line. With my workout music on full blast, I finished my five miles in one hour and 30 minutes. I had hoped for a better time, but I was proud that I had finished. I had never run that far in my life. The time didn’t matter as I was handed my mini medal. I had finished. I was so proud of myself. As I waited on the sideline for my friends to finish the half marathon, I was immensely proud of all the runners who finished strong. It didn’t matter if they walked, jogged, or sprinted across the finish line. We were all winners. We all rocked!