One of my worst habits is that sometimes my perfectionist tendencies prompt me to give up on a project before it’s completely finished because, well, it’s not gonna be good enough anyway. But running my first marathon was such a growing experience that forever changed how I look at finish lines now.
At the beginning of 2009, I got it in my head that I wanted to run a full, 26.2-mile marathon. I’d completed a half marathon the previous year and at that point had begun my off-and-on flirtation with distance running as a way to lose weight. I figured marathon training would, of course, get me shredded from head to toe and give me some bragging rights to go along with it. Um… Not quite. (Runger is real, people.)
The problem, though, was that I wasn’t really running. I had bitten off more than I thought I could chew at the time, or at least that was the little voice deep down inside was telling me. During the early months of 2009, while I trained for the Big Sur International Marathon (chosen for its proximity to where I was living and its utterly gorgeous course), I clocked a maximum of 10 miles on my longest long run. (Runner friends reading this, are you cringing? I cringe to recall this…)
It’s easy to look at this and think, “Ugh, yeah, I just lazied out of it.” But really, it wasn’t so much laziness as it was something bigger: fear. I was absolutely terrified of this goal I’d set in front of myself. Who am I to do this? I’m not an athlete! I don’t do sports! Somehow, though, I made the conscious decision to go to the race anyway, knowing full well that it wouldn’t perfect–not even close–and that I was likely going to be veeeeeery sore the following day(s).
It was grueling. I wanted to quit so. fucking. badly. At one point, a volunteer on the course around mile 20 came up to me to tell me, “You can do it, Robyn! [my name was printed on my bib] You’ve only got six more miles to go!” Six more?! Are you freaking kidding me?! I wanted to punch them. And I probably would have were it not for the fact that doing so would have depleted my energy and left me unable to finish. I finally made it across the finish line, though, and I started bawling. I couldn’t believe it.
But I finished. I crossed the start line that morning absolutely terrified, but I finished. Was it a tape-breaking time? No way. In fact, by the time I mozied across the finish line, I’m pretty sure race organizers were beginning to take down the course… But I was done. And I showed that little voice that it was wrong, which was worth so much to me.
Since then, I’ve finished almost a dozen more half marathons and am preparing for my fourth full marathon in a little more than two weeks. Running is not easy. But that bumper sticker wisdom of it-doesn’t-get-easier-you-get-better really is true, and so this time around, I’m actually looking forward to crossing the next finish line. The paralysis of fear doesn’t affect me in the same way because I jumped over the edge a long time ago (and for the record, yes, I was VERY sore the day after that first marathon). I know that it doesn’t have to be perfect because I already know I have done it and I can just focus on getting better at it.
So that’s the plan–to keep trying to get better at it. I’ve got my sights on a very specific finish line and now I know I have at least started down the path to get there.
Happy trails, everyone. 🙂
Image credit: Courtesy of wellnesscorporatesolutions.com.