Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Running For My Life: Lessons Learned From My Half-Marathon Race

Last year I decided to do something crazy; well crazy for me at least. I decided to run a half-marathon. The reason this was a crazy decision was because I hated long distance running! Sure, I played sports, even ran short distances to stay in shape, but to run 13 miles just for the sake of running? That just seemed like unnecessary punishment.

The decision came when someone presented me with the idea of running a half marathon. My first response was, “I can’t, I’m not a long distance runner.”

When I first began training for my race, I could hear the voice of doubt loud and clear. I began to doubt everything. I doubted my ability to build my endurance to be able to complete the half-marathon. I even doubted my ability to stick to my diet and exercise routine. But as time went by, I began to feel more confident. Soon, I began to believe that I could run more than 13 miles.

The Setback

Its seems as though when things when things are going well, there is always a setback that gets in your way. My setback came in the form of iliotibial band injury. The IT Band is the muscle that connects the hip to the knee. When a person increases the amount of miles they run in a short period of time like I did, the band becomes irritated. The irritated band causes pain at the hip or in my case, in my right knee. It was painful! So painful that I was unable to run long distance for two weeks.

During those two weeks doubt infested my thinking. The confidence that I had that I was going to be able complete that half marathon was fading and fading fast. The doubts were flooding in at a feverous pace. I began to believe all of the things the voice in my head was telling me. I thought that I would not recover fast enough to continue my training. And even if I did, I was sure that, “with my luck”, I would get injured again.

The Bounce Back and The Lesson Learned

“With my luck?”, I thought to myself, “What am I saying?” Its strange how the voice of doubt plants ideas into your mind that that aren’t true. What started as a little discouragement due to an injury became a generalization of the way my life should go.

I decided to evict the doubt in my mind. Doubt was no longer allowed to reside in my mind. I was determined to get my old way of thinking back!

First, I started by educating myself about my injury. Even though an IT band injury is painful, I learned that it is manageable but stretching the muscle and icing it. So, I decided to carry an ice pack with me where ever I went. I stretched whenever possible. No matter if I was at work, home or walking down the street, I used any and every extra second I had to stretch the aching muscle.

I began running again with a whole new focus. The focus this time was to not let the voice of doubt rule my life. The more I trained the more the confident I became. The voice of doubt was becoming an inaudible blimp in my ear.

Whether you are trying to run a race or trying to excel in your career, doubt can spread through your mind like wildfire. When we allow the doubts in our minds to run wild, we are allowing are dreams to be taken away from us. Don’t let this happen to you!

Race Day

I was so excited about my race that I could barely sleep the night before. The waiting was killing me so I decided to leave my house extra early. As I was approaching the half-marathon location, I saw several people walking towards the starting area. There were also some other runners doing laps in preparation for the race.

As I parked and walked towards the starting line, I grew more excited. I could feel the energy in the air. Here, along with myself, were going to be about 2,500 people who trained for months just to participate in this race.

When the race finally started my excitement transformed into focus. I watched my pace, breathing, and listened closely to my body for any signs of injury. The cold December air made it a little harder to breath but as time went by and my mileage increased, I began not to notice.

Before I knew it I crossed mile marker #12. The other runners along side of me began to cheer and celebrate. We all knew we were getting closer. I began to feel tired with only about ¾ of a mile to go but I knew I couldn’t stop. I made sure I focused on the finish line.

When I crossed it I was exhausted and relieved. I had done it. Something that I thought I would never be able to do was now on my list of accomplishments. After catching my breath I went back to watch the other runners cross the finish. I watched as they were about to feel the same sense of accomplishment that I was experiencing.

As I walked back to my car I thought back to my race and began thinking about my next challenge. What else did I think I couldn’t do? What other challenges have I been avoiding? Whatever they were, I now had the confidence to take them on and to overcome them too.