Today began a process. A very long process. Today was my first official training run this year.
I began running three years ago when I did a triathlon with a friend. I had never done any kind of athletic race before and it seemed like a fun challenge. At the time I couldn’t run a city block without getting winded and stopping, so my goal was to do the three mile run portion of the race without stopping. I went through a training program with two great coaches and a wonderful group of recreational athletes at a local fitness center. After a few months of daily training, I could finally complete the three mile run without stopping.
I knew that if I didn’t have another race to keep me focused I would quickly lose my motivation to run. So while still excited and proud of finishing the triathlon, I immediately began training for my first half marathon. The training plan started with three miles, the farthest I had ever run, and built distance over ten weeks. Throughout the process, which felt long and difficult yet very rewarding, I kept reminding myself that skipping a training run, even a short one, would make race day more difficult. I really tried to stick to the plan and it paid off. I felt great on race day and completed all 13.1 miles.
Of course, I immediately decided I would do a full marathon. Injuries from a car accident derailed that plan for a year, which was incredibly frustrating. At the beginning of 2012, I had to start all over. I began by doing short runs that were actually mostly walks. Eventually, I built back up to continuous running and started training again. And on November 3, 2012, I ran my first full marathon. I was really proud when they put the finisher’s medal around my neck. It wasn’t just that I had finished the marathon, I was proud that for four months I had run almost every day. You see, the race is exciting but it’s the training, the practice, the commitment to the habit, that really matters. Running a marathon doesn’t happen by showing up for the four or five or however many hours it takes to run the race. It happens by dedicating hundreds of hours over several months, come rain and shine, in a good moods a bad moods. It is time consuming and mentally draining and hard. Really, really hard.
So today, as I start over again with a three mile run, I am reminded that it’s not about showing up for one day to run 26.2 miles. It is about showing up for all of the shorter runs and doing my best. It is the collection of effort, the habit, that makes the 26.2 miles during the race mean something. It is going to be hard. But that is why we develop good habits, right? To have the determination, the perseverance, and the skill to conquer the challenges we choose and the challenges that choose us.