(Written June 26, 2014)
10 days to go!
Tomorrow will be single digits. Agh! I'm so damn nervous. I can't even talk about it. Can't even think about it. I feel like I'm 18 again, competing at swim meets. Trying out for rep netball teams. THAT'S why I stopped playing sport. Because of this anxiety! Oh, now I remember.
What can I fit into the next one and a half weeks to make the run easier? Make me run better? Should I be carb loading yet? Nup, too early. Try to increase my pace? Nup, too late. You know what you have to do. Just focus on not injuring yourself. No wait, what you put out there you get. Change the wording - I am strong and fit and healthy. Yes, that's better. Positive self talk.
Flashback to 2006
I was living on the Gold Coast for about a year. Somebody had been talking about the Gold Coast Airport Marathon that would be on that weekend. (Road closures and the like). It got my attention. I looked into it a little; and decided (just like that) that I wanted to do it. The HALF marathon that is. (No interest in melting away my muscles over 42 kilometres!) I didn't know when, or how, but I just knew I wanted to do it. I could do this. Couldn't I? Course I could!
It popped into my mind a few more times over the years, but I casually pushed the thought away. Doubting the 'I can do it' maybe? Plus life was throwing all sorts of curve balls my way. Apparently no room for half marathons.
The vision popped up again in 2012 and I started training. Woo! Then, I did my ankle during indoor netball. New shoes and grippy floors made for an impressive spill and it was excruciating driving to work, little alone getting my joggers back on and running. I was OK with it. Just wasn't the right time. Wasn't meant to be. One day...
Deep out-of-the-blue conversation #9 for the day, with random stranger (if you know me well, you'll know what I'm talking about.) I started chatting to the guy at the servo as I paid for my petrol. He'd had a great day! Did an Adventure Run and was feeling amazing. I told him I'd thought about doing a half marathon and he smiled and said; "you'll do it. You will." Thank you servo guy!
Right! This year is going to be epic. New challenges. Exciting times ahead! Just had an amazing time over in America. Converted fully to vegetarianism (not great timing - I'll explain later). Business is good. Half Marathon year? Mmm, could be. Maybs? I mean, why not? It felt closer than it ever had before. Only injury is my niggly knee. I've got even more knowledge about how to fuel my body in the best way. So I said: give me a sign, give me a sign. Should I? Is it the right time? And within a day my friend posted a question on Facebook" "Who wants to run in the GCAM Half (Gold Coast Airport Marathon) with me in July?"
That sign was good enough for me! I inboxed her straight away. "Gah...should I? I've been wanting to do the GC one for so long...!" And that's how I started the journey of running 5 to 21kms.
Now, I need to explain something here. I am not a fan of running long distances. I love jogs. It's 'me' time, I do my thinking, enjoy the scenery and I love staying fit. I used to place in Cross Country back in the day, because I was always fit, but I am not built for long distance running (thanks to popping ribs/shoulder blades and hip pain from Scoliosis. And not just the Scoliosis everyone claims they have - double S shaped, back brace, hip protrusion, shoulder raised, muscle shortening Scoliosis) - and this would have to be one of the hardest feats I have ever embraced. Almost every run is painful (and we're talking looooong people - like 60 minute runs). I almost always get to the point where I want to stop. It's not easy. BUT! As I always say - who wants easy?
"I DIDN'T SAY IT WOULD BE EASY. I SAID IT WOULD BE WORTH IT."
The other thing that people don't tell you, is that running long distances brings up a lot of sh*t! Maybe it's too much time in your head? Maybe it's the stuff you've suppressed that has nowhere else to go when you're digging deep and reaching for all that you've got? Maybe it's because of all of those silent 'push through the barrier' moments (and there are a lot of those that like to pop up - at any time by the way! The start, the middle AND the last couple of k's.) Oh yes, there's been tears. Self doubt. Fear.
There will be rain. And there will be wind. There will also be dog poo and speedhumps (and not just on the path). My running partner developed a stress fracture and had to pull out, leaving me to get my butt into gear on those freezing cold days, without the extra push. Setting goals by myself. Doing it on my own. Out of my comfort zone is an understatement!
Oh yeah, and you know how I'd decided earlier to stop eating meat? Apparently you lose a whole lot more iron when you're training hard. The simultaneous reduction of iron from my diet was not a great combination. An Iron Infusion was suggested, but I don't do needles. Never suffering from low iron before also brought up 'stuff'. Getting anxious. Worried about fainting (because I felt like I was going to ALL the time). Trying to get through a run when all I wanted to do was sleep. (I told my sister I swear I had a Dr Karl Microsleep on a long run once!) Freaking out when I felt nauseous in public.
And then there are the awesome runs...
The ones where you could run twice what you planned to set out to run. The moments you realise you used to be puffed making it to 5kms - and now you can quadruple that! The runs where you could've sprinted the distance. (Mmm, settle down. Maybe not.) The love from the supportive people around you, telling you how proud they are of you. Can't say I've ever felt the euphoria long distance runners talk about - but maybe on the day? PLEEEEASE on the day! AND the absolute joy of the moment you reach the distance - AKA you can now stop running! (Almost worth running long distances just to feel that relief!)
What got me through my training:
Bearing in mind that I am in no way, shape or form, aiming to set any records; or claim I'm any good at this. But if you're a first timer, hopefully this shows you that if you want to do it, you absolutely can!
1. Don't tell anybody.
(For your first one at least.) Just take the pressure off yourself. Figure it all out before you announce it. Keep your dream close to you so it has a chance to bloom. You don't need anything from anyone else to do this, it's all up here! (*Taps side of head repeatedly with finger.) Don't put it all over Facebook - you'll just add pressure on yourself!
And you definitely don't want to leave the door open for spirit crushing. Not now. Not at this ripe, new, fresh, vulnerable stage. I only told my boyfriend for the first few months of training. I told my running partner I'd be telling only a handful of people that I knew would support and encourage me.
Also, it becomes a 'thing' for people to talk about with you - and if you're like me, the constant talking about it does my head in. I think too much about it, I psyche myself out. You also get provided training tips (for free and without even asking for them!) by well meaning people who have run other (and a lot shorter) races. And, yes, they may be trying to help - but there's a big difference between a fun run and a Half Marathon. Just as there is between a half and a full Marathon. So unless you're a Half Marathon veteran, I ain't listening. Thank you, but I've gotten this far. I might just keep going. Oh yes, keep going...
2. Keep going.
Those dark moments. Your mind's playing with you. Oh, I could just stop for a bit. Maybe if I just run to the bridge, that'll be far enough for today. Learn from the master here; I've tested out this theory. It's a mistake. HUGE mistake. You get cranky at yourself later that night, knowing you could've gone further. Your legs have a tendency to not want to get going again after stopping on long distances, and it's sooooo painful to put them back into action. (They hate you!) And the truth is, you CAN push though it. I've tried and tested this theory too! These are your best moments. Your biggest accomplishments. The winners! The moments that make you realise you can do it.
3. Find a running track that you love.
I am ever so grateful for the track I run on. It's a minute walk from my house. It sweeps alongside the ocean and a beautiful lake, in parts. It is stunning at sunrise and sunset. The other awesome thing about this track is that I can break up the distances on it too. Once I run half the distance, I know I just have to turn around and do it all over again. (You'll figure out lots of ridiculous mind games and tricks that'll get you through it. Trust me!) Plus, I don't know how I'd feel if I set out to run one long straight 21km road. Agh. Actually, yes I do.
4. Do Yoga.
I can't tell you how much I believe Yoga is saving me from injuries, pain and self doubt. It strengthens the mind, and the body. And for soooo many others reasons - do yoga.
So, as I mentioned, 10 days to go. I've now battled with the long-distance-running-mind-demons enough to know that I can do this! I know all of my training will pay off. I'm now going to focus on why I initially wanted to do this:
1. To see what I'm really made of
2. To make myself proud
2. And most of all - to enjoy it!