A few weeks ago I ran my 5th half-marathon. The race was tough. Tougher than I expected, and I thought I knew what to expect. I had run this race three times before once in the rain, several times in freezing temperatures, and once with a nasty head cold. Each time it was a challenge, but I always finished stronger and faster than I had anticipated. This year the weather was perfect and I was feeling good. I had been running strong all summer, posting personal bests in a 5k and a 10k this season. I had every reason to believe that the trend would continue and I would be crossing the finish line with another personal best to add to my record. Well, as they say, the best laid plans…
Girl on Fire Hits the “Wall”
For the first 9 miles I was on fire. My legs seemed to move effortlessly as I flew past my fellow runners. I was imagining myself crossing the finish line, executing an epic fist pump as I looked up at the timer and saw my time. And then something happened that had never happened to me before, I hit the “wall”. For those of you that are not familiar with this bit of runner’s terminology, hitting the “wall” is a sudden loss of energy and overwhelming sense of fatigue. I have heard people describe the sensation like letting the air out of a balloon. For me, I was more like the balloon popped and the remnants plummeted to the earth. At one moment I was soaring, the next all I wanted to do was pull over to the side and curl up into a ball. I didn’t just hit the “wall”, I full-on faceplanted into it.
The Final 4 Miles of Agony
Although every fiber of my being was telling me otherwise, I didn’t curl up in a ball. I did have to pull over several times to slow down and breathe, but in the end I made it. The final 4 miles were excruciating but I kept going and I crossed the finish line. When I did, there was no epic fist pump as I looked up at the timer. I posted my slowest time ever. As I crossed the line, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief but also of disappointment. I failed. I had set a goal, come so close to achieving it, and I failed.
What a Difference a Day Makes
The next day I was sore and tired. More sore and tired than ever before. But now, I embrace the aches and pains. They are a reminder that I just ran my best race ever.
As I sat in bed the afternoon after the race, nursing my beaten body and bruised ego, I replayed each of those 13.1 miles in my head. As I mentally relived the experience, my perception of the race changed. I didn’t fail, I succeeded. I may not have run as fast as I had hoped, but I ran a great race. It is true that it is not about the destination, but the journey that matters.
“Sometimes we become so focused on the finish line, that we fail to find joy in the journey.”
― Dieter F. Uchtdorf
I realized that those 13.1 miles were truly a journey of discovery. I learned 4 very important lessons and in the process, discovered the power of
Over the next few weeks, I will explore each of these areas and share my experiences with you. I hope you join me on this enlightening 13.1 mile journey!