I distinctly remember a conversation Bryan and I had shortly after I ran my first few half marathons. He asked when I thought I would want to run a full and I was like – um, not for a long, long time. Not because I didn’t WANT to, but because it seriously scared the shit out of me. I was still terrified of 13 miles, why would he ever think I was mentally prepared to even sign up for a full? (Side note: you’re never going to be “ready” and that’s the whole freaking point.)
Like, a few weeks laterish, I did sign up. I honestly wanted to vomit. I was at work and got immediately hot and sweaty after I clicked submit. I texted all my closest friends and family and told them what a huge, terrible decision I had just made. And it was still over 9 months away! That’s the type of fear that was struck within me at merely signing up. When I thought about it at all I would feel physically ill.
Fast forward those 9 months (like I had a baby or something, ha! In hindsight, something WAS born that day…) to the actual race. The night before I couldn’t even remotely sleep. I went through what I needed to bring over and over and over. I endlessly worried about what to eat before, during, and after the race. I checked to make sure my Garmin was charged no less than a dozen times. Probably more than that because #DATA obvs (can’t agonize over each mile split if my watch dies). I ran the race. I was elated. I was irrevocably HOOKED.
Awhile after that, Bryan asked me when I thought marathons would stop making me nervous (because I now didn’t feel like I might die at the start of every half and actually became fairly comfortable with the distance fairly soon) and I probably laughed right in his face. Who just doesn’t get nervous before a marathon? That seems like, literally not even possible.
I ran my next marathon a little over 6 months after the first. It didn’t go how I wanted and also the weather wasn’t on my side. This time, when I finished, there weren’t tears of elation in the slightest, there were actual tears of pain. Not because of an injury or anything. The first thing I said was “it was just SO hard.” (Uh, no shit, it’s 26 miles.) But I had already signed up for my NEXT marathon, in the fall again.
And then I somehow convinced myself I might as well run another less than a month later. Luckily, I ended up pacing the second (so less pressure on myself to perform), but even then I didn’t think I was capable of doing that. Running a marathon at a sustainable “easy” pace seemed like an actual oxymoron. But then I did it and it WAS sustainable and easy and fun, obviously.
After that race, I took a little running break. I wasn’t doing much of anything at all actually, when my friend Rebecca convinced me to sign up for the Oshkosh Marathon. Which was 5 weeks away. I figured I could just train a little in between signing up and the race – but if you thought signing up would be enough to convince me to get off my ass (like I hoped and assumed it would) you would be wrong. Since pacing in early November – I’m pretty sure I ran two 10 milers, and 3 (slow) half marathons. That was literally it for “long runs” for almost 5 months. But still, I wasn’t really nervous for the race exactly, I was just mentally adjusting goals in my head. I had originally wanted to finish in 4:30 or under, but when I saw how unmotivated and flat out lazy I was going to continue to be, I thought, okay, anything under 5 would be a miracle.
Here’s what brings the story back around to that beginning conversation with Bryan about nerves. (I ramble. What can I say?) I had no real nerves the weekend of the race. It was a weird and surreal kind of thing – we would all of a sudden be like, wait, are we actually doing this tomorrow? I literally wore shoes I hadn’t run more than 13 miles in. Total. Last summer. That’s how nonplussed I felt about it all. I ended up finishing in 4:36, my slowest outside of pacing, and frankly I’m pretty damn happy about that. I felt more or less “fine” during the whole race. I also wasn’t attempting to “race” it, just run and be happy and not die. Check, check, and check. I just had fun and ran slow and steady with a smile on my face nearly the whole damn time and it was fabulous.
I won’t lie – there was a teeny tiny minuscule fleeting thought when I looked down at my watch to see 4:29 and knew there was no way I could come in under 4:30 (which I knew already was a highly unrealistic goal, all things considered), but it was honestly the quickest acknowledgment and then it was gone and I kept running.
The real moral of this long winded story is that everything is relative. I agonized for months over my first race (which was a quarter marathon). I was terrified the morning of my first half. I had actual nightmares before my first marathon. And now? I woke up yesterday (okay, I wrote this on Monday but was too lazy to type it out until now, so let’s all pretend for a second) with the slightest acknowledgement that I was about to run over 26 miles, and then I just… did it.
So now, I can’t wait to feel the sheer terror as I train and prepare and obsess and freak the eff out the night before my first 50 miler. This isn’t to downplay the marathon. It’s always going to be hard, and it’s always going to be a huge freaking accomplishment, no matter what the time on the clock says or what the circumstances surrounding it are. 0.5 percent of Americans can say they’ve done it. Around 600,000 people a year. That’s a VERY small amount, considering.
I point all this out because I’ve just been reflecting after Sunday’s race. I’ve been struck by the wonderment and sheer incredulity of what the human body (and more important, the mind) can do. It’s amazing how we can continuously push our comfort levels and always be striving for that next horrifying goal. Because as that cliche goes – if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. Terrify yourselves every once in awhile, y’all.