I have a friend who has dozens of half-marathons and several full marathons under her belt. She is tall and thin and gorgeous and smart and is one of those people who might give the impression that running is effortless for her. Old Me thought that for her, running was easy.
Old Me never considered the possibility of being able to run a half-marathon myself, and most definitely not a full. I distinctly remember saying to her, I will NEVER fucking run that far! and really believing it. Old Me believed that for her, running was accessible, but for me, it was arduous. It was evident to Old Me that her success was due to some supernatural ability, something outside of the realm of possibility for my own normal crappy self. Seeing her accumulation of countless race ribbons and medals was really not that inspirational to me. Actually, it probably had the opposite effect.
It became possible for me to run with her when she was recovering from a serious back injury and was re-entering the running world, starting from square one. She convinced me to join a running club with her and we met for our long runs every Saturday morning, with hundreds of other runners surrounding us, and often for another short jog or two by ourselves during the week. My pal was a built-in running coach, she helped me work on pacing (I was shocked to learn that people actually monitored the exact pace they ran at, as my strategy apparently used to be sprinting at the start and then crashing and burning a short while later), she helped me work on my form and on recovery strategies. She taught me that there was technique to running.
I was amazed at the progress. We started our first long run at 3 miles and each week bumped up the distance. I used to text my dad after each run, wanting to share the excitement I felt. 4 miles! 5 miles! 8 miles! She really coached me through those long runs, and I will forever be indebted to her for her help. The 10 mile mark was a game changer. 10 miles became my Favorite Distance and the beginning of New Me.
In just a few weeks something I didn’t think was possible for me to accomplish had become A Favorite. It made me wonder what else I had been missing out on. What other things did I not think were possible, so had never attempted?
The thing about the training, other than how helpful it was to my progress, was that I saw HER training. My Amazing Supernatural Marathoner Friend actually had to work. I saw her pant, and sweat, and bend over, placing her hands on her knees, and catch her breath. I saw her energy wane and her desperate consumption of gel blocks. I saw how even she was tired in the mornings and even she looked exhausted at the aid stations and even she had some days that were harder than others. Old Me assumed it was easy for her, New Me realized that there was relentless effort and dedicated practice behind all of her triumphant race day photographs.
Seeing her struggle reminded me that she isn’t supernatural. She gets tired and frustrated and has moments of weakness. She is a normal crappy human being like the rest of us, except she works her ass off to earn those medals. New Me now thought maybe I could too.
I ran my first half-marathon that year and it was horrible. I overheated, had to walk much more than I wanted, and felt nauseous the whole rest of the day. Nevertheless, I had become addicted and continued to run, just usually during the cold weather months and not in the scorching heat.
After Baby Grouch Number One was born, I started running again, after quite a hiatus. Favorite Distance was my goal and once I got there I just kept going and ended up training for, and running, my first marathon.
Lucky me is now the new mama of Baby Grouch Number Two, and I find myself back there at the beginning, starting to run, once again. Old Me would get frustrated with my need to occasionally walk, with my slow pace, or with the aches and pains of restrengthening the muscles that have been idle for so long, or even with the fact that my face turns purple and I sweat like a pig after only running half a mile. New Me is constantly reminding myself that running is never easy, not for anyone. Not at any distance, or any pace, because once one milestone is hit, another is up ahead, just waiting to be reached. My goal, again, is Favorite Distance. I know I can do it. I know it won’t be easy.