I used to be one of those people that say stuff like “running? Only if it’s to catch the bus” and stuff like that. I remember the PE classes in high school and how, once every three months, the teacher would ask us all to run a mile (if I’m not mistaken, that used to be 12 laps of the soccer field in our school) so he could track how fast we could go (and by fast, I mean slow in my case, of course). Once every three months, when that week came along and I knew I was going to have to run that mile, I’d try and come up with excuses why I couldn’t attend that class. I’d go all whiny kid on the teacher and say stuff like “but my throat is sore” or “my stomach hurts” to try and get him to let me off but he never did. I hated every second of it.
That has changed. Yesterday, me and my running partner finally reached the goal we had been working towards in the past few months, as we cross the finish line at the Taupo Half Marathon. No matter what, I’m not the whiny girl trying to get out of having to run a mile for PE class anymore.
I know there are lots and lots of people in the world who can do it. There also lots of people who run full marathons and even some who enjoy running ultra marathons. Still, I’m pretty stoked about our achievement, as it proved to me that you can really accomplish the stuff you want to achieve, if you just bother to get your bum off the couch. Last year, I couldn’t run more than two or three kilometres without struggling with my breathing and just walking home instead. A year on, I’m seriously considering aiming for a full marathon.
Anyway, this particular half marathon was pretty hard work, by anyone’s standards. No matter how much you enjoy running or how good you are at it, no one can convince me they enjoy running with strong ice cold winds, rain and even hail hitting them in the face like rocks. We picked the Taupo Half Marathon as our goal because we thought it would be more scenic than the Auckland one (which happens in October) and, plus, it would be a good excuse for a roadtrip to one of my favourite parts of the country. With a couple of months to worry about it, I signed up without putting much thought into the fact that I was signing up for a half marathon in one of the coldest areas of the island (it’s where we go skiing, for goodness’ sake!) and in the coldest month of the year. Bad move.
There are some key lessons I take from this whole craziness. I guess the main one is that you can run a half marathon even if you have had lung problems or if you were a wimpy kind who thought running was for losers who couldn’t play proper sports (I grew out of that, don’t hit me). You can also run a half marathon if, only a few months before, you thought running 5km was a pretty long run (and this is why I’m not so scared of the idea of running a full marathon anymore).
One of the best decisions I made throughout the whole training process was head to the Shoe Clinic and get myself a pair of proper running shoes. I’d gone to my doctor before that about a persistent pain in my right knee after each run and he explained that the only thing that would fix it would be a pair of shoes that was adequate to my feet. The guys at the Shoe Clinic did a great job of explaining everything and showed me how I put my feet down on the ground when I run and why I need a certain type of running shoe. As soon as I put my new running shoes on, I knew we’d be great friends (even if spending that much money in one pair of shoes totally goes against my religion).
The worst decision I made throughout the whole process was to pick a training schedule and forgetting about it about, hmm, two hours later. My training ended up being frequent but very irregular. I used all the excuses I could think of and only really got into training seriously about three to four weeks before race day.
I’ve also realised that the runners who told me running was as much about mental strength as it was about physical exercise were spot on. It is as much about keeping your body going as it is about getting your brain to agree to let it keep going. I spent the entire length of the half marathon in a sort of internal monologue arguing with my weaker side that wanted me to slow down, walk, take breaks and even give up.
Having a good playlist really helped too. I spent a good few hours putting that playlist together and even tested it in some runs prior to the half marathon. Having the right songs for the different stages of the run was a huge help (call me lame but you try slowing down when Florence is yelling at your ears to “run fast for your father, run fast for you mother…”).
What helped the most, though, was having my own private support crew there. C. and his parents were near the 4km mark ready to grab my jacket off me and hand me some jelly beans and I then ran past them again at the 17km mark where they had water and Powerade in hand. We had previously arranged for me to meet up with them later in a car park nearby, because we thought it would be way too busy for them to be able to park and wait for me at the finish line. About 15 or 16km into the run, though, I realised having them at the finish line would be a way of ensuring my weaker side wouldn’t win that internal monologue. So I ran past them at 17km and asked them to be there at the end, not realising they had already decided to do so anyway. I can’t tell you how much it helped me, being able to break the run down by the stages when I’d be seeing them.
The final lesson is that this half marathon wasn’t really the end goal or the point of all this training. Not even 24 hours later, me and S. were already searching for what other running events we could do next. So far, we’ve decided to sign up for an off-road run in September (15km) and another half-marathon in November (this time in usually sunny Kerikeri). I doubt the weather will ever be *that* crappy and now we can finally say “21.1km? Been there, done that!”. Virtual high five, S.!