I would just like to start by saying that I really, truthfully, wanted to name this post “Running Through The Six with my Woes” but decided everyone would judge me and I also didn’t want Drake running through The Six trying to sue me. But now you know.
Two weeks ago I ran in my first ever half-marathon and through the process I learned a few things I wanted to share. I didn’t accomplish any big feat by running 21 km; the truth is anyone can run it with a little dedication, willpower and support. I have a funny obsession with metaphors, so do read everything below with a philosophical, life-changing, rumi poem type lens.
1. The first 3 km are the hardest.
Sounds counterintuitive right? You would assume that at the beginning you have all the energy, and all the willpower right? Hah! There’s a huge mental game in the first 3km and it’s the hardest part. Your brain wants you to stop way before your body is ready so it keeps telling you how tired you are, how uncomfortable it is when your breathing gets heavier, and how easy it is to stop. This is the hardest part to get through but once you get out of it your brain starts to realize that you’re not giving up that easily. We have a natural tendency to want to avoid the different, the uncomfortable and the new but “bear a little more and just a little more remains.”
2. You can’t avoid pain, only manage it.
There is no way to go far distances trying to avoid pain. Nobody starts training for a half-marathon thinking how pain free and wonderful this is going to be. Trying to avoid pain is to stop moving altogether. When I started training, if I ran anything more than 5 km I would get terrible pain in my right knee. This would have been a good excuse to stop training and call it a night but instead I learned to manage it. I found out why my knee was in pain to begin with (weak leg muscles and poor stretching) and then started doing leg training twice a week and incorporating yoga/stretching at the end of all my workouts. Pain isn’t a signal to stop, it’s a signal to do something differently. When you learn to manage the pain, recognize it, feel it, but continue anyways, the results are usually worth it. I won’t pretend the knee pain went away right away, because Lord knows it took months, but by the time I ran the 21km I had no knee pain. I couldn’t avoid it, only manage it.
3. Pace yourself.
My sister Youmna gave me probably the best advice I have ever received the night before my run when I was most nervous. I ran 12 km the week before but had terrible muscle spasms that I had never experienced before and didn’t know what to expect the next day. She said, “If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, roll. Just keep moving.” It’s true! Just keep moving. My goal was to finish the race in 2 hours and 15 minutes, but alhamdulillah I finished it in 2 hours and 10 minutes. That number means nothing to the person who finished first at 1 hour and 7 minutes (seriously that happened) but to me it meant everything! Life is not a race with anyone but yourself. Set goals with yourself, break your own records, just keep moving. 🙂
If you’re thinking about starting to run, or nervous about starting something new don’t get discouraged when the energy runs out early and the pain starts to set in, just pace yourself and keep moving.