Monday, April 6, 2015

Running is a Mental Game


Last week I crossed #83 off of my 101 in 1001 list- Run a Half Marathon

I played field hockey from seventh grade straight through my freshman year of college. My sophomore year I transferred schools and then became primarily a coach rather than an athlete.  Up until this point, I had always ran in to make sure I was in shape for field hockey season.  After I stopped playing competitively my motivation to workout decreased significantly.  I am a goal oriented person and I think that had a lot to do with my decreased movement...I was in need of a new goal. A half marathon sounded ambitious, so I toyed with the idea for a few weeks and then made the choice.

I signed up for this race at the beginning of November. I had been running a little bit, but was looking for some motivation to remain active throughout the upcoming winter season. I have always found it hard to workout during the winter, when all I want to do is hibernate under the covers of my comfortable bed.

I have never been a huge runner, so I knew this experience was going to be quite an adventure for me.   November and December I stuck with my training planning.  However, January was really cold and I found a lot of excuses not to run.  Around mid February I decided to start training more diligently, about six weeks before the race.  I was running more than ever before and it felt great. Working out makes me feel like a whole new person. 

The day before the race I drank an incredible amount of water because I read hydration prevents cramping. I also made sure to eat a healthy but hearty breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  


The pre-race is arguably more difficult than the race itself.
When I had signed up for the race, I was not thinking that it would snow the day before nor that the morning of the race it would be in the twenties. The race's FAQs said that the average temperature on race day is 40 degrees.  I think they meant the average high for the day NOT the temperature at 7 in the morning. 

The day of the race I had to wake up at 5: 30 am.  I live about an hour outside of the city, so I needed to leave plenty of time to find parking, meet up with my friend, and get a little warm up in.  Waking up I was hit with a wall of anxiety and suddenly I became my own worst enemy, "What if I can't finish the race? What if I come in  last place? What if I can't find my friend and have to do it alone? What if my outfit makes me too hot? What if my outfit makes me too cold? Did I eat too much or did I not eat enough? I hope I drank enough water...." You get the point, I was getting nervous and my mental game was not good. On the way into the city I munched on a homemade granola bar and a banana, barely finishing the combo.  I made sure to drink a bottle of water too, last minute hydration never hurt anyone. 

When we got to the city it was crowded and they were beginning to shut down the streets.  This made is difficult to find a parking spot. After sitting in traffic for several minutes, I had my mom drop me off close to the start line so that I could warm up and find my friend.  

Once I was there I felt like there was so much waiting.  Waiting to line up for the race. Waiting in the starting corral, and then waiting to actually move once the race starts because there are so many people in front of you. 

The race itself had such positive energy. There were a variety of runners: first timers (like me), seasoned half marathoners, those who had trained diligently, those who didn't train at all, people running for charity, walkers, and people of all ages. I loved the variety, it made me feel so much more comfortable. Throughout the race I loved seeing the spectators cheering enthusiastically. The run was in the city of Philadelphia and ranged from center city out into the parks along Boathouse Row.  Despite the chilly weather, the day was absolutely beautiful.

I was able to run the entire thing and was just a few minutes off from my goal.  And in case you were wondering out of all the anxiety questions I asked myself, none of them came true! 

Lessons I learned:
Your race your pace: You don't need to be the fastest person there. It is important to listen to your body and complete the race at a pace that is fitting to you.

Training: The more training you do leading up to the race, the easier the race itself will be.

Water Stops: Use these! Even if you just swish some water around and spit it out.  These stops are refreshing and provided me with a little boost when I needed it, especially those that had gatorade.

Mental Game: Running is all about your own personal will power. You can only do what you allow yourself to, so if you tell yourself that you can run the entire half marathon that is what will actually happen.

Support System: I didn't tell many people that I was training for a half marathon or when I was actually going to run it. But the people I did tell helped motivate me and keep me going when I wasn't sure if I would be able to do this. 


XOXO




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