What Running 26.2 Miles Teaches You

i posted this earlier today on MOGUL as well, a women’s site for which i am a contributing writer. check out that site if you’re interested and i’d love if you follow me! 🙂

on Sunday, October 11th, 2015, i woke up before the sun rose and knew immediately, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was a great day to do a hard thing.

i was instantly relieved & excited by the acknowledgment that i felt so good about this choice. this was a decision born of months of preparation and also the imminent glory of that morning, and both were necessary to carry out this enormous act. i could have woken up and said to myself, “sure, i thought i was ready for this — but i just don’t want to.” it wouldn’t have mattered, then, if i’d put in the necessary work; it wouldn’t have mattered how many amazing people were rooting for me; it wouldn’t have mattered if i’d paid the entry fee & affixed my bib to my favorite running shirt & laid out all my race-day prep & prayed for fresh legs. that would have all still occurred regardless of how i’d felt going to bed, and yet if i’d woken up at 6am and decided it wasn’t a good day for a hard thing, none of that would have mattered. my life would have still kept going, difficult thing or no difficult thing, and i’d have been okay.

but not the same. no, if i hadn’t done this hard thing, i would certainly not have been the same.

but as it turns out, i did choose to tackle the seemingly-insurmountable beast, and it changed my life & rocked me to my core in the most beautiful way imaginable. if i hadn’t woken up knowing what a good day it was for such a hard thing, i would have missed out on one of the most magical, epic experiences of my entire life, and i wouldn’t have had four hours and 26.2 miles to wrestle with myself on that Sunday morning. i wouldn’t have had that great thing occur — that covetable, magnificent, blood-sweat-&-tears thing that cost me so very much of myself and brought me to places within my being that showed me how very much i still have to learn about the person i’m continually becoming and how amazing it is to be the proud possessor of a human spirit that refuses to accept the fact that in this life, there just might be limitations.

because on that day, i did a really, really hard thing — and nobody can take those four hours away from me. they are forever mine; i fought for those with every ounce of skin & sinews belonging to me. with every footfall, i imprinted my signature in rubber along the long & lovely trail. i was here. & i was here. & oh yeah – i was here, too. i was grit & smiles, sweat & wings, pain & joy. i was suddenly everything i’d ever hoped i’d become.

what you learn about yourself when you run a marathon is that you can do amazing things. you learn that you have a mind and a body that can work together to astound you; that you’re capable of deciding to take on something most people think is impossible – that you once thought was impossible – and that you can discipline your body to carry out that decision. you learn that you are a fighter; that you can push yourself past boundaries of comfort & pain & fatigue & weather patterns and hover on the edge of sanity til you realize you rather like it there, suspended between earth and sky, walking a tightrope of something akin to mania or euphoria when you think about the ways you’ve pushed yourself in the pursuit of a dream worth losing sleep & social life & toenails over. you groan through the aches and celebrate the highs and become more in tune with your body than you ever have before, and you begin to love yourself immeasurably for what you can accomplish entirely on your own.

you learn that anything in life truly worth fighting for – anything you’re desperate to have tucked beneath your skin, written on the tablet of your life, bursting forth from the pages of your story – will require nothing less than total commitment and the utmost self-belief. you learn that all those hours of early morning pavement pounding, of Friday nights devoted to early bedtimes and the anticipation of tomorrow’s long run taking priority over all else, of muscles so sore and tight you often wondered how you’d ever make it through another run, of tunnel vision rendering you one-dimensional in your pursuit of this beast and turning all of your conversations back to your training as you’re suddenly unable to recall a time when you once had other things to occupy your interest and time, are all part of a journey that will leave you forever changed in every soul-gripping way imaginable.

and at the very core of this lies the overwhelming sense of gratitude you begin to wear like a second skin. gratitude for legs strong enough to carry you across those relentless miles; gratitude for a life that allows you the freedom and time to devote yourself to something so all-encompassing; gratitude for all of the people who love you enough to support you through this and champion your efforts. mostly, you’re awash with gratitude for your very youness; for being healthy & strong & determined & able to carry out this dream; to do something so very hard entirely on your own, armed with nothing but a feverish desire to overcome all obstacles in this dogged pursuit of self.

what training for a marathon really teaches you is how to become the very best version of you. it’s as gloriously simple as that. it’s as heart-wrenchingly difficult as that.

i don’t believe it’s possible to accurately capture in words that specific, all-encompassing feeling of elation that overwhelmed me when i rounded the final corner and saw the finish line of my marathon ahead of me. so much crowds into that moment that if i could just freeze it and dissect it, i’d be able to name all of the individual parts that contribute to the overwhelming sense of euphoria that brought tears to my eyes as a grin stretched across my face and my arms had no choice but to fly high above my head — but in that moment, all i felt was so much. so much.

it’s the sense of accomplishment in yourself, of having done this hard, hard thing — this nearly-impossible thing that really is ever-so-possible after all — entirely on your own.

it’s the physical representation of the goal, that banner stretching high, the words marking your final steps. it’s hearing your name over the microphone as you step across the finish line.

it’s the cheers & excitement of the crowds, seeing your parents & best friends’ faces beaming through, feeling their love & pride shining forth at you. all for you.

in that moment, it honestly feels like the whole world just loves you. like you understand what it means to sit atop a cloud and look back at earth & transcend it all, floating high amidst the bluest blue, untouchable, unbreakable, infinite.

in that moment, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are exactly who you were meant to be; exactly who you want to be. you are oh-so-human, with good days and bad, with heartaches & joys, with disappointments & love — you carry the whole world inside of you, & as you cross that finish line after a 26.2 mile journey to the center of your core and back, you can feel it all.

you are one person among many, but you are so very much you.

& suddenly, you know that will always be enough.

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14 thoughts on “What Running 26.2 Miles Teaches You

  1. Amen.
    Marathoning teaches you more about yourself than anything (save having children) can (blanket statement, but you know).
    You learn just how fragile but also how enduring you are. And you learn that you can be everything and nothing, in every aspect of life and being and the world, simultaneously.

  2. You are such a beautiful writer and person. This is absolutely awesome and so perfectly stated. Congrats on the contributing writer position. I can totally see why they have you on board!

  3. Pingback: What Running 26.2 Miles Teaches You | inverted sneakers

  4. “i don’t believe it’s possible to accurately capture in words that specific, all-encompassing feeling… …but in that moment, all i felt was so much. so much.”

    EXACTLY HOW i FELT in Chicago near the end of my first marathon. all of the emotion, fears, pride, brokenness, pain, joy – everything from the entire 8 months’ worth of training washed over me in the last .1 miles, and it was overwhelming.

  5. I can not express to you how much I enjoyed reading this! Your words are sincere and ring true to my core!! You’ve inspired me. Monday I’ll have a post 26.2 reasons why parenting is like marathoning. 😉 have a great weekend! And CONGRATS on being a marathoner! You rock!!

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