I CANNOT believe I get to write the sentence “I ran a half marathon”
Never in my entire life did I think that was something I would ever think of doing, train to do, and then actually complete.
I have never been a fan of cardio. In all my years of professional dance training, I dreaded our conditioning classes. I don’t like the feeling of my heart pounding in my chest, I don’t like the feeling of my muscles being worked to their max, and I don’t like feeling sore the next day.
I know, BOLD statements from someone who works in wellness, but I think it’s really important to know that even though I feel this way, I still push myself. I might complain about it, and make sassy jokes, but the feeling I LOVE is finishing something I didn’t think I could do.
I’ve actually been learning that it is really common for anyone who has faced a physical/mental/emotional trauma to struggle with the feeling of ‘working hard’. It basically comes down to the fact that our bodies have associated the feeling of hard work with struggle and pain. I think this makes complete sense.
When I first started rebuilding my muscles I was working with muscle mass that had deteriorated down to almost nothing. It was really hard for me to look at my legs, and see that one was muscular and strong, while the other looked like it had withered away (because it had). Now please know, this is not a judgement on the aesthetic of body types and choices. This was my process going from a full time athlete, to a person in full time rehabilitation.
What it did do, was force me to be humble, and kind to my body. I was grateful for the days I could walk without assistance. I was grateful for the days when I didn’t feel like I had been hit by a truck. I was grateful for finding pilates, because I could build muscle strength without weight bearing. I was grateful for being on my yoga mat, even though my practice was MILES different from what it had been when I was an athlete. Gosh, I was grateful when I could put on pretty shoes, and walk in something that wasn’t sized to my swollen foot.
When my mum started training for her first running race, I had been over the major hump of strength building, and was working on maintenance. I was so relieved to have made it through the toughest part of any journey (the start), that I had no interest in challenging myself again.
I watched my mum train for a 5km race, a 10km race, and eventually SELF train for a half marathon (HONESTLY, after going through the process with a clinic, I am in awe she trained by herself).
I watched her meal prep, put parts of her social life aside so that she could go for multiple runs a week. I watched her work on strength in a way I had never seen before, and I listened to her gush about how much she enjoyed the challenge.
I cheered my Mama on for her first race, absolutely beaming with pride that she had done it all for herself.
My Mum has continued running since that point, and has completed hundreds of different run challenges, plus her second half marathon where she set a new personal record.
After two years of watching my mum push herself in a whole new way, I decided it would be a nice bonding activity to run together. I had actually very little interest in running, but mostly wanted to do one of these fun races my mum had been glowing over, with her.
We signed up to do a 10km race on Mothers Day 2019. I trained on an app, in the gym, and when I got home from that race collapsed on the couch.
I had worried about all the typical new runner things;
- Do I need to carb load before hand (the answer is objectively yes, and I absolutely did)
- Do I need specific gear? (I would recommend investing in quality items if you’re going to run regularly)
- Will I need to poop during the run? And if yes, will there be washrooms (they recommend you carry toilet paper for a reason!)
While I was collapsed on the couch, enjoy a few peanut butter cups (the best part about training/finishing a run is recouping the calories haha) I started to feel the curiosity bug my mum had been talking about all this time.
“10km wasn’t so bad, and a half marathon is just that.. twice.. in a row. I bet that wouldn’t be so bad”
Was my actual thought process
So on the advice of my (very excited) mother, I signed up with my local Running Room for the clinic that would lead us right in to the Toronto Scotiabank Half Marathon.
I’m going to be really, really honest here. I honestly didn’t think I would make it all the way through. Trainings were Tuesday pm (easy enough), Wednesday pm (hard- I taught all day on Wednesdays and was always super tired), and Sunday 830am (LOL WAT).
The first couple weeks I had a very playful approach to training. The weather got very hot very quickly, and those first few Sunday runs we fuelled by chips, Saturday night drinks, and the promise of jumping back in to bed when I got home.
But once we started hitting those 12km and above marks I felt a very clear, very beyond my control shift. I realized I actually really cared, and wanted to do well. I was actually really enjoying these runs, and the people I had met through the training program. I was, dare I say, looking forwards to those early morning Sunday runs.
So, I stopped drinking. I spend most of the summer sober, including the weddings, bridal showers, and birthday parties I attended (except maybe my own, but even then it was pretty minimal). I invested in some good gear, and I got really serious about eating enough- a behaviour I didn’t even realize I was still carrying.
As August rolled in to September, and my training mates began registering for the race, I had a moment where I realized I could still possibly back out. I hadn’t paid anything, I hadn’t committed in any other way than showing up to train. As this doubt danced across my mind, I sat with it as I signed up.
The energy of race day, is just as electric and exciting as people say. Knowing you are participating in an athletic event that ANYONE can sign up to do, is really really cool. It feels both totally special, and absolutely ordinary. Seeing the many of hundreds of different kinds of bodies and abilities that show up to these races is inspiring. I used to think running was reserved for the elite. That I could only run if I had a certain body type, and certain aesthetic.
ANY body can do these races. It takes training, and commitment, and absolute honesty with yourself. It means exchanging your timetable to include more movement. It means telling yourself every day that YES. YOU CAN.
I was afraid of the competition, but what I have learned most of all.The lesson I have learned with absolute clarity through this whole process, is that we are only EVER competing with ourselves.
It is up to you if you want that competition to be a friendly one or not. Personally, I like to keep it kind.
As I’m typing this, my race pictures have come through. I stopped to take a cheeky peek, expecting my face to look hilarious and miserable.
But it’s not, it’s beaming.
Your thing might not be running. Maybe your thing is a sport you want to try, or a course you want to take. Maybe it’s a conversation with a friend, or making a career pivot.
If nothing else, please know that you CAN do the thing. You can do ANYTHING you put your mind to, and prepare for.
Time is going to pass anyway, so just do it!
Besides, you’re only competing against yourself.
Love, love, love