Thursday, May 5, 2016

How I Found Joy While Running My First 10 Mile Race

Sunday, August 24 was a pretty special day for me. No, it wasn't the day my daughter was born or even the day I married my best friend.

But still, it was important to me.

It was the day of my first ever 10 mile race, a truly monumental day for me in my young running journey. Prior to this race, I had only run 10 miles three times in my life. There was a part of me that felt like I had no business running a race of this length yet, having just started running 8 months prior, but I placed all of my trust in my training so I knew running this race was exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

Probably the smartest thing I did was to mentally prepare a plan for how I was going to run it which calmed my type-A personality. Miles 1-5 I was going to stay as close to an 11 minute mile pace as I could even though I knew I could run a 10:35mm and still make out ok.  Since I was running this without my training buddy and the best runner I know, I wanted to make sure I was safe and I could finish it STRONG.   At mile 5, I planned on grabbing Gatorade from the water station that I was going to walk (gasp!) through and then take off running again while quickly chomping down my Honeystinger gummies.  After that I was free to pick up the pace as much as I could with the goal of making my last mile my fastest.

It helped that my music was perfectly timed to either slow me down or speed me up based on what mile I was on. Knowing this really allowed me to enjoy the run.

Yes, you read that right. I ENJOYED running a 10 mile race!  Even with Queen, Prince and Guns and Roses blaring over my headphones I was able to take in the coastal scenery as well as the beauty of what my body is capable of doing.

Miles 1-4 were truly peaceful. My mind was at ease with the task at hand. I knew I had awhile to go before I would be done so why not relax and let my legs take over?   I had plenty of time to think about how my running has changed both the shape of my body and my overall health. I no longer struggle from terrible stomach pains (hello, leaky gut), migraines and neck/shoulder pain on a daily basis. My last blood test results showed the inflammation that was tearing my body apart over a year ago was almost all gone. Not to mention my wonderfully high triglyceride level that my doctor was genuinely amazed by. "See that number?" he questioned at my last visit,  "That's what all your running has done."  

Miles 5-7 were spent thinking about my mom and how she can barely walk. She long ago chose to not take care of herself full well knowing our family history of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Knowing I don't want to suffer like she is with her many ailments, pushed me to keep running even when the little voice in my head snarked, "You know, when you run your half marathon in 3 weeks you won't even be halfway done yet."  Ugh, shut it, girlfriend.  

One of the many reasons why I've learned to love running is because I can set goals and test my limits. I've slowly learned how to be alright with being uncomfortable. On the flip side, I believe running has a meditative quality to it. If you can get in that peaceful zone then you feel like you can run forever and that is a beautiful thing for your mind and body to be so connected. You forget about that uncomfortable feeling.  You do what our bodies were designed to do - to move, breathe deeply and sweat. It's very freeing and empowering to get to that point in your running when the endorphins take over and you're just happy. 
That brings us to miles 8-10. I was still in a good mood, flying by everyone at the remaining 2 water stops. I knew I'd see my family soon which gave the little boost to push harder.  At that point, I was also dreaming of a cold beer and a cheeseburger. Mile 9 included a hill which was rough on my tired legs, but the view at the top of the Massachusetts coast was worth it. When I hit the final quarter mile Queen's "I Want It All" came blaring over my headphones.  It was my cue that this race was nearing the finish line. I gave myself a cheer and a fistpump, because, let's be honest, if you can't do one for yourself who is going to do it for you?  I was overjoyed to see my family waiting for me at the finish line and to hear my 3 year old yell, "Go Mommy!"  

The best part was I felt great!  I could have kept going if I needed to, but I was thankful to be done. 

I started, ran and completed that race with a smile on my face and a mind and heart full of joy.

I'm ready for my first half marathon now.  I know my mind and body can handle another 3.1 miles because really, after you've run ten miles 3.1 is only a 5K.

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