Have you ever seen those stickers on cars that say 13.1? Or 26.2? I recently learned that those stickers (or magnets if you’re in the 21st century) signify that the person who owns it has run either a marathon (26.2 miles) or a half marathon (13.1 miles). I never knew that. But I do now. Why?
BECAUSE I JUST RAN A HALF MARATHON BABY! BOO YAH!!!!!
That’s right. As of last Saturday, this now 40-year-old-senior-citizen-priest officially earned the right to carry one of those 13.1 magnets by completing my first half marathon race. I actually did it!
But before you go thinking that I did anything special, let me be clear that saying I “ran” a half marathon is a bit misleading. I ran the first 9 miles with little to no problem; but the last 4 was a different story.
The unfortunate combination of high temperatures (high of 94), extreme humidity (you could feel the grossness from the early morning) and an unshaded running path led me to finish those last 4 miles with a run-walk combination that cost me about 12 minutes in terms of my finish time (not that I’m bitter or anything).
But placing that aside, the point is that I finished the race (thank You God!) and now it’s over. I set the goal of running a half marathon back in January and I’ve been training diligently close to 6 months. Now that it’s over, it’s time to share some lessons learned.
LESSON 1: Discipline isn’t as important as motivation
Most people think that they aren’t disciplined enough to accomplish their dream – whether that’s losing weight, starting a business, or kicking a bad habit. We think the problem is a lack of discipline. I disagree. The issue isn’t discipline; the issue is motivation.
In most areas of my life, I am pretty disciplined. But there’s one area where I am extremely weak… DESSERTS! My sweet tooth has been my physical fitness downfall for years. In my younger days, it was normal for me to eat dessert after every meal…including BREAKFAST! A bowl of Frosted Flakes, a boiled egg and two scoops of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream was a staple on the Fr. Anthony menu for years.
And for years I tried to break the dessert habit with little to no success. But that changed when I signed up for this race.
I am proud to say that I now only eat dessert on special occasions – at most twice per week (although that number has risen exponentially since I finished the race on Saturday).
What made the difference? Did I suddenly get an extra dose of discipline? Or did I finally find something that motivated me to do it?
Motivation trumps discipline. So stop trying to manufacture discipline; work on finding the proper motivation instead.
LESSON 2: Going from 2 to 3 is harder than from 12 to 13.
When I first started training back in April/May, I said I’d start with a simple 3 mile run. I had run a 10k just six months prior (that’s 6 miles) so 3 miles should be a piece of cake.
WRONG! That 10k left me with a stress fracture in my left foot which meant that I had to stop running/exercising completely for an extended period of time. That – coupled with my love for desserts – led to me being quite out of shape. I couldn’t even finish the 3 miles! I had to stop after two.
The thought of running 13 miles when you can’t even run 3 is quite daunting. How am I possibly going to make the jump from 3 to 13?
Simple. Just go from 3 to 4. And then from 4 to 5. And then 5 to 6 and so on.
In fact, to be completely honest, the hardest jump in mileage for me was at the very beginning going from 2 to 3. That’s what took the longest to achieve. From there, every additional mile got a little easier.
I tell this to my kids all the time: everything is hard the first time you do it. Everything is hard when you first begin. But by the same token, everything gets easier the more you do it.
It’s true in running and it’s true in life.
Whatever habit you want to start (or stop), I promise you, the hardest step is the first one. Don’t look at the 10,000 steps between your current location and your goal. Just focus on the step right in front of you.
That’s what I did. “Just get to 3 miles. Now that you’ve mastered 3, go for 4. Then 5, etc.” That’s what I kept telling myself and it worked.
LESSON 3: Get a coach to push you.
The best decision I made when I signed up for this race was to find a running coach to help me train. My coach (Doug) gave me a training plan designed specifically for me and my goals. We would meet weekly at the local high school and he’d put me through a variety of different workouts – stuff I have never done on my own. He challenged me and pushed me to a point well past I where I could have gone on my own.
In fact, thanks to his constant pushing, by the end of our time together, I would routinely pass Doug on our runs together and he’d tell me “don’t wait up… you keep going and I’ll catch up later.” (I love you Doug).
Super important: do you have someone in your life that is pushing you to get better? Do you have someone who is investing in you to make you a better person?
Who’s pushing you to be a better father/mother?
Who’s pushing you to be a better husband/wife?
Who’s pushing you to be a better child of God?
Do you have someone investing in you to make you better? If not, you are missing out. I would have never achieved the results I did without someone pushing me. And the same could be true for you.