From start to finish line: A reflection on my marathon journeyNov 03, 2022 07:38PM ● By Rachel Aubrey
By Rachel Aubrey/ [email protected]
In January of this year, I made a goal to run the St. George Marathon. On Oct. 1, I met my goal. It seems simple when I say it out loud, but it was anything but simple. There was the obvious physical training that was needed to prepare to run 26.2 miles, and then there was mental preparation.
As a beginner, I knew my level of physicality was going to need a lot of improvement. I made a weekly plan, and began doing all the physical things I could think of or learned about. I was less aware, however, of how important the mental facets were of running such long distances. While everyone’s physical training is unique to them, here are some of the ways I trained mentally.
Have a mantra
I honestly would recommend several, but one will do. During the past year as I was training, and as the training started becoming longer and more intense, there would be reaffirming messages I would say to myself. I would say them out loud while I was running. As I am not the fastest runner, people driving by during my outdoor runs undoubtedly saw me talking to myself.
I would repeat these mantras or affirmations often, especially during the early morning runs when I had to get up before the sun to beat the heat during the summer or while running up a pretty decent sized hill. Positive self-talk can be really beneficial, not just when running, but whenever you need an extra boost of self-confidence. The times I spoke these positive thoughts are the times I believed in them.
Know your “why”
In all major decisions, there has to be a “why?” I had to know what that “why” was before I could truly commit myself to this goal of training for a marathon. It wasn’t hard for me to figure out. The idea of a marathon had long been on my private list of ‘things to accomplish before I die,’ but so is being a contestant on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” My “why” are my children.
As a mother, I feel compelled to learn life lessons so that I can help my kids when they go through similar moments. The lesson learned from marathon training, ‘You can do hard things.’ I remember saying this to my kids prior to this year, but only half-hearted. Now what I say to my kids is, ‘I KNOW you can do hard things.’
Lean into your support system
I was very fortunate to have a network of family, friends and neighbors who were willing to believe in me all along this journey, even at times when it was hard to believe in myself. If training didn’t go right one day, and I felt like the marathon was out of my realm of possibility, I had a support system. From the gal who cuts my hair (a runner), to my neighbor down the street (also a runner), to those who reside in my own home, I had people around me to believe that I could complete this task when my belief fell short.
I also found a lot of support from social media, as my algorithms caught on to my searching out all things to do with running and those who had previously ran marathons or long races. I was able to gain a lot of mental strength from the encouragement within these communities online. I didn’t realize how valuable that was for me personally until just a few days prior to the race when I read this quote on my Instagram feed, “There will be days you don’t think you can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime of knowing you have.”
Listen to your body
In early August, I went for a run early one morning and started to notice some discomfort in my knees. I tried to shake it off and keep going. The pain persisted. Not even 3 miles into my run, I decided to stop and walk back towards my home. I didn’t want to muscle through and take a risk. I started freaking out, however, at the thought that something might have been seriously wrong and that I would not be able to continue on my journey.
Almost immediately following that experience, I made some adjustments. I went to purchase new running shoes at a local running store, I began icing my knees more consistently, and I started to implement more strength training. The knee pain never came back. A lot of the veteran runners will tell you not to skip rest days and I echo this whole heartedly. It’s important for both body AND mind that you allow some time for rest. If you want your body to be able to function and perform, you have to allow it time to heal and recover. I used rest days to be physically still and to meditate.
I think the following quote by Michael D’Aulerio sums up this experience better than I could attempt to: “Crossing the finish line of your first marathon is not the destination. It’s the vehicle. What you really achieve is an incredible new mindset that you can reach any outcome you put your focus to.”