It was a bright and beautiful morning. The pre-sunrise sky gave way to a sea of blue. It was one of those mornings that made you think anything was possible.
The inaugural Runners World Half Marathon was, after eleven years of running starts and stops, a personal “reboot” in my running life. My goals for the race were simple. Combine a steady run/walk effort with a dose of mental toughness so that I could finish the half marathon with a smile, knowing that this was just the beginning. I was ready.
Except that it was not that easy. Although the words of the inspirational Matt Long echoed in my mind pushing me on with “I can. I will.” I found myself in trouble by mile 3. My foot numbness that I thought I had planned for started earlier than usual. Stopping to take my shoes off to stretch my feet I was immediately approached by Rick, a kind course volunteer that wanted to see if I was alright. Thinking that this was just part of the game I would have to play with my feet, stopping, stretching, and going on, I explained that this was just part of my current running reality. Except that as I put my shoes back on a few minutes later and noticed the numbness getting worse instead of better, my heart began to sink and my head went to a very dark place of doubt.
I have never been a quitter.
Quitting is just not something that I accept, now or ever. Except that there is a fine line between quitting because you are tired or not prepared to fight the mental fight and quitting because continuing would be medically unsafe. As my feet felt more and more numb, for the first time in my eleven years, I wondered if finishing the Runners World Half marathon was actually a bad medical idea. I stopped to take my shoes off again at mile 4, and this time was asked by thoughtful and caring runners if I was ok. Through my tears, I said that I was. Which of course was a lie. Because beyond the physical numbness, I had allowed my brain and my heart to stop believing the “I can” that I had started off with.
My mind was full of scenarios. The idea of driving home for four hours, knowing that I had not finished, would be torturous. The feelings of insecurity that would come from participating in the Runners World Half Marathon as a FitFluential blogger, after meeting so many editors and inspirational runners would weigh me down in a way unlike anything else. The tears propelled me to keep going, but the doubt was like an erupting volcano. Spectators on the sides of the road cheered me on as I tried hiding the tears behind my sun glasses. But I kept going. I contemplated calling my parents and asking them what I should do. I texted my doubt to my husband, my friends, posted to instagram, and to twitter.
But I kept going.
Eventually mile 4 became mile 6. The doubt still there, the tears still there as I heard shouts of “You’ve got this! Keep it up!” But, I was still moving.
Somehow, mile 6 became mile 8. I have only vague memories of my thoughts during those two miles. My focus was on the runners around me. My focus was on my watch, keeping track of my run/walk schedule. My focus was on the hills that lay underfoot.
And then it happened. My doubt was gone. My tears were gone. My legs felt strong and I found myself smiling. And singing….as in out loud.
I started passing people. Catching up the runners that had passed me when I was stopped at mile 4.
Suddenly, the echo of “I can” and “I will” was back…and I actually believed.
At mile 11 I was met by a friendly face, who ran with me back across the river, with supportive encouragement and friendship. Ashley’s smile and belief in me made the tingle that I was starting to feel again in my feet seem like nothing more than a nuisance.
With two miles left to go, I found just the right songs on my playlist, and looked ahead.
There was singing. Out loud. My hands moved like drums to the music. I literally don’t think that I have smiled that broadly in a very long time. Maybe it was the infamous “runners high.” But whatever it was that fueled me in those moments, led me to finish the Runners World Half Marathon feeling proud of myself. Feeling like I had gone to war with my inner demons and won.
I can. I will. Whether you are going out for a run, or tackling another journey…you just need to believe. What will you say “I can” to today?
I participated in the Runners World Half Marathon as a FitFluential Ambassador. Race expenses were provided by Runners World. No other compensation was received. All opinions are my own.