Conquer Your Mind

I ran a half marathon last weekend.

I have never ran more than 5 miles at one time, but I somehow managed to run 13.1 miles.
I guess you really can do anything you put your mind to.

I decided, on a whim, that I was going to do the AF Canyon Run. My company was participating and they offered to pay for 50% of the cost of registration. Bri had talked about wanting to do the AF Canyon Run before, so I asked if she wanted to do it with me. I figured she’d probably want to do the 10k and that didn’t seem too daunting.

Instead, she said “Well, 30 is supposed to be my big year, and running a half marathon is on my bucket list.”

So we signed up for the half marathon.

I told my fiancé about this when he picked my up from work and the first thing he said was, “Oh thank god, I thought you were going to say that you registered me for the half marathon!”

Needless to say, he’s not getting out of it next year.

We registered really late for the race. I think we had about two weeks to prepare, so training was out. I tried to do some running, like one or two miles every other day. I probably didn’t even run 13 miles in the two weeks leading up to the race.

The goal was to finish in less than 3 hours. The first 7 miles were downhill through the canyon, so I figured we could run most of that without stopping too much. Luckily, the race started at 6am, so we wouldn’t be running in the 95 degree weather. We took a shuttle up the canyon at 4am and had to wait an hour and a half for the race to start. I hadn’t thought about the fact that it would probably be a lot colder in the canyon than it had been at my apartment that morning, so I hadn’t brought a sweatshirt.

Fortunately, they were handing out space blankets to everyone else who hadn’t thought to bring a sweatshirt. I now know why they tell you to bring one of those when you go hiking or camping, because they really do keep you warm! Imagine a hundred people sitting on the ground wrapped in space blankets; it looked like some sort of a refugee camp on Mars.

Finally, we started running and it didn’t seem so bad until we realized that my Apple Watch was actually about 0.2 miles off. It did boost our confidence when it said our pace was a 9:30-minute mile, although that may have not actually been true. At the very least, it did tell time correctly. We had to be out of the canyon by 8am, so we were at least able to use the $200 watch to check the time.

We made it out of the canyon without stopping, which was about 7.5 miles so we were over halfway there. This was such a profound, empowering moment for me because I was still making conversation with Bri the entire time. I have struggled with allergy and exercise-induced asthma since my swimming days, and even exercising at the 4,000 feet altitude in Utah has been harder for me. But I felt amazing after those first 7 miles. I could breathe. I could talk. The only thing that hurt was my entire body at that point, but hey, my lungs felt great.

The second half was a lot harder than the first. It was now an uphill/downhill/flat ever-changing landscape of a trail that wound through golf-courses and neighborhoods. And it was hot. It had been so cold when we first started running, but once we got out of the canyon and the sun came up, it felt way too hot to be exercising.

And the crazy thing was that people were out on the trail doing their regular morning run/bike and cheering us on.

When we finally made it to the finish line, so many people from my work were standing there cheering and waving. I cannot even begin to describe how ecstatic I was to be waving back at them and smiling as I crossed the finish line. In my most out-of-shape moment in life, I ran a half marathon.

Some of that euphoria wore off when I realized how much my legs hurt, and that I was chafing in places I hadn’t chafed since I did the swim-a-thon. But once I took a two hour nap and ate about a dozen Olive Garden breadsticks, I remembered that empowered feeling.

My legs are still sore and it’s been two weeks, so I’m not sure that the moral of this story should be “run a half marathon with absolutely no training” but I do think there is something to be said for not letting anything stand in your way of doing what you want to do, especially your own mind.

We are our biggest supporters and our harshest critics. So much of what we want to accomplish, especially when it comes to exercise, is a mental effort more than a physical effort. It’s harder to get out of bed at 5am than it is to do the actual workout once you get to the gym. It’s harder to run if you tell yourself constantly that you’re not good at running.

I think that the one thing that helped me through this race was that the only way I could fail was to not finish it. I didn’t tell myself that I had to run the whole way. I just told myself that I was going to make it to the finish line.

So, whatever you’re trying to accomplish right now, whether it’s getting up at 5am and going to the gym, or eating healthier, or spending more time with your family, or taking the time to read more books, remember that you can accomplish anything that you put your mind to.

Conquer your mind and you can, quite literally, do it all.

Published by Sami Hertel

Oregon native, current Utah resident, blogging about my adventures on lifeafteroregon.com!

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