Monday, April 20, 2015

What motivates you?

What motivates you? What a great topic for today of all days: Marathon Monday.

Interestingly enough the things that motivate me when I am running are the same things that can also psych me out and discourage me. It all depends on my outlook. Watching footage of people running or exercising on TV while I am on the treadmill, remembering the people who laughed when I told them I was planning to run a half marathon, thinking about my friends who ran 26.2 miles today, reading articles about how to train and prepare for a race: these are all things that on a good day (when I am feeling positive) can totally motivate me or on a bad day can make me feel discouraged and inferior. It is amazing how your frame of mind can totally control how you will feel psychologically when doing anything difficult.

However...sometimes there are amazingly powerful motivators that totally hit home regardless of my frame of mind.

Back in January when I was at the Disney full marathon cheering on a family member who was running, I witnessed something that really affected me: I saw a man running the full marathon with two prosthetic legs. I couldn't take my eyes off of him; to me he embodied all of the characteristics I associate with bravery. It was then that I decided to sign up for the half marathon in 2016. Until that moment I was full of excuses about why I couldn't train and run another half marathon - most included things like "I'm too old", "I don't have time", and "I prefer sitting". But in the instant of seeing this amazing man running 26.2 miles with two prosthetic legs, I knew I had no excuse. And if there were ever a time in my life where I needed to make a positive healthy change and actually train for a half marathon, now was that time.

And today I felt motivated and inspired in a similar fashion. I was at the gym cooling down on the treadmill after a difficult run and I started watching an interview on TV with Rebekah Gregory DiMartino: survivor of the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013. She ended up having one of her legs amputated after surviving the attack in Boston that year. But that did not get Rebekah down, with one prosthetic leg she trained to run the marathon this year - and run it she did. She collapsed on the ground after crossing the finish line out of sheer emotion and when you watch the footage anyone can see how running the marathon this year was exactly how Rebekah got her life back. An amazing thing happened while that interview was playing on the TV at my gym, everyone who was working out nearby stopped what they were doing and watched in silence. We had to read the close caption to know what Rebekah was saying because the TVs at the gym are always on mute, but that didn't matter - we all watched in awe; before I knew it, I was crying. I am not a person who often allows herself to be emotional in public but this time it couldn't be helped. I was completely overcome with emotion because of Rebekah's amazing story. And suddenly I was no longer complaining in my mind about the difficult run I had just had - instead I was thinking about how lucky I am to be strong enough to run at all and how I need to keep at it so I can get even stronger.

So let me ask the runners and non-runners out there: what motivates you? What inspires you in this life of yours? The answers can reveal a lot about who you are.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Journey Starts With A Single Step

Nearly 10 years ago I decided to embark on a crazy adventure: I decided to train for a half marathon. This is "crazy" because I spent my entire life being the complete opposite of athletic. I am uncoordinated, unmotivated, out of shape, and if I am being completely honest, lazy. At least I was. But in 2006 I did the unthinkable, I got off my lazy, uncoordinated butt and I trained to run 13.1 miles.

And run it I did. In fact, until I became a mother, I marked the completion of that half marathon as being the greatest achievement of my life. And why wouldn't I categorize it as my greatest achievement? When I crossed the finish line of that race in June 2006, that was the most physically and mentally challenging accomplishment for me - EVER. I went from barely being able to walk a few miles to someone who could actually run a half marathon - even I didn't think that was possible.

After completing that race in 2006 I finally admitted I was a runner. I was proud of what I had accomplished and I vowed to keep up with it, to continue running races and to stay healthy. Of course after having children and a busy life over the last 9 years, I haven't really stuck to my vows. In 2010 I started running again but it has been spotty, a few 5Ks and 10Ks here and there, but overall I have slipped back into a place of being unhealthy and lazy.

And then four months ago I went to Florida to cheer on some family members as they ran the Disney Half Marathon and Full Marathon and I caught the bug again. After being surrounded by all of that wonderful good energy from the runners and the spectators, I knew it was time for me to lace up my sneakers and start training again - I decided to run the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in 2016.

This week I officially began training for this half marathon that I plan to run in 9 months. And while that seems pretty far away and most people can probably train for such a thing in 20 weeks or less, I am starting now. I remember how hard it was to train the last time I did this and the last time I did this, I was almost 10 years younger than I am now! I am older and far more out of shape than I was in 2006; if I want to give myself a real fighting chance (and not injure myself along the way), I need to start training now...slowly.

They say that with age comes wisdom, so I am trying to use what I learned from every race I ever trained for to help me prepare for this half marathon. For example, over the last 10 years I have learned that training for a race is not all physical, a huge part of preparing to run long distances is also mental and emotional. If you are reading this right now and thinking "Psshht, no it's not" then congratulations, you are probably a person who is easily self-motivated and has a natural inclination for athleticism. Unfortunately I am not one of those people. If I start off a run thinking "I don't want to do this" or if I get too focused on how much I have left to do ("Ugh, I have to run another 15 minutes, that is SOOO much running and I am SOOO tired!"), then I will have a bad run - that is, if I can even muster up the energy to run at all. Before I go for a run I need to psych myself up, I need to get happy about the exercise I am about to do. And while I am running I need to focus on how far I have come instead of what I have left to do. Using these little mental tricks has helped get me through a few races and has definitely helped get me through my first week of half marathon training.

I have spent a good part of my life laughing at the thought of "positive thinking". I always considered it a bit hokey and unrealistic but now I am definitely seeing the benefits of thinking positively. I think this Buddha quote really says it all: "We are shaped by our thoughts, we become what we think".

And I think I am a runner who can cross the finish line of a half marathon.