“Running teaches us that we are capable of so much more than we imagine”
– PattiSue Plumer
Last weekend, I ran a half marathon. The whole 21.1km. It seems so weird to say it because I never thought I would get into running…let alone run a half marathon. And for you runners out there, you will know, that a first half marathon is not only a physical feat, but also can prove to be a psychological break through, and it most certainly was for me.
Unconventional as though it may sound, let me start off with the conclusion. My topic today is not so much the run itself, but a lot more about the journey that running took me on, and with it, the people I met and the things I experienced that I learned so much from and made me so grateful to have committed to this race.
Going back to the beginning, it was late 2017, and I had just finished my captaincy and hence my involvement with the womens’ tennis team at my university. Tennis had been a huge, huge part of my life for at least 15 years now, so it once I had played my last match, there was a gaping hole to fill where I normally had training, but didn’t anymore. With this, and a little more time on my hands, now that I was only focused on writing my dissertation, a close friend of mine from Uni started asking me to run with her, and this became a much more regular occurrence. What started out initially as a casual run to fill my time, soon changed gradually into a habit. I found myself starting to run by myself, and finding that with each day I ran, I was able to enjoy the it. What changed? It’s true, the start is unbelievably hard, especially plucking up the courage to leave the door and you’d rather stay warm and indoors. Only now, I realised that running allowed me to understand my body. With every run, I could feel that my body reacted differently; sometimes I’d feel light and fast, sometimes a little heavy. I started to understand that like yoga, and meditation, running was a sport that allowed me to listen to my body’s needs, and be okay with it. So the first lesson I learned was acceptance; to know that your body feels different everyday, and it’s okay. To know that you can’t always outrun your PB, and that is most certainly normal. Accept, but keep running.
Then after 3 whole weeks of running weekly, I was persuaded to commit to a half-marathon. Although I learned to accept my good days and bad days, I can’t always resist my competitive nature (habit from tennis), and so with 10 weeks to go, I decided I would commit to training for the race so as not to embarrass myself and my cross-country running friend. Initially, I honestly thought that it would just be that, me running regularly, increasing my mileage and becoming confident of my average pace. I thought it would be a individual thing, where I worked by myself. It really wasn’t.
Instead, what I found myself doing was taking EVERY SINGLE OPPORTUNITY to run. And this involved running with co-workers, running with friends or running by myself. And it was this journey of running with people who I didn’t usually spend a lot of time with, that I am the most grateful for. Running, unlike a lot of sports, is really simple. You don’t need a whole lot of equipment, you don’t need a court, a field, or a sports centre, and its cheap because all you need are some good shoes and a road. But like all sports, running brings people together. It was here that I entered the “running circles”, you know, the groups of people who run together and look like they’re having so much fun. Yeah, I became one of them. Long runs, short runs, fast runs, slow runs, I got to meet a whole lot of people, and got to have longer, more meaningful conversations with those who used to be mere acquaintances. I made so many friends in the mere 10 weeks of my training, as well as knowing the workings of my body so much better, that although the race itself was tough as balls, it was so worth it.
Perhaps it was because I only had 10 weeks, or perhaps it was because the whole thing seemed to be over in a blur, but the 10 weeks was probably the most fun I’ve had in a while, laughing, huffing and puffing with others who shared the same interests and goals as you. I became friends with people who I probably would never have met if I didn’t run, and find myself in a much better position to be able to invite others to run with me too. And crossing the finish line was something I never wanted to do, but also never thought I could do, so it definitely helped me reach the unimaginable.
So what happens next? I’ll definitely continue running, because it’s taught me a lot, and freed me in ways that I didn’t expect. Whether I’ll run another race, that’s not in the near future, but perhaps in the distance future I might consider it again. Although this piece 100% is about running, I mainly hope that you find something you enjoy and can take you on such a different path you never thought you’d take, and it might be something totally different to running. So perhaps the most important lesson of all, is to jump in and say yes to an activity you never thought you’d do, so I’ll end with another classic quote of “feel the fear, and do it anyway”.
Have a great weekend. x SH