In exactly three days I am hoping to be the first member of my extended family to have run a marathon. I’m anxious and nervous and excited! Even more excited that the weather forecast has turned from cold and rainy, to just cold! A few days ago, Patrick and I explored the Olympiapark in northern Munich, which is where the marathon starts and finishes. Coincidentally, the Munich Olympics of 1972 was the last time an American (Frank Shorter) won gold in the Men’s Marathon. I’ll take that as a good sign.
I’ve been tapering for the last two weeks (reducing my mileage/taking rest days), which might sound like a nice break, but it tends to have the opposite mental effect on runners. Running less makes me feel underprepared, but alas science says otherwise and I’ll just have to trust that my training over the last four months will be enough to get me to the finish line. Now I get to focus on the remaining items at hand – apparel and food for the race. Apparel is much easier for me this time because I only have a couple different running outfits with me in Munich and even less that are suited for cold temperatures. For food while running I eat Hüma Energy gels and I love them. This is uncommon because in general runners don’t love gel time as much I do. I use gels during a race as a reward technique and as a way to compartmentalize the mileage. “Just 2 more miles until it’s gel time!”
With this big milestone ahead of me, I’ve thought a lot about how far I have come. I have always generally liked going for a run. I would run a mile here and there in high school. In college, I would run a couple miles every couple of months. The work out routines I started usually faded after a couple weeks though. Fast forward to my first year living in Houston after college. My younger brother Cole had registered for the 2015 Houston Half Marathon, which occurs in January every year. My parents and I went downtown with him on that chilly Sunday morning to cheer him on. This was his second time running this race. Sadly, I think I may have declined supporting him on his first attempt because I was coming home from a trip to Cabos… sorry Cole! I remember he told me before that race in 2015, that I would be inspired by the runners and would want to train for it next year. I really didn’t believe him because I still couldn’t fathom running 13.1 miles. Nightmares of track practice in middle school came back to me. What was the point of putting myself through that mental and physical stress.
Cole finished the race even faster than the year before, no one was surprised! He didn’t even look tired at the end, but managed to finish in under 90 minutes. And he was also right. I was starting to understand the point of running a race. After seeing the excitement at the starting line and the energy that filled the air when the runners were coming into Downtown Houston, I decided I would try to run the Houston Half Marathon the following year. It would make me a good Houstonian, right? What also took me by surprise was the wide variety of people that were running the race. This wasn’t a college track competition, where every individual is pretty lanky looking and makes running look like it’s effortless. These were real people. They were brothers, sisters, moms, dads, and grandparents. Not everyone fit the “skinny athletic runner” look I had conjured up in my mind. Maybe, I thought, I could be one of them too.
I didn’t start training immediately. Once I moved into the loop of Houston, I found it easier to keep up running because I lived near the Buffalo Bayou Trails. Nothing says keep on running like a downtown view and a local whole foods, which I had to pass to get to/from the trail system. I found a training program with Runner’s High Club, which I originally didn’t want to sign up for because they had long runs on Saturday and well, Friday night was the fun night to go out to the bars in my opinion. Realizing I wouldn’t stand a chance going at this goal alone, I registered. Maybe the bars would be fun on Saturday night too. Next thing I knew, within four months (November 2015 – March 2016), I ran 3 half-marathons. I guess I liked them.
If there is anything running those half marathons (and countless other fun runs) have shown me is the importance of a support system to achieving a goal. I used to think races were pretty silly. Grown-ups running as fast as they could, just to see what their end time could be? Volunteers handing out water cups along the course, which are later thrown on the ground by the runners because they didn’t want to slow down to throw them in a trashcan? It sounds a little crazy.
With ANY goal it means the world to know you have the support of your family and friends, cheering you on along the way (figuratively or literally). And to the random strangers who have cheered alongside my race courses, you are doing wonders as well! When you’re busting your butt to the finish line, any word of encouragement is appreciated!
I think people thrive on encouragement and words of support, so why don’t we share them more often, even if the goal they are working towards is completely different from our own? Set a goal, works towards it, cheer others along on the way, and see what happens. You may just surprise yourself. That is the point.