On Saturday, I will run my first half marathon.1538668_10100847695578074_427137662845372790_n

And then, I will never run again.

Just kidding. But no, I am not going to become a long-distance runner. I have said for years, “I run, but I’m not a runner.” I’m sticking to that even with over 170 miles logged in the last 12 weeks.

As it turns out, I hate running. OK, to clarify: I hate long-distance running. I know some people love it and find it relaxing, but I am not one of those people. My 10-miler this past Saturday was sheer torture. 1 hour, 41 minutes, and 24 seconds of torture (that put me at 10’08″/mi, and literally my only goal in this process has been to stay under 10 minutes a mile, so that made it worse). I called my boyfriend about something else right afterwards and surprised myself by bursting into tears.

So I can’t wait for Saturday–less because I’m excited about the race and more because I’m glad it’s almost over. I only have to run 2 miles tomorrow. 2 miles! Child’s play!

But my griping of late makes it all the more important that I remind myself: this has been an incredible process, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve done things I never thought I could do, demonstrated a capacity for commitment and discipline I didn’t think I had, and racked up some wonderful experiences.

At the end of August, I shocked myself by signing up for a half marathon. I had never run more than a few miles at a time, and in fact had sworn up and down that I never would. I’m not sure what happened. Maybe it was some of my friends in Durham training for a race, or my roommate doing the same–but one day, I found myself on the website for the Mistletoe Half Marathon, and I just went for it.

Maybe some part of me knew that a few things in my life would completely unravel at the beginning of September, and when that happened, I would need something. My training started in an emotional whirlwind, and it turned out to be exactly what I needed. I channeled grief and anger into my runs and cross-training. I took a feeling of helplessness and turned it on its head to show myself I was strong and capable. A sense of disempowerment was transformed into proof that I am powerful. I put my obsessive-compulsive side to work crafting a carefully balanced workout schedule. I gave myself a goal and started working toward it.

And work toward it I did. Discipline has never been my strong suit, but the only times I missed training runs in my 12-week program were a weekend when I was on a mission trip in Haiti and one day when I went on a 15-mile hike instead.

And these are some of the gifts I was given in that time:

  • I discovered that I am capable of far more than I think.
  • I watched the leaves change around beautiful Salem Lake.
  • I shared training runs with friends.
  • I ran races with my mom and brother (both actual runners), including a nighttime trail run at the US National Whitewater Center (which I actually LOVED and would totally do again).
  • I bonded with unexpected people over the experience of training for a run.
  • I participated in races benefiting local charities.
  • I got to watch my roommate and boyfriend (non-runners like me) train for a 5K they’ll run the day of my half.
  • I found the balance between discipline and grace that has always eluded me.
  • I poked a giant hole in my idea of what I can and can’t do.

So I will run this race on Saturday and pray it doesn’t take me 3 hours. I will rock my “13.1: only half crazy” headband to reassure the world that no, a full marathon is absolutely NOT in my future. I will share the morning with thousands of people, including friends and family, all out to stay healthy, have fun, and fight childhood obesity. Afterwards, I will be able to say that I ran a half marathon.

And then, I will get back to doing the kinds of things my body, in all its 5’2″ shortness, is actually built to do. I will keep running, but only short distances, maybe a 5K or 10K here and there. I will get more into biking like I started to do before I signed up for this race.

And I will know that the next time I think, “There’s no way I could ever do that,” chances are pretty good I’m wrong.

Published by Sarah Howell-Miller

"I believe in kindness, also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when it is not necessarily prescribed." {Mary Oliver}

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1 Comment

  1. I love love love this, Sarah! Really excellent realizations, and you put words to them so well. You’re gonna be great on Saturday!!

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