Find a challenge that makes you smile. What have you got to lose? What might you gain?
On the 26th February 2017, I ran the Brighton Half Marathon. Non-runners, exercise haters stay with me, this is not actually about running, I’m just using it to demonstrate a point. I won’t be posting any pictures of me in tight fitting fluorescent clothing, don’t panic.
I started running again after my son was born in May 2015. I needed something for myself, some ‘me time’ and I wanted my body back, for good this time. I never managed it in the three years between pregnancies. It was sort of like my body said, “Well you’re going to grow another human inside you again, you might as well not bother”.
Hmm fair enough.
So I started running and my husband (aka Marathon Man) really encouraged me, making time for me to go, where there was none. So I went.
The next year and a half went something like this:
Him: You should run a half marathon to give you something to focus on with your running.
Me: Ok yeah why not? (13 miles seemed a long long way back then but I was feeling good).
Him: You should train to run it in under 2 hours.
Me: Hmm that sounds alright. I don’t just want to run it; I want to run it well. So sub 2 hours feels like a decent time and just about achievable.
So I went for it, I signed up for the Run Reigate Half Marathon.
I trained, I ran and I did it in 1hr:56m:16s. I was elated. I punched the air as I ran over the finish line (thank God that wasn’t caught on camera). My very next thought, after, ‘I need a drink’, was, ‘I can definitely do that faster’. Why? Why, why, why would I say that?
One month later I signed up for the Brighton Half Marathon.
Him: You need to aim to do this one in less than 1 hour 50 minutes
Him: I’ll run it with you, pace you round?
Me: Hmm well, we don’t really get to spend much time together just the two of us anymore, so running along Brighton seafront together sounds nice, let’s do it.
I trained, I ran (with Marathon Man) and we did it in 1hr:49m:52s. (Yes, just 8 seconds to spare!) It nearly killed me, I cried a little bit as we went over the finish line. I was ecstatic!
I have condensed the story so not to bore you but in doing so I’ve made it sound really easy, which it was not.
I am not a born runner, know that.
These little legs were not made to run fast! In order to get into a position to achieve my goal, I had to work really hard. And with any challenge like this, it takes a lot of dedication and willpower. You need to do your training no matter what. You go in the rain, you go in the wind, you go in the cold (for one of my long runs it was -4oC). You go when you really don’t want to, you just suck it up and you go.
Then on the day, you focus and you get your head straight, ready for the physical and mental battle to the line. And most of all, no matter how you have felt prior to that moment, you believe the hell out of yourself. Believe, believe, believe you can do and you will.
This is just a half marathon (13.1 miles), it’s not a big deal, most people could walk it in 3hrs. But it made me feel:
A huge sense of achievement
Proud of myself
Knackered (good knackered)
Like I’d set a good example for my kids
Relieved (in a good way)
Not to mention the ongoing health and general wellbeing benefits
“And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to feel like that every now and then?”
You know when you’re having a bad day and you might say, “Gosh I wouldn’t wish this on anyone”, well this is the opposite of that. “I wish this on everyone”.
So, find your thing, your goal, your reason and go for it.
It could be anything, not just a physical challenge.
What do you like to do? Do you have a hobby? Do you paint or sew or play an instrument? What do you want to change about your life? Do you want to learn a new skill? Find something just for you and then define a goal, some kind of target to aim for, one you can quantify in some way.
Yes, I know time is our ever-dwelling nemesis, especially if you have children. So can you enlist someone to help you, so you have time to practice? A parent, a sibling or a friend? Can you do it in a lunch break at work? If you truly want to do it, you’ll find a slot somewhere.
And this isn’t a Hollywood movie, if things aren’t going great, adjust your targets and then slowly work back up to the ultimate goal.
What have you got to lose? What might you gain? The positive impact on your physical and mental wellbeing after achieving your goal, I would imagine in most cases, will be well worth any perceived risk.
So find something that makes you smile, go and do it and believe in yourself.