21 1/2 km.

When was the last time you pushed your body to its limits? When was the last time you set a goal for yourself and achieved it? Can you remember a moment when you felt so proud of yourself you didn’t stop smiling for the next several days?

August 13th 2016, the day I ran my first half marathon. 21 and a half kilometers of: joy, excitement, happiness, tiredness, fatigue, hunger, thirst, pain, love, appreciation, and SO MUCH MORE! This was the first time in my life I have felt so fulfilled with not only gratitude but also pride in myself.

My journey leading up to the race was nothing compared to how I had planned it to be. It all began October 2015 when two of my girlfriends and I decided to sign up for the Vancouver Sea wheeze half marathon. Since University had torn us all to different cities and our schedules never seemed to line up we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to see each other. The catch, only one of us had ever run a half marathon….

For me, running has always been something I enjoyed doing. Whether it’s running through the forest, alongside the ocean or swerving through the buzzing streets of the city. It has been an outlet when times have been tough and comforting when I have needed to find clarity. Running has been something I have done off and on whether just for pleasure or as part of a training plan but never would I have imagined myself training as a true runner.

With a busy work schedule and hot summer weather creating time to exercise proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated. My original four-month training plan turned into scattered runs with the odd gym routine thrown in. Which then evolved into an intensive six-week running plan that became one long run every Saturday for six weeks (each week increasing my distance by 2km). Nonetheless, although I did not train as hard as I had wanted nor did I stick to much of a plan, I felt ready. Instead of focusing on my failure of not adhering to my schedule I focused instead on my achievement of taking each day as it came and created new ways to reach the same end goal. Whether or not my training went as I had intended I got there.

The run was nothing short of extraordinary. Everything from the venue to the entertainment, the free swag to the many high fives and hugs given throughout the race. Every part, no matter how small it may have seemed, was integral to this incredible experience.

The run started with alternating heats of runners, each group getting a chance to explode off the line as smoke cannons went off and while people cheered over the upbeat music playing in the background. The run took place along Vancouver’s famous seawall which proved to be more spectacular than anything I could have ever imagined. The way the pink sky transformed to a vibrant shade of blue seemed like a work of art. The quite city streets electrified with excitement and overflowed with inspiration. Faces were filled with determination while bodies glowed with achievement. We were doing it. We were doing what some people only ever dream of doing, pushing our bodies to their limits and in return watching them surpass any expectation.

The first few kilometres were a breeze, they seemed to fly by as I was encapsulated by the incredible scenery and atmosphere. But as the mileage increase so did the difficulty. I had two options: take a short break and walk (something I am not against but before the race told myself I would not do) or push through. I chose the latter. Each stride came as a new challenge but each distant cheer encouraged my body to keep going. Only 4.5km left. As I kept pushing myself each kilometre began to feel shorter than the previous, I slowly gained back some speed and fell back into a groove. 21 km, I could see the end. I gave one last push, used any once of energy I happened to have left. Sooner than I could even think I had made it. 21 and a half km. I did it. I looked around me, taking in this magical experience, memorizing every little detail so I could play it again later. As I did this the biggest smile crept across my face, as if my brain and body had just realized what they had done. I don’t think I stopped smiling that day, or even the next, flash-forward a month later and the thought still brings me so much joy.

I do not know what my future in running holds, whether I will compete in more half-marathons or one-day graduate to a full marathon. But for now I will enjoy this sense of accomplishment and hold closely this new feeling of pride for myself. I hope that one day YOU are able to find something outside your norm that pushes you both mentally and physically and that you crush it. Because there is truly no better feeling than being overwhelmed with pride for yourself.

With love,

S.

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