During one particular night out my boyfriend at the time, now fiancé mentioned he wanted to train for the IMT Des Moines Marathon. I thought, “Well that makes sense. You were a state-champion runner in high school and ran track in college. You’ll crush the marathon.” I fully supported him. However, when he asked me to run with him my thoughts changed to, “I’m TERRIBLE at running and I don’t like it. Why would I do that to myself?” Luckily, this was during the time in our relationship where I was still trying to impress him. Reluctantly, I said yes but with the exception that we would train separately and I would only run the half-marathon. (I did NOT want him seeing my sad excuse of a running form.)
I remember the anxiety I felt when I put together my first training plan. “How do you even train for a half-marathon?” “What type of shoes do I need?” “How do I fuel myself?” “Do I need to incorporate strength training while running?” These were just a few of the questions running through my head at the time. I had zero knowledge of how I was going to complete this race. After hours of searching the Internet and a frantic call to my mom, I ended up with a 20-week training plan that slowly progressed me to 13.1 miles. I procrastinated starting to train as long as I could. I avoided it at all costs until I realized I had missed the start date of my program! I wish I had made the conscious decision to just begin. I was so afraid of starting; I ended up wasting a lot of time that I could’ve used to improve my running.
My first run was on a treadmill inside, at the gym, with little natural light. It was the LONGEST 9 minutes of my life. I was ready to give up right then and there. I thought there was no way I would be able to run a half-marathon. For some reason, I persisted and after a week
of the most boring treadmill workouts of my life, I decided to try running outside. Within the first 2 minutes of switching from the treadmill to trails, my views on running changed. My anxiety and stress levels went down exponentially as I started to run in Waterworks Park and around Gray’s Lake. Running, while surrounded by nature and constantly changing scenery, gave me the entertainment I needed to prevent boredom as my mileage increased.
While running in nature vastly improved my attitude towards running, I still felt like running was a chore. I often felt bored after running more than 3 miles. I decided to start listening to podcasts instead of music, which helped initially. I was able to run 5 miles without getting bored or drifting off. One night, I was watching a snap-chat story and an ad popped up titled “How To Make Running Fun.” I figured it couldn’t hurt, so I clicked on it. The first tip the author provided was to ditch the headphones and run without any distractions. I thought this author was crazy. Running would be SO boring without music or podcasts, but then I remembered I was already bored while listening to music and podcasts. I decided to give it a try. I’m not going to lie; it took a couple of runs to get used to running without any distractions. However, the more I ran without my headphones, the more I enjoyed running.
Without headphones, I was able to step away from the craziness of my day, detach from the constant stress of “what do I need to do next,” and detoxify my mind from all the clutter. Running became a meditation and creative outlet more than a workout. Without my headphones, I was able to get into a running rhythm and was more aware of how my body responded to every step I took. Because of this my form improved, my times improved, and I never was bored! I ended up running the half-marathon and marathon the year after WITHOUT headphones and LOVED it! Being alone with my thoughts sparked creative solutions to problems I was facing that day. It also helped inspire content for my health and wellness Youtube account Apothecary Mindset. I began to look forward to running more than any other activity I had that day.
As my mileage started to increase, the muscle definition in my arms, back, and legs started to decrease. I developed pain in my upper back, right hip, and calf. Like any stubborn runner, I decided to wait until the pain became too bothersome to go and see a physical therapist. He explained how my body was getting rid of muscles I wasn’t “using” on a day-to-day basis. I was so focused on running I hadn’t incorporated any strength or cross training exercises to strengthen other muscles necessary to prevent injuries. I immediately began to lift weight at least 3 times per week focusing on my back, core, and gluteal muscles based on the advice of my physical therapist. Within 3 weeks I was pain-free and never had another injury throughout my half-marathon and marathon training. I focused on glute activation exercises for my hip, stability exercises for my core, and strengthening exercises for my back/arms.
After crossing the finish line of the half-marathon and then marathon a year after, I realized how far off my expectations of what I thought I was capable of, from what I am actually capable of. Before I challenged myself to run the half marathon, I believed my body and mind had limits. It took pushing myself, completing something I thought I could never do to realize how much our minds trick us into thinking we are less than we truly are. Yes, it sounds cheesy, but I wish I would’ve known how remarkable and adaptive the human body and mind is. We are so much more capable than we make ourselves out to be. Confidence and consistency is key to achieving anything we set our minds to. With these 5 strategies you’re sure to take on your next running challenge with enthusiasm and self-assurance.