The Chicago Marathon 2019 will mark my third marathon overall – all taking place in the city that I love most. In 2016 this endeavor began as a bucket list item – running 26 miles (don’t forget about the .2) when I was 26 years old and crossing a marathon off of my list as one of my greatest accomplishments. Throughout training for my first marathon I was exhausted and anxious while putting way too much pressure on myself. I had convinced myself (and others) that this was going to be a one time occurrence only. Well, that all changed the moment I conquered the dreaded uphill turn into Grant Park and crossed the finish line for the very first time. I signed up for my next marathon before I was even fully recovered from the first. I found a special kind of love in marathon running, and more importantly, I found a new level of commitment to myself in the training.
There really is something to be said about dedicating 4+ months to push yourself to limits you never thought were even possible. To wake up before the sun at 4:00 in the morning and complete a double digit run before anyone you know has even had their alarm clock go off. What is even more rewarding is the fact that once accomplished I find myself saying things like “Oh, I only have to run 15 miles?” Only 15 miles?! What on earth?! But it is true with everything in life – it only sounds impossible until you do it.
The key to all of this, however, starts before one foot even hits the pavement. It starts before you even jet off to pick your new pair training shoes or designate your favorite route. Training begins the second you commit to a goal you set for yourself. THIS IS KEY. It is far too easy for us to get excited over a new adventure just to start it and stop it all in the same breath. That is why you need to stare your goal in the face every single day and have something to answer to when that goal is not met. This may not seem as important at the beginning when just pure adrenaline is getting you through your first few training runs. It is going to be the days where you want to eat your whole fridge, can’t bend down far enough to sit on the couch, and are sweating in places you didn’t even realize were attached to your body that you are going to need this goal to fall back on. We will have plenty of discussions on this (don’t you worry) but I have laid out a very simplistic foundation below. I am not reinventing the wheel here – this I know! But a little refresher never hurt anyone…
- Write down your goal; Stare at it. Hang it up in your closet. Post it on social media. Tell it your best friend. Display it as your phone background. Place your goal somewhere you cannot ignore it.
- Think about all of the obstacles that you are going to have to overcome to achieve this goal; Be realistic! Be thorough! Do your research!
- Accept; Accept each and every challenge that lies ahead of you.
- Commit; Do not commit until you get too busy or an obstacle makes it too difficult. Commit until you can cross this goal off of your list – or bucket list! No matter how long it takes.
- Revisit your goal constantly (I bet you thought that commit was going to be the last item on the list!); Daily! Every time you open your phone! Every time you walk into your closet!
- Rethink about all of the obstacles that you are going to have to overcome to achieve this goal; Are you off of your timeline? Are you going to have to put in more work into a shorter period of time? Have more obstacles presented themselves than previously known?
- Recommit; Every single day.
Never stop committing. Every time this goal gets harder to obtain you should get more serious about the commitment you made to yourself. Now, I understand that people hold themselves accountable in all sorts of ways. Sometimes having a buddy to achieve the goal with can assist. Sometimes telling your spouse to chime in and keep you accountable can help. For me, for example, letting my friends and family know my goal (whether that be through conversation or some hint of a social media post) aides me in holding myself accountable. Even if they do not say anything in return I know that other people have heard my goal. It makes it real. It makes the possibility of not reaching my goal real and there is no way that I am going to let myself come back and say that goal was not met. Whatever it is that helps drive you – do it.
Through this, though, know that the strongest commitment you make is to yourself. When it is mile 24 and everything in your body is telling you to stop moving the only voice in the world that is going to keep your legs going is yours. Your voice. The one that for 4 months of training runs has been suffering and aching – asking yourself why on earth you got yourself into this in the first place. That is the only voice that is going to tell your legs that you have come this far. That this is your victory lap. That you earned this. Commit. Even in those last two miles – you need to recommit. Start training your mind how to NOW! After all, running is 90% mental.