The Road to 26.2: Why I Run

The Road to 26.2: Why I Run

By Heather Nelson

Here’s some of the responses I’ve got since committing to running a marathon: “You’re crazy!” “I get bored after running a mile!” “Well…good luck!” “A marathon?! Really?!”

The words of encouragement and well wishes make the 26.2 miles seem more real, daunting. I’ve started to feel more pressure, and I thought to myself, “Why am I running a marathon?”

It’s not entirely about the 26.2 miles. Sure, I want to complete a marathon in my lifetime, but it’s about how I feel when I run. This is something that most of my friends haven’t considered when I’ve opened up about running. I always feel crazy for liking something that a lot of people seem to despise. And, in all honesty, I don’t love every run. But running is just one form of exercise I’ve really learned to appreciate. It makes me feel good…

So, here are the reasons why I run (even if running sounds despicable to you):

  1. It boosts my self-esteem. There’s nothing quite like exceeding all expectations one set for herself. Two years ago, I never imagined being able to run more than four or five miles. I never would’ve run outside or signed up for races. Finishing a run leaves me feeling high — and that positive energy lasts for hours afterward. Runner’s high is real! 

    The greater the endorphin surge in these brain areas, the more euphoric the runners reported feeling.  — from ‘How to Achieve a Runner’s High’

    2. It combats depression/reduces stress. Depression takes away my desire to move. Gearing up for a run is normally the last thing I want to do when I’m not feeling my best, but I lace up my Brooks anyway. Running helps manage my depression. Acting opposite to my emotion is just one way I attempt to end the negative cycle. Distance runs help me to combat problems nagging at me — sometimes I simply acknowledge the thoughts and other times I actively search for a solution. Short, speed runs are perfect for clearing up aggression and tension.

3. I sleep better. The nights that I get the best sleep? Nights after I’ve exhausted myself with a run. I’m actually able to turn off my brain and just sleep.

4. It builds confidence. As mentioned before, I’ve achieved more than I ever thought possible with running. I solely compete with myself in an attempt to continually improve. Running allows me to grow stronger, more empowered with each step.  It’s as simple as that.

5. Running has taught me to be mentally tough. There’s nothing worse than running against the wind (except maybe humidity). A runner’s mind is forced to adapt and focus on overcoming obstacles. It’s easy to concentrate on the negative. Training the mind to dispel doubts is a runner’s biggest strength.

Running isn’t just great for physical health, it’s a great exercise for mental health, too. This is why I run.

The Road to 26.2

The Road to 26.2

By Heather Nelson

I signed up for my first marathon. That’s right — 26.2 miles. The full thing.

It’s been a dream of mine (what? I know…) to run one since I learned of the Boston Marathon in 2005. I was 12, then. The Duck Boat Tour took us down Boylston Street, the tour guide announced the street marks the end of the world-famous marathon.

Thirteen years ago, I wasn’t even kind of a runner. I hated running. I only ran because coaches forced me to during soccer practice. The coaches said it was “conditioning”.  I believed it was torture.

A few years ago, I picked up running (my favorite form of cardio) in an attempt to whip myself into shape. Running seemed like the cure I needed to catapult myself into “fitness.” While this wasn’t 100 percent true, I found that running became an outlet for stress. It started with short runs everyday. After I mastered the short runs, I signed up for a 5K, then a 10K…. Since then, I’ve finished a total of seven runs — three 5Ks, 2 10Ks (plus another one this weekend), a 10-mile run, and a half marathon. And I’m always aiming to better myself, to push myself.

If you run, you’re a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far.”

  • John Bingham

I don’t run to “win”. But that’s the beauty of it — it’s just me and the pavement. At the beginning of the new year, I made it a goal to run a marathon by the end of 2018. As the months ticked away, I started to kick myself for not actually committing.

So here I am, 13 years later, prepping for an ultimate test. I have no doubts I’ll be pushed to my limits. Running isn’t for the weak. It’s a sport that demands so much from body and mind — that’s half the struggle. Ten more miles seems daunting in the moment, but with the right mindset it comes and goes with the breeze.

Through the next 15 weeks, I hope to share my experiences with training. The ups and downs. The lessons learned. The continuous trials of tackling 26-plus miles. One step, one breath, one mile at a time.

 

I look forward to sharing my journey with you. If you have any suggestions, questions, etc, feel free to leave a comment.