If you asked me that question on about mile 8 or 9 of a training walk, I'd probably be wondering the answer to that myself. But once I finish the walk and get some nourishment and some cool air blowing on my face, I can give a better answer.
Back in 2001, I think it was, I witnessed my first marathon in person as a volunteer at a water station for the Country Music Marathon. I was completely caught up in the excitement and awe of watching the runners, walkers and wheel-chair racers. At that time I didn't consider it a possibility for myself to complete a race like that, but it was inspiring nonetheless.
A few years later, after volunteering at other marathons and walking a 5K or two, the Country Music Marathon added a half marathon (only 13.1 miles) and more people I knew began to participate. The thought crossed my mind that I might consider doing it myself, but I still wasn't ready to commit the time or money.
Fast-forward to 2011. A friend from church was running the CMM half and I organized a few people to go cheer her on (we missed seeing her, which was a bummer). Being back along the course cheering the racers reminded me of the excitement that surrounds a marathon, and I started thinking more seriously about how I might want to do it someday. The clincher came when the friends I was with (and watching) started all talking about signing up for the Nashville Women's Half Marathon later in the year. Some of the proceeds from that race go to charity, which made it more appealing to me, and there aren't as many people involved as the CMM.
Well, it's now later in the year and I am three weeks away from walking my first half marathon! I have learned a lot during the training process, both practically-speaking and personally about myself.
- I had to get to the point where walking a half marathon was something that I wanted to do for myself, to see if I could do it. I had to want to do this bad enough to pay the money and commit to the training.
- I have had some fear and anxiety during this process, mainly before I would walk the distances that I had never done before. God has helped me through each of those times and has given me tools (scripture, music and sermons/teaching on my ipod, prayer) to get me through it.
- I have discovered that I need short goals to go for as I reach for bigger ones. For example, when I walked my first 10-mile training walk, my route took me from my house to Target and back. When I crested a hill and saw the Target sign, it got me motivated to go all the way to the sign. Then when I turned around, I knew I could get back to the Shell station, and then from there it was just three more miles. I actually said to myself, "I can do this!"
- I am more motivated and have more fun when I can walk with someone else, although for most of my training walks, I've been by myself. I look forward to the race day when there will be LOTS of people around me!
- I have surprised myself with my perseverence and determination. There have been times when I wanted to quit, but something kept me going and I was so glad!
- Hydration and nutrition are ESSENTIAL on long walks. On one of early longer walks, I didn't bring enough water and had not learned the trick of brining a snack, so I wasn't doing so great at the end of that walk!
- Good shoes and socks are also a must! I have done some minor damage to my feet by walking in sub-par shoes (they might be fine for shorter walks, but don't "go the distance"). Some of the wear and tear on your feet is unavoidable, but I am looking forward to a good pedicure after this is all over!
- I have needed help from others who have done this before and who know more about training than I do (did). I have been able to get through my subsequent longer training walks because I have taken advice from others and have worn the right socks, slathered my feet in vaseline and brought adequate water and snacks. It makes a WORLD of difference and if I hadn't asked for tips, I'd still be back at mile seven!
- I am going to need some cheerleaders along the way. Like I said, I've been doing a lot of the training on my own and have done fine, but I will welcome friends to come to different points along the course on race day (Sept. 24) and cheer us on. And at the finish line too!
- This is a BIG deal to me. Once I bit the bullet and paid my money, it became real and I was in for the long haul. So getting to the finish line is going to be a big accomplishment in my mind and I can't wait to see what that feels like. And I really want one of those "13.2" stickers for my car!