When I started running regularly in December 2011, in training for a half marathon with my (then) boyfriend, I was nervous. My boyfriend had done a marathon, as well as had run other long distances. I had never run more than 7 miles. The 7 mile threshold loomed in front of me as we progressed through the weeks of our half marathon training schedule.
We did 5 miles for our long run one weekend. The next weekend, 6. Then the 7 mile threshold came. Could I do it? Would I collapse before the finish line, hurl my breakfast or otherwise be forced to stop due to any of worst-case-scenario things my mind had dreamed up?
I remember the heat – we were in San Antonio for New Year’s, and the weather was hot, much warmer than the moderate winter of San Francisco. The day was warm as we stretched on the sidewalk, getting our muscles ready with toe touches and high steps.
“Okay, you can do this,” I said, trying to psyche myself out.
My boyfriend offered words of encouragement as well. “You got this, Jen – just a seven mile day, nothing special,” words meant to relax me and which somewhat did the trick. After five minutes of stretching, we were off, running through the uneven sidewalks and hot asphalt, which lead us to the park at the interior of the neighborhood complex.
We zigged and zagged through the rocky dirt trail, which offered us a few rocks in our path – just enough to make it interesting. Fellow runners passed us from behind and greeted us from the front as they ran the opposite way, so we were not alone in our journey. Low hanging trees and shrubs allowed us occasionally shade from the sun, which was already hot even at 9 in the morning.
A piercing sideache struck around the 5 mile mark. Would this cause me to stop?
Luckily, it soon passed. We reached the 5 1/2 mile mark, then 6 miles.
We dashed through the path, out of the woods, past the trees, meeting the same black asphalt again as we left the trail, greeting a small hill. Pushing hard, breathing rhythmically in an attempt to conserve my breath, the two of us ran together.
Success, we reached the top of the hill! Again, we were among houses, sidewalks. A distance traffic light flashed green.
Finally, the 7 mile mark: we decided that the traffic light would be our finish point.
My boyfriend ran ahead, his long legs carrying him quickly to the end. I lagged behind, pounding pavement… nearly there… until I threw in my final burst of energy to make it to the finish.
It felt good to reach the end; I stopped shortly after tapping the side of the traffic light pole, bending over, hands to my knees, steading my shaking thighs.
I had done it – surpassing the threshold of the longest run that I had ever done. Who knew? Maybe this mean I could run a half marathon. At that time, it was still to be seen – but if I could achieve something that I had not yet done to that point, I knew there were many more unknowns I could tackle in my life.
Have you ever accomplished something that you had previously decided was impossible? Have you been able to surpass your own self-imposed thresholds?