“…The whole idea is not to beat the other runners. The competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”
– George Sheehan
It was just a year ago when I casually started to run. And I really mean casually. It would probably be 1 or 2 kilometres in the morning, a couple of days a week. Very quickly I realised that I was enjoying running, and in particular three elements of it:
1. Appreciating the nature, or the environment I was running in.
2. The inspired thoughts that would come to me whilst running; by the way, I never run wearing earphones – it’s just myself and my thoughts.
3. The feeling I had after finishing a run: a bit tired and sweaty, but at the same time joyful, smiling and optimistic. Must be the endorphins, or as Tony Robbins says “emotion created by motion”!
The 10k prelude
Before long, and because I enjoyed how I felt while running, I decided to participate in a race – my first 10k run, for which I’ve written a blog post about here. The initial reason why I did decide to take up that challenge was self-discipline; to push myself consistently towards achieving a goal. But after a while, it had nothing to do with discipline anymore – it was pure enjoyment. When I finished that race (and at a time that was below the goal I had set for myself), I knew straight away that I needed to take it to the next step – and the next step was a half marathon.
“I don’t run to add days to my life, I run to add life to my days.”
– Ronald Rook
Raising money for charity
When I tried to enroll into the Ipswich half marathon, there were no spaces left. It took a bit of perseverance and a some help from my friend and fellow runner Muralee to find a spot in the half marathon, by agreeing to raise money for a charity. In this particular case, the charity was “Stroke association” – a charity that seeks to raise awareness about stroke, which is a preventable disease, and that also offfer support to stroke survivors. I am truly grateful to them – without them, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in the half marathon.
I knew from the very beginning that training for the half marathon should be done consistently and with discipline, if I wanted to do a good run. I did a lot of research online and I also consulted other runners; the most valuable advice was given to me by my brother-in-law Nikos, an experienced and frequent runner who has run the Athens marathon (for those of you that don’t know, Athens marathon apart from being the “original” marathon, is also considered to be one of the toughest due to the elevation gain).
I made an 11-week training schedule that you see in the picture above. It served both as a training tool, and also as a constant visual reminder of my upcoming run. I had set a target for myself to complete the half marathon in under 2 hours – a target fairly ambitious for someone that had never run a half marathon before!
Somehow, I knew that I would accomplish it.
“The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test the limits of the human heart.” – Bill Bowerman
The challenges along the way
From time to time during my preparation, I would post updates about my progress on social media. Here’s one I posted a 3 weeks before the race:
“3 weeks left until the Ipswich half-marathon, and today I did a nice long 15k run, with the pace that I plan to run the race. My goal is to finish in under 2 hours, a rather ambitious goal for someone that has never ran a half-marathon before!
Six months ago, I would ran a mile or a couple of kilometres from time to time – that was all. My shift started when I made a *decision* to run the Colchester 10k race; that gave me the determination to practice, to improve, and to have a goal ahead of me. Just after I finished that 10k race, I knew straight away that I can’t stop there, I must carry on – and the half-marathon was the next goal I set myself.
Going from running 10k to 21k is a understandably demanding task that requires a different kind of training, and mostly a different kind of mentality! Creating a 12-week training schedule and sticking with it, seeing my progress and also seeing my bad days, when the last thing I wanted to do was to go out and run; the feeling of achievement when I went out and did it anyway was exhilarating 🙂
However, one thing that is not going well at all is my fundraising for charity. Maybe I set a very ambitious target; maybe people just don’t relate to the specific charity I chose to support. Whatever the reason, all I can do is remind everyone who’s reading this that I am raising money for “Stroke” association, a charity that believes that strokes can and should be prevented, and that everyone has the right to make the best recovery they can after stroke. Link to donating below, and I thank you in advance for your generosity.”
And here’s another one, just 2 weeks before the run:
“2 weeks left until the half marathon. It’s funny – it was only one year ago that I started running. At that time, the thought that I would be doing a 10k run easily as a practice run would have sounded absurd! But like everything in life, consistency of action leads to results.”
The day of the race!
There was a tremendous buzz and excitement in the air as we all gathered out of Ipswich Town football stadium for the start. They said it was 4,000 runners participating! In all honesty everything in that morning before the run was kind of blurry; I couldn’t wait to start the race, and I couldn’t concentrate much on other things.
The race itself was immensely pleasurable. My training payed off and I knew from the first 5-10 kilometers that I would smash my goal. There were thousands of spectators along the way, cheering us and encouraging us, and the race organisers had done a superb job.
About 15 kilometers into the race, I knew for sure that I would do under 2 hours. I was not feeling tired at all; as a matter of fact I was having the so-called “runner’s high” – such an exhilarating feeling to have!
My finishing time was 1:57:20, and I was extremely proud and happy for it!
Lessons I’ve learned from my first half marathon
“There is something magical about running; after a certain distance, it transcends the body. Then a bit further, it transcends the mind. A bit further yet, and what you have before you, laid bare, is the soul.” – Kristin Armstrong
- Set ambitious goals for yourself and then set a plan (roadmap) on how you’re going to achieve them.
- Believe in yourself that you can do it.
- Find knowledge and information. Ask people that have done what you are trying to do.
- Raising money for charity may not be easy, but it sure gives a tremendous sense of contribution.
- Revel in the glow of your achievement – before you (inevitably) set the next goal!
My next steps in running? Another half marathon (doing an even better time), and I’m very seriously considering taking the enormous challenge of a marathon! Watch this space 🙂