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Secrets no one tells you about running a marathon

First year out of college, overly ambitious, obnoxious Type-A Amanda decides that a full time job (working 12 hour days 5 days a week - i might add), just wasn't enough. Nope, I also needed to be super fit and have the best body, which required me to lose about 15 pounds. After working out consistently in the gym for a while and not losing as much weight as I wanted (because my body is not designed to be 110 lbs and therefore was rejecting my efforts) I decided to sign up for a 15K race with a friend. 

I am not a runner. I was the last kid around the football field when we had to run the mile in gym class. Actually, I was the kid that was so slow that people lapped me, so I intentionally tried to stay back so it looked like I was on lap 4, when I was actually only on lap 3. Yea, that bad.

To be fair, I have since realized that school's do a TERRIBLE job of teaching kids how to actually run. Setting them off once a year to sprint a mile is not (in my humble opinion) a great way to get anyone to love running. I would imagine that if you were on the track team, the coach probably did a much better job explaining running, and how you aren't supposed to sprint long distances, and that it can actually be enjoyable. But, that's not what happened to me, so we're back at me sucking at running.

I think I signed up for a 5K in college because some people I knew were doing it. I suffered through, but I in no way enjoyed it. So signing up for this 15K was a really great idea for non-runner me.

This time, I actually decided to get on the internet and search for how to train. I got some tips, printed out a training plan, and followed it to a tee. To my surprise, running started to get easier.

Dare I say, I actually started to enjoy it?

The day of the 15K race was great. Running with a friend was super helpful, and she even commented that I was a great running partner. (ME??) We finished the race with a time we were both super proud of. I couldn't believe I did it! I ran the furthest I had ever run, with tons of people watching, didn't stop, and ACTUALLY ENJOYED IT!

This was a huge win in my book. I felt so accomplished. I wanted more.  Naturally I decided to normal progression from a 15K was a full marathon. Half marathon? Ain't nobody got time for that.

Hyped up on endorphin's and beginners brain - i started training for the marathon. I lived in Chicago and decided I would run there since it was known for being a good race. I start marathon training, which wasn't bad since I was already relatively fit from training for the 15K. 

Only problem was I still had the "diet" mindset. Deep down, my ultimate driver for running the marathon wasn't to feel accomplished. It wasn't to get fit, or beat a certain time. If I truly examined what my motive was, it was purely to get skinny. There, I said it. As awful as that is, I was sick of being the "muscular" girl. I wasn't fat, but I wasn't rail thin - and I wanted to be rail thin dammit! 

Anyone who knows anything about running knows that training for a marathon and dieting are two opposing philosophies. When training for a marathon, you need to fuel your body properly, and eat quite a bit more than you are used to. When dieting, you don't try to run 18 miles while cutting carbs, its just dumb. But that's exactly what I did. Training for a marathon and trying to get as skinny as possible was a recipe for disaster. 

I made it through half of the training before my body started yelling at me. I was STARVING. ALL THE TIME. I couldn't stop thinking about food, but i kept depriving myself. Finally, 4 weeks before the race I said F**K it, and started shoveling donuts, burgers and fries into my starved body. I couldn't stand being so hungry any more. I gained about 8 lbs right before the race, and it slowed me down significantly.  

I finished the race, and was proud of myself, but realized that I had no fricken' clue what I was doing, and probably should have gotten a coach, or at least trained with someone who knew what they were doing.

As some of you may know, I have also suffered from depression for most of my adult life. Running made me so happy. It released endorphins, made me feel accomplished, and kept me so busy that it was hard to be depressed. Little did I know that even normal people without depression can get the blues after completing a marathon. 

After the race, I figured I'd take a week off - let my body rest, enjoy some food, and not worry about training. I got bonked over the head with HEAVY depression and feel into a downward spiral. A week turned into a month, the month turned into two, then winter rolled around and there was no way I was running outside in the snow. The treadmill? Kill me before making me run on that death trap. Winter turned to Spring, and I vowed to start running again. I tried, I really tried, but my body was just telling me no. I would run maybe 500 feet and just HAVE TO STOP.

Looking back, it was a combination of things:

First, my body was completely rebounding. I had never really run before that 15K. I went from being a non-runner, to running a full marathon in under 8 months. That my friends, is not very smart.

Second, and I've said this so many times before, your MIND has to be in the right place. I kept telling myself I was a failure, I hated running, I would never be good at it. I just ran a freaking marathon and this is what I was telling myself?! This is how depression works. It makes untrue things seem so real that you believe them. It SUCKS.

A whole year went by, and I hadn't run more than .25 miles in a single jaunt. I kept telling myself I hated running - and guess what? I truly started hated running. Without even doing it! It's really amazing how much control your mind has over your body.

I finally decided to start working out again, slowly. I would do anything but run - bike, swim, lift weights, etc. After easing myself back into working out, my mindset started to shift a bit. I didn't need to LOVE running, but I didn't need to HATE it either. The more you tell yourself you don't like something, the more you will actually not like it. I've learned that about a lot of things in life. If you just open up your mind to the possibility of something, you might actually surprise yourself. You don't have to LOVE everything, and you don'd have to HATE everything either. Some things just are what they are. LET IT BE. 

I just wanted to share my struggles, because surely some of you have faced similar situations. It doesn't always have to be all or nothing. 

P.S. I'm back on the running train and can honestly say I kind of enjoy it. I've realized that I don't love running itself, but I love all of the aspects about running - I love how it makes me feel, I love being outside, I love getting lost in my music or a podcast, I love seeing new sights on foot and exploring new neighborhoods, I love running with my dog. When you re-frame a situation you view as "bad" into something you can perceive as "good", your whole world will shift. 

Tell me below: How do you feel about running? What's something in your life that you don't like doing that you could reframe as something positive? I'd love to hear your thoughts and struggles. 

 

Health, happiness, and maybe some running,

Amanda