A few years ago, I called my college roommate, Tasha, to wish her a very happy birthday. Somewhere between the well wishes and catching each other up on our lives, she referenced our 30th birthday year: 2018.
It was still a few years away, but close enough to begin thinking about how we’d commemorate the milestone trip around the sun. Tasha, who has a Spartan Race and half marathon under her belt, suggested that we, including another roommate, Francis, run the New York City Marathon. Not quite sure what we were getting ourselves into, we each confirmed and at the close of 2017 we met to discuss how we’d qualify for the race, how we’d train and next steps surrounding our commitment. We kept each other accountable throughout the training process, checking in via group text to encourage one another to go for that morning or evening run, trading post-run recovery tips and amp’ing each other up because as the race got closer things naturally got harder.
Fast forward to Sunday, November 4—26.2 miles and five boroughs later—Francis, Tasha and I ran across the finish line in Central Park. I’m still processing the seven hours and 34 minutes it took me to accomplish the goal, but there’s so much I learned about myself throughout the journey. As I reflect on how impactful this experience was for me, here are several lessons I learned while preparing and running the New York City Marathon:
Your thoughts and words hold (major) weight.
Whatever you believe to be true is true. Your mind is a powerful tool, so before you even utter a word your thoughts have already shaped your reality. While training for the marathon, I made sure to not only prepare my body but, most importantly, my mind. I would read and recite affirmations like, “You are more than capable of running the marathon” or “You are powerful beyond measure,” and in the weeks leading up to the race would envision myself crossing the finish line. This practice came into play big time around mile 16 when my knee started giving me serious problems. I had to dig deep, reminding myself that I’d already done this before and was more than capable of finishing the race. It was tough, but mentally committing to finish helped me push through.
Listen to your body.
My training was going rather smoothly until early September when my knee started bothering me. Turns out I had developed runner’s knee, which in short describes pain around the kneecap, eight weeks shy of the race and at a time when I was in peak training mode. I had to make a decision: Do I push past the pain or give my right knee some much-needed rest? I opted for rest, but almost didn’t because of goals, deadlines and personal expectations. Had I not chosen to listen to my body, I could’ve really hurt my knee and not been able to run the race.
Support is key.
I don’t know for sure, but I’d argue that I wouldn’t have made it across the finish line without my support system. From the financial contributions my tribe made in support of my Crowdrise campaign for Harlem United, the amazing organization my roommates and I selected, to sending empowering words and tips, the support I received was abundant. That support definitely existed among Francis, Tasha and I as we prepared for the race. And on race day, with my knee, it was Francis who ran alongside me from mile 16—the treacherous Queensboro Bridge—until the end. Just when I needed additional support, she appeared. Also, family members and friends who waited hours just to give a warm hug and share a necessary word fueled me at moments when my energy was low and I needed an extra push.
I’ll admit it, I’m impatient AF. Although I wanted to run 20 miles out the gate, I had to surrender to the process and be patient with myself. Would I eventually be able to run a sizeable amount of miles? Absolutely! However, I had to work my way up to that and be patient with my progress.
I Google virtually everything, so it was no different when it came to my marathon prep. I’d never run a marathon before and that meant I was starting at square one. I Googled different training programs, best running sneakers, must-eat recovery foods and even looked up “everything you need to know about running a marathon” more times than I can count. The results were plentiful. I’m convinced I’ve read every Runner’s World, Active, Shape and Greatist article that’s ever been published on marathons. Search and you’ll definitely find what you need.
While I didn’t go into this experience with set expectations, I crossed the finish line a more seasoned runner and person. I find comfort in knowing that the lessons learned will benefit me throughout the journey we call life.