There are always those moments at some point during marathon or half marathon training, a weight loss journey, parenting, overcoming addiction, aspiring towards your dream job – really any lengthy journey in life – when we start to doubt ourselves and our ability to achieve our goal.
I am reaching that point in my training for the New York City Marathon where something that I do or something that happens to me now could directly affect me on race day – an illness, injury, skipping a stretch, missing a run, you name it. It always starts to scare me when I get to the point where I no longer have enough time left in training to make up missed miles or recover from an injury.
Marathon training, and any journey towards a goal, is a journey filled with ups and downs. We live for those moments of accomplishment, when everything seems to be going perfectly and we are right on track to hit our goal. But at some point along the way, inevitably, we will stumble and begin to wonder whether or not our goal is realistically achievable. These moments come and go, sometimes sticking around longer than others, but it is how we handle them that shows our true character.
I am a firm believer that EVERYBODY is capable of accomplishing their dreams. I truly believe that anybody can run a marathon, and it makes me sad when I hear someone who is perfectly healthy tell me that they could never run that far. We have the power to control what our lives become; we are born into this crazy life with no set destiny. As we grow up, we develops skills and talents, hobbies and interests, that are unique and set us apart. We discover passions and experience rejections, and throughout our journey we are blessed with the ability to change our circumstances. And in the darkest moments where we feel stuck and see no way out, we always have the power to change our mindset.
One of the things that keeps me coming back to marathon training again and again, is that is teaches and reinforces two of the most valuable skills in life: patience and perseverance. One of my biggest weaknesses in life, is my lack of patience. I am all about immediate gratification – if I decide I want something, I want it now. I struggle with waiting around for things and can’t stand it when there is nothing I can do to make it happen sooner. Patience is something that I am constantly striving to improve upon; a journey that has also presented me with it’s fair share of ups and downs.
Marathon training is all about delayed gratification. We train for weeks and months on end, always hoping that the work we put in now will be worth it on race day. We slowly build up our mileage and increase our speed as we hope to see these improvements pay off. As we train away while patiently waiting for race day, we find ourselves conquering unpredictable challenges and stumbling upon unforeseen road blocks. As physical as a marathon is, our mental strength is what sets us apart. The ability to persevere through these challenges will make or break us on race day. We have the choice to either give up when the going gets tough, or grow from our mistakes and learn from powering through them.
This past week was especially challenging for me in my training. This was week 17 out of 20 in training for the NYC Marathon, and it was the highest mileage of the entire training plan. My mid week runs were filled with less than perfect weather, laziness, and aches and pains in my legs. The moments when I set out for a run and my supposed-to-be-easy 4 miler felt like a marathon in itself really made me start to doubt whether or not I could complete my 20 miler this weekend, let alone 26 in just three weeks.
These moments are always the times when I need to focus on the big picture, the goal I am striving to achieve, and remind myself of my progress. I look back at training logs and glance through all the runs I’ve accomplished. That 8 miler that turned into a 4 miler because it rained so hard I couldn’t see? Those 4 miles I actually ran proved to me how tough I was. That 14 miler where I walked every single mile and felt faint at the end? Those 14 miles reminded me how to fuel properly and make the next week’s 16 feel like a breeze.
We learn something so valuable in each of those moments of doubt. When we choose to keep going, we are strengthening not just our bodies but our minds. We prove to ourselves how tough we are, and that no road block is going to get in our way. When that road block causes a change to our plans, we set a new pathway to get there. And when we stumble upon something that really makes us question our capabilities, a curve ball which life throws that seems impossible to recover from, we change our attitude and adjust the way we look at it.
The progress we make come from those moments where we grow and learn, not the moments when everything goes our way. Marathon training, along with any journey in life towards a goal, show us who we really are. It is in the moments where the going gets tough that we see what kind of a person we really are. Are we strong enough to make it through this, or so weak that we crumble and give up? Maybe we give up for a moment, but then we pick ourselves up and have the courage to start all over again.
If you are struggling with self doubt and unsure whether or not you can do it, look back through your progress. Remind yourself of everything you have conquered, and just how far you have come. Whether you think you’ve made progress or think you are still in the exact same place, you will be surprised at what you find. Read through your training log or journal, look at pictures and videos – and prove to yourself that who you are today is not the same person you were when you started.
No matter where you are in your training, your journey, your progress – at some point you are going to doubt yourself. You’ll be faced head on with the opportunity to give up and say it was just impossible, or the opportunity to make something of the situation and prove that nothing can stop you.
Do you want to learn just how strong you are? Keep going, it will be worth it.