The Back Of The Pack- Why Do I Keep Doing This?
by Amber Hadigan
It’s Sunday morning. Long run day. In my training for a half marathon, there is one day of the week I both look forward to and dread the most: the long run. At this point, I am up to 10 miles. At over 12 minutes a mile, it takes me over two hours to complete. It is the dead of winter, so it is cold and dark until 7am.
“What made me decide to become a runner? What possessed me to think this was a good idea?” I’ll say this in my head and even to my husband when the daunting task seems too overwhelming to overcome.
But eventually, when the sun comes up and it starts to warm up a little, I dress, make my way out the door, and down the road. I hit the corner after my warmup and start my GPS, and the clock ticks away.
The first mile is always the worst. My legs start to rebel and my mind keeps asking “Why?” But soon I get into the rhythm of it. Listening to my iPod, I have a playlist of songs that both inspire me to continue and that distract me from what I am doing. And after the first mile, I find myself enjoying the ride. The scenery on the country road I run on is beautiful, and as I pass each landmark, I feel more confident. My legs feel great, my mind and my body are one. I feel like I can fly.
But there are still moments, even with these great feelings, when I question what I can do. The further I run, the more these thoughts go through my mind. I have certain tricks I use to convince my mind that I can continue. In the first half of my run, I only think about the first half. “It’s only a mile till I can turn around.” “Only a half mile…” And then, when I get to the point that my GPS says 5 miles, I cheer myself on. “I made it! Half way done! It’s all cake from here.”
There is something magical about the half-way point. When there is less in front of you than behind you, you can start to feel good about the odds of finishing. I like to tell myself, “I’ve already done 6 miles, so 4 more doesn’t seem so bad.” And the further I get and the less that is left, the better I feel.
The hardest mile is the last one. I am tired and I feel like it has gone on forever. I keep repeating to myself, “Stay strong. You can do it!” I adjust my posture because at this point I am slouching a bit. I stand strong and feel a surge of energy going through my body as I repeat the mantra “I am strong” over in my mind. And as I see my corner come into view after the curve, I get a swelling of pride and accomplishment, knowing that the last fifteen hundredths are easy because I have already put in 9.85 miles. I speed up a bit. A smile crosses my face. And as my GPS hits the ten mile mark, I slow to a walk. My heart swells.
The one thing I have learned is that the runner’s high often does not really happen during the run, though I feel very good while in the middle of the run most of the time. (There are exceptions, of course, days where the running is hard and I trudge through.) When I feel the high is when I am done, especially on long run days. My inner monologue throughout the rest of the day reminds me how awesome I am for completing what seemed like such a monumental task. I feel giddy. I feel like I can do anything! And it is that feeling that keeps me running.
I started running to get in shape and to deal with stress. I keep running because I have learned through running that I can do anything I put my mind to. I use running to train my brain to deal with stress and adversity. If I can overcome the inertia of my legs with my mind, I can overcome anything. And although the day started with me dreading the long run, the day ends with me feeling invincible.
Amber Hadigan currently lives in Hyde Park, NY with her husband John and her two cats, Sobe and Scrappy. Originally from Wisconsin, she has lived in many different states. Now settled, she spends her time working, freelance writing, and writing and performing folk music. A runner as a child, she began running again in May 2013 and has rediscovered the peace and joy running gives her.