Midway through the marathon course (26.2 miles), I found myself at the top of what felt like the largest elevation increase on the course, not a BIG hill, but a hill nonetheless.
Up that steady incline, I ran with Kate, a woman I met at mile 1 and waved on to run at her own pace. Kate, also a first time marathoner, chatted happily and waved back to me as the distance between us grew. Soon, I couldn’t even see her up ahead.
When I met up with her again at mile 17, we talked awhile and kept pace for a few miles. We faced the wind together and parted ways at the top of the hill.
Sharon waited for me at mile 19.
“You look great,” she said. “You make it look easy.”
And I did feel great. I was running with relative ease and, more importantly, I’d been running steadily — sticking to my plan, feeling strong. When Sharon jumped on the course to keep me company through the last 7 miles, I felt grateful for her friendship and company but didn’t need her, as I’d expected to, to help me power through to the end of the race.
In the early miles, I ran alone, watching a stream of people pass me as I purposefully slowed my pace. Nearing the last third of the race, I started passing people instead, because I kept running when others walked, maintained my pace when others lagged.
Somewhere along the line, someone gave me this advice about completing the marathon: trust your training.
If you train well, any task can be easy.
My 7 year old daughter Maggie is in first grade. She loves math. She thinks multiplication is easy. Why? She’s practiced, studied, and reviewed her basic facts enough that they are automatic.
I think getting up at 5 am is easy. I’ve done it for so long and so consistently that it is like second nature. No alarm clock needed. I just get up.
I think blogging is easy. I’ve blogged for over five years and, though I may not be the best or most read blogger, I can handle the technical aspects of posting to my blog effortlessly and can generate ideas and write copy without stress.
Any task repeated, with practice and discipline, becomes easier.
Training for the marathon was not easy. I had a disciplined regime of runs during the week and I ran one long run, increasing in distance, on the weekends.
During my training, I completed a 15.5 mile training race that felt far more difficult than the marathon itself. I felt like quitting. I felt discouraged. I even considered trashing the whole idea of the marathon when, after the run, I felt nauseous and depleted. Later, I realized that I let the excitement of the day propel me to a far-too-ambitious pace. I didn’t have any fuel, so I felt my stomach growl through the race and ended the race with low blood sugar. That 15.5 mile training run was really HARD.
That training run helped me see that I need to start more slowly and fuel regularly. I trained myself to know how to run at a slower pace and when to refuel with energy chews.
I trained myself to be mentally strong. I focused on positive thoughts. I chose to view every mile of the race as a gift.
One foot in front of the other, I ran. One mile after the other.
It was not effortless, but it was relatively easy. Far easier than I had expected.
Here is how you can make anything, even a 26.2 mile run, easy:
Do the work. Whatever you hope to accomplish will require hard work and training. That part is never easy. However, if you do the work, with repeated practice and training, that big thing, whatever it is, will become easier.
Mentally prepare. I ran a 5K race with my oldest daughter last year. From nearly the first step, she expressed her doubts about her ability to run. If you allow yourself to dwell on negative thoughts, complaining and doubting, your tasks will become exponentially more difficult. Choose instead to focus on your strengths and abilities, with ruthless determination, and your mental strength will propel you to accomplish what you once thought impossible.
Learn from your training. Training is not easy. It is very hard work. Along the way, you will learn important lessons about yourself that can help you become better. As you apply those lessons, you can adjust your approach and improve so that when your big day comes, you will be better equipped for whatever you face.
Run your own race. I am not a super fast runner and I don’t have to be. Running a marathon at my own perfect pace was relatively easy. If I had tried to run much faster, I would have had a very difficult time. Whatever you hope to achieve, it will be less burdensome if you allow yourself to run at a pace that fits your fitness and ability. I don’t try to run with the elite runners. I don’t try to stay with the fast pack. I run my miles at my own pace, in my own time.
What do you hope to achieve? If it seems difficult, remember that anything can be easy, if you train properly, mentally prepare, and approach the task with the pacing that is best for you. And when you train well, you will find that the journey is easy and joyful.