The first time I ran a half marathon it was on a whim. My first summer of triathlon and endurance training was complete and my life had changed in both subtle and dramatic ways. Riding the waves of the new experiences, I talking about running a 5K at the Run for the Grapes in St. Catharines, Ontario — part of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival. My friend, however, thought I should run the half marathon at the event instead. My coach at the time agreed and with just a few weeks of run “training” I finished my first half marathon, run purely on the fitness I had accumulated over the past 10 months.
That was the race that got me thinking I could do bigger and better things. It spurred my first marathon and 70.3 race. It broke down a few more personal barriers. It was another milestone on my journey and the half marathon became a staple in my training. My personal best came in my second 13.1 race, at the ING Miami Marathon & Half Marathon. I ran other half marathons — the Leo Austin Memorial Cats Half Marathon in Rochester (the hills were so numerous that running buddy Herm vowed to never run that race again) and most recently the Buffalo Half Marathon, which was used as a training run, not a race.
Then there was the second Miami half marathon I did. The trip was with Sue and Herm and we all felt we wanted to better our times from our previous South Beach outing. Only life was throwing me curve balls. A few personal relationships were complicated and ending and the wounds were still raw and near the surface. The humidity and heat in January was unbearable, even by Miami native standards, and nothing the lot of us from Buffalo, N.Y. could be prepared for. And my preparation, well, in hindsight, it was lacking. I didn’t train for what I wanted to run; I failed to listen to my own instincts; I set myself up for failure.
That race has come to mind this week as I prepare for the half marathon at the Niagara Ultra races. And while athletes occasionally talk about purging past performances from their mental and physical state, I’m purging past preparation. My dear friend Carolyn told me recently that it’s important to take risks on your own, but to be careful about who you align yourself with. Luckily for me, that a lesson I’m learning as I surround myself with people who lift me up and inspire. People who are constantly cheering and helping me improve. People who give me a reality check when needed without quashing my dreams. That’s a special quality I’ve found in key people of my inner most circle. It’s the reinforcement needed to bolster what I already have — knowledge, training, fitness and confidence.
Saturday’s race comes with goals and expectations and naturally a mix of nerves and excitement. But here’s the thing: I don’t need to focus on the outcome. I already know I’m capable. I’ve proven it to myself, over and over again, each week of training. Regardless of what the clock says, I will reach a milestone on Saturday. I will be confident. That alone is worth celebrating.