I could spit out some information about the benefits of tapering or give you some general script about stretching and yoga in these few weeks leading up to the big day, but that wouldn’t be from the heart. As someone who is running half marathon number 5 on May 7, 2017, I can politely attest that generalized nuggets that are a mixture of quotes and tested methods and facts just aren’t what we need to hear in these lingering weeks.
Something that seems to go unnoticed by many is what it actually takes to stand in a corral at the start of a long distance race. People love to focus on the race itself, and rightfully so, as it is an achievement. What about the work that went into it, though? The race is the perfectly tied bow on the gift that is our ability to train for months and months at a time. I’m not going to be be the one to congratulate you after the race with a surprised-yet-confident “You just ran a marathon!”
Instead, I’ll be the one to congratulate you now. And trust me when I say that it is more than well-deserved.
Why? Because dude - you did this.
You have made it through a training season in a way that no one else could. Every step and motivated stumble from your cozy, warm bedroom at 4:30 in the morning is about to pay off in ways that you probably can’t imagine right now, regardless if this is your first race or your thirty-first race. The dishes in the sink that you traded in for miles; the countless times that you saw the sun come up or set down over that same hill in that same loop you were so sick of striding across; the many “no” words you have told your children because you couldn’t skip one of the most important runs in your training - it’s all about to come to life.
You are about to show up all of the fears that you faced that no one else knows about or understands. Not the dog chasing you down the street or the mistake of leaving your phone at home while on a solo run, but those moments in time where you were alone with physical pain and uncertainty. That Sunday morning when you casually leaned against a tree in your favorite park, in tears, pressing on your knee and praying that it was nothing. The time that you cried on a training run at mile 16 that you played off as “just sweat” when really, your body was so sore that you considered sleeping on a park bench for a half hour. All of those moments? They didn’t break you, and that’s a big deal.
From now until race day, don’t forget to breathe in your accomplishment of completing your training. No one can tell you how the race will go. My first Pittsburgh Half Marathon was complete with my first experience with IT Band Syndrome, and that is definitely not what I expected. But you know what? I earned my spot regardless of how fast I ran or if I walked a bit or if I cried the last five miles. And you have now earned your spot, too. In these newly-bustling nights of springtime, when conversations are alive outside your windows and slivers of light still don the sky after 7 p.m., remember that you did this.
As you stand in your corral and readjust your arm band and listen to the faint sounds of watches beeping, let it drown out around you. This is your moment. This is what you have worked for. And when you cross the finish line, take a good look at the medal. It doesn’t symbolize one day in the amazing city of Pittsburgh at an amazing event. It symbolizes your decision to be a person who doesn’t give up, who knows the value of hard work, and who has evolved over the past few months.
You are not the same person you were when you started. You have further evolved into a distance runner, and that’s not something that can ever be discounted and taken away from you.
Congratulations - you deserve it.