Today, I made the decision to run a 21km half-marathon (painfully regretful in hindsight)
As you can imagine, during this tortuous ordeal there was a lot of time to think.
Thoughts ranged from…
The inspiring – “Once you do this Noah, every single thing you do in your life from here on out will become easier. You will have the knowledge that no matter what hardship or difficulty you face, this is a challenge of real difficulty that you’ve conquered. You will prove to yourself that pain is only a simple physical construct that you can always overcome.”
The realistic – “Your body very well may shut down soon, I’m not sure whether it’s genuinely physically capable of carrying us to the finish but I refuse to quit and I will either cross that line triumphantly or they will cart me off in an ambulance. No surrender” (My mind also often wandered off into a day-dream at this stage wondering what flavour Powerade they might have in this rescue ambulance)
The self-deprecating – “You are such an idiot, who in their right mind signs up to run a half-marathon off such limited training?! What are you trying to prove…”
However there was only one voice that mattered & it triumphed over them all –
“You know why you’re doing this. It’s going to hurt more than anything you’ve experienced and it won’t be easy but it will definitely be worth it. Hold the vision, trust the process. One step at a time Nahu”
As I ran & ran & then ran some more, the thing that kept me going was little milestones.
First I looked for the 5km water checkpoint, then I pushed myself to work till 8km, once I reached the 10km mark I realised I was halfway. Mentally, the worst part of the run was between the 12-15km mark. We were past halfway but the end was still nowhere in sight.
I got into a very dark place where all I could think about was quitting but I vowed to myself to not break stride & to keep on pushing on.
It’s like that in life. We set out after getting some motivation and vow to work hard. The first few weeks are so easy, everything’s working well and you have a new lease on life.
Suddenly however the shine wears off, you’re tired & life’s responsibilities start stacking up…
“Oh maybe I could just skip going to the gym one day”
“Just this once I’m going to skip the readings that I need to do”
As they say –
“Motivation is what gets you started, persistence is what keeps you going”
People asked me to describe what running a half-marathon feels like.
It’s not a battle of physical ability because apart from the super freaks, the reality is that most of us are not strong enough to run 21km naturally without being in extreme agony the entire time.
It comes down to a simple battle of pure mental will.
The feeling of running on hot sand for hours, without shoes on and your feet burn underneath you…
The agony in your lungs like you’ve sprinted up 15 flights of stairs, you’re light-headed & all you want to do is sit down…
The pure exhaustion streaming down your legs, where the thought of just one more step seems impossible as your legs want to give out…
Then imagine all those feelings combined together and the disheartening reality that no breaks await for a very long time.
You have kilometres of empty land in front of you.
You’re lonely, you’re tired & you have far too much time alone with your thoughts…
The only battle is you vs you.
“You can’t beat a person who refuses to quit”
Long-distance running is a very strange activity –
You know it’s going to hurt. You go into it with the mindset that you’re going to be in significant pain the entire time.
However, through it all you know that you’re about learn things about yourself & the capabilities that you possess – often finding internal strength that you didn’t even know you had…
It’s all worth the pain
They say that you’ve never truly lived until you’ve pushed your limits past the point that you thought you were physically capable of going.
It’s like going to the gym –
You push your body to failure & extreme fatigue because you know that is where the greatest growth will happen.
Once you’ve experienced it & recognised that pain will not kill you, the next time you encounter challenges you’re able to push a little bit harder.
As I crossed the finish line the first feeling I had wasn’t joy, it wasn’t excitement nor even fatigue.
It was an underlining feeling of contentment knowing that I’d achieved something so far out of my comfort zone, disregarding whether others thought it was possible.
I’d conquered the hardest thing I could conceivably set my mind too –
Now that I’d done that, I truly believe I can conquer anything else in the world.
1:48:48, limited training & minimal preparation, but all heart.
Impossible is simply a construct that people use because they aren’t willing to push for more than they can see.
Here’s to a life of continuing to step out of our comfort zones & testing the limits of what we can achieve.
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If you haven’t yet, please check out my first posts – Introduction: Who is Nahu, The Night I Almost Died, Time Isn’t Real, Life Without a Father, Stories From The Street, Filter Bubbles, The Growth Mindset & My Biggest Fear!