It was 24 degrees at race time for the Love Run on March 29. Cold temperatures make running 13.1 miles less than appealing for anyone, but for me, who had trained primarily indoors because I was too much of a chicken to brave this frigid winter, it was misery.
In fact, knowing how cold it was going to be, I felt woefully unprepared, and I was so knotted up with worry over the race that I hardly slept the night before. My knee had been acting up, and I kept picturing myself flaming out somewhere around the 8-mile mark and having to walk the rest of the way, sweaty, cold, and disappointed.
I woke up around 5 a.m. and looked over at my husband, who was running the race with me, and he was sleeping like a rock, which did nothing to steady my nerves. He has run about a half-dozen marathons and countless races over the past 10 years, so despite our underwhelming training, he exuded confidence.
So I got out of bed, layered up, and began to steel my nerves, psyching myself up mentally to get ready for the race. It was dark and cold as we drove into Philly, and the closer we got, the more doubt crept into my mind, increasing the tension in my body.
I stretched and jogged around to keep my body warm before the race, put my headphones on, cued up my battled-tested playlist, and waited at the starting line. Then we were off. And I don’t know if it was in my head or in my joints, but my knee hurt almost right away. I gutted out the first few miles, my breathing labored from the teeth-grinding, stomach-churning state I had worked myself into, but I kept running.
But somewhere around mile 6, something inside my brain and my body began to change. It may have simply been that my lower half had gone numb from the cold, but with each mile marker I passed, my confidence began to build, until it was suddenly me who was running through the water breaks instead of my husband. By the ninth mile, I knew I was going to complete the race running—not walking—across the finish line.
My time—somewhere in the 2 hours and 10 minute range—isn’t going to scare anybody, and it was a solid 20 minutes slower than my personal best, but I swear that when I crossed the finish line, I never felt better. Finishing that race, against difficult odds, gave me such a burst of confidence that I just signed up for my first triathlon—the Steel Man at Lake Nockamixon State Park in August.
Although it wasn’t battling cancer or climbing Everest, running this half-marathon reminded me that doing something hard, something that really challenges you, makes you believe you’re capable of so much more. So this summer, I dare you to do something you don’t think you can do, and even if you fail, you will push your limits and surprise yourself at what you are capable of achieving. And if you succeed, well, look out world.