I'm a 5'7" ex-soccer player of 10 years with long, lean legs; basically, I'm naturally an awesome long distance runner, right? HA! The truth is that I'm athletic, but I've always lacked the endurance that a soccer player needed to truly succeed. It didn't help being scrawny for most of my life and having an extremely weak mind due to insecurities. Here I am now, 26 years old, lifting weights and/or running at least 5 out of 7 days a week. What changed?
Last year my New Year's resolution was to enroll my dog in an aggression course because it had gotten out of hand and become a burden in my life. I dedicated a little time each day to training her, but what I didn't know is how much training I would personally receive in the process. Your animals' energy is a reflection of your energy, and I realized that when I was able to calm down, she could too. The crazy part is that before each lesson, I'd have to go to an hour long bootcamp to drain my energy. Sometimes that wasn't even enough and I'd go on a run after bootcamp, which might be up to 2 miles. She did her best on those days because I was physically exhausted.
It's almost embarrassing to come to the realization that I'm one of the most high strung, overly stressed individuals, and how miserable it must have been to be around someone like that. Since then I've really taken some time to work on myself and realized the necessity of fitness in my life. On the days that I don't sweat, I feel like I'm losing my mind - I can't think clearly, I'm emotional, I feel weak and insecure, and that I'm going to explode. I know that a lot of this comes from being an extremely motivated individual that dreams big, but I don't want to live my life constantly thinking about the future and not enjoying the present.
This year one of my New Year's resolutions is to run a half marathon. I've talked about it for years and never followed through, which I think most of us are guilty of doing in some area of our life. I began training in January, somewhat following a schedule but still feeling that finishing 13.1 miles was not in my future. I let doubt sit in the back of my mind instead of appreciating the baby steps, the small victories, like consistantly excercising in general!
Running a 5K with Jules McQueen, Cameron Hanes, & the UA Hunt team at SHOT Show in Vegas really inspired me to finish what I wanted so badly. Within two weeks of returning from Vegas, I ran a 10K by myself...barely. My muscles and joints were shot. I had never hurt that bad! I was so proud to run my furthest distance, but couldn't imagine a step further. My body ached for days. After it finally healed, I pushed myself to get out and run again. I ran 5 miles on a Wednesday morning, and when I got home I told my husband, "That run made me never want to run again. I don't know how I'll ever finish." It felt worse than the previous 10K (6.2 miles) and I felt defeated.
The next day, I decided to take a day off from running to stretch and to reset - my body AND mind. I went to a hot yoga class and really focused on why I began training. I stretched my legs deeper than I ever had and I left that class feeling strong. Then later that night, anxiety swept over me again because I was scheduled to run 7 miles the next morning to stay on track. It was further than I'd ever been and the doubts kept me awake for hours. I prayed, and I mean I PRAYED HARD, asking for a sign (ANYTHING!) that I was meant to achieve this goal. I prayed for guidance until I finally fell asleep.
I woke up feeling clear and rested. I put my favorite Under Armour gear on, sipped on some MTN Ops for a boost, and hit the road. I decided to run a completely different route down childhood backroads - roads that I always drive 60+ mph down. I passed old barns, tractors, new construction, wildflowers, and noticed things I've never noticed before because I had never slowed down long enough to take it all in. When you run in an environment that inspires you, it completely changes your mindset. I can't honestly tell you how many times I said "Thank you God" aloud, and I don't think I quit smiling throughout my run. I was experiencing this newfound happy place, what so many refer to as "Runners' High," and at mile 7 I wasn't ready to stop. In fact, I pushed through an extra mile, uphill and against the wind, stopping at 8 miles only because my knees and ankles had began to swell. I didn't want to risk injury before my race. I can't explain how unreal it felt when I stopped running - I was BARELY sweating, my breathing was calm, and my heart rate was as if I had just started running. I felt stronger than I'd ever felt before. Unstoppable is an understatement of my mindset in that moment.
I'm truly growing to love the sport of running. For the first time in my life I felt like a runner, but I was a hunter long before this day, so I'd like to think I experienced something much greater - something I will call a "Huntlete's High." Since that day I have worked up to 10 miles, which is the maximum my training schedule recommends before running the race. I'm roughly 3 weeks out and feeling confident. I can assure you that once you reach 10 miles, you can push another 3.1 fairly easily. It's so much more mental than I ever realized, and l'm learning to love myself more in the process. Achieving goals is the most exhilarating feeling and I'm ready for April 10th to get here so I can knock another one off the bucket list.