As I've previously noted, running has not always been in my blood. (Less than two years ago, I could not run 60 seconds continuously.) When I started running, 1 mile seemed impossible, let alone 26.2 of them. Getting to a 6-mile-a-day habit was a huge accomplishment in and of itself, and it wasn't until I was a spectator of the NYC marathon in November that I seriously considered pushing myself beyond that to make an abstract dream a reality.
Running is not "all mental" - I can attest to that, because two years ago I couldn't have willed myself to run much more than 60 seconds simply by using the power of thought. There are also "legs and lungs" to consider. It takes time and dedication to build those up, the reason new would-be runners often give up so soon after starting. (That's why I'm such a Couch To 5K fan.) Training for a marathon improved my leg and lung capacities, but training only took me so far (20 miles, to be exact - my longest run to that point). My cardiovascular system was game the entire time, but during the final six miles, my legs positively ached. Here is where sheer will kicks in. It was only mental fortitude that placed one foot in front of the other and carried me to the finish line without walking (or collapsing!). I did a good deal of negotiating with myself in those last several miles. At mile 25, Shawn said something funny, and the one-sided conversation with myself that ensued was: Don't laugh. Don't you dare laugh. Laughing takes energy, and you need every ounce of energy to finish this race. Just. Don't. Laugh. When faced with the final incline, I convinced myself that the previous 26 miles would be a wasted effort if I gave up and walked. And I made a deal with myself that if I kept running til the end I'd never have to do another marathon again (a bargain I reneged on). So while I'm incredibly proud of my body for this accomplishment, I can really thank my mind for that medal.
Since I've already crossed off my three lifetime goals, tomorrow (my 30th birthday) I'm coming up with some new ones.