What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are.
If there is one book that has changed my life, it is Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. After reading it earlier this year, I came to the crazy conclusion that I, Christina Jayne Canters, would run a full 42km marathon by the end of 2013. Let me explain.
I’ve been a recreational runner for about 8 years. I hated cross country in high school (I was more into sport and dancing), but began to love it once I hit uni. I found it a great form of stress release (not to mention study procrastination). I’ve done a few fun runs and a couple of sprint triathlons, and my 10km PB is just under 50mins, which isn’t too shabby. However, I have never run further than 15km. This is not due to lack of desire or fitness. I’ve just always had a fear that my overworked body would spontaneously combust.
Like many active people, I’ve had my share of injuries. Thankfully nothing major, but enough niggly problems to sideline me from my usual forms of fitness for weeks or months at a time. I’ve sprained both ankles multiple times during my adolescent years doing gymnastics and sport. I’ve been through bouts of shin splints and an inflamed ITB. In 2012 I severely strained my left achilles tendon after two exhilarating but strenuous weeks of snowboarding. According to the myotherapist, I came this close to ripping it completely. Whoops. It took me a good 6 months to run properly again. Then earlier this year, I sustained the exact same injury (although less severe) on the other achilles after another snowboard trip (clearly I didn’t learn my lesson the first time). As a result of the seemingly-constant battle I’ve been fighting against my injuries, I have truly believed that I couldn’t possibly run longer distances like a half marathon (21km), let alone a full marathon, without doing serious long term damage to my body.
The ‘A-ha!’ Moment
While I was wallowing in self pity with my second achilles injury that just would not seem to heal, a colleague suggested I read Born To Run. In the book, journalist McDougall shares similar stories of woe: enthusiastic runner, but efforts more often than not curtailed by various injuries. He travels to the Mexican Copper Canyons to observe and learn from the Tarahumara Indians, an elusive tribe of ‘superathletes’ who commonly run 160km in a day at amazing speeds and without injury. Through further research, he discovers that as an evolved species, humans are physiologically designed for endurance running. It appears that factors like poor running technique and inappropriate footwear have led us modern day humans to develop chronic running injuries. McDougall learns how to run efficiently and eventually overcomes his injuries to run in the book’s climactic endurance race in the Copper Canyons.
This was a revelation to me. I used to think: I have weak ankles and calves, therefore I can’t run long distances. However, after reading the book I began to question: what if the way I’m running is causing my lower legs and joints to be weak? Therefore resulting in further injury? What if, with the right technique, strength and conditioning, I could sustain long distance running? Hmm. I got a little bit excited.
So, on the 20th March 2013, I set myself the biggest physical challenge of my life: to run a marathon by the end of the year. I did some googling, and set my sights on the Marysville Marathon on November 17. It’s more low key than the Melbourne Marathon and the course is mostly on dirt trails, making it easier on the body. But still, 42km of uncomfortably hilly terrain. Does it scare the shit out of me? Hell yes. But you know what; sometimes you have to force yourself out of your comfort zone, ‘cos ain’t nobody else gonna do it for you!
So I Made The Decision. Now What?
I found a really helpful ebook on running your first marathon on No Meat Athlete (a vegetarian running blog, but a great resource for meat eaters too). The first thing I did was fill out the ‘goal setting worksheet’, which outlines steps for making yor decision REAL, which means you’re much more likely to stick to it. I’ve included my answers below.
1. Figure out WHY you’re going to do this. What would it mean to you? How would your life be better if you were to make this happen? If it motivates you, what would other people think about you? What would happen if you DIDN’T do this?
Completing a marathon would mean achieving something I once thought was IMPOSSIBLE. I would feel like I could achieve anything I set my mind to. If I was a marathoner I would feel strong, energetic and alive. I don’t care what others would think, I’m doing this for me. There are a handful of people I know would be supportive: my parents, fellow Crossfitters and other running enthusiasts. I know the rest of my friends and colleagues will probably think I’m crazy! If I didn’t do it, it would be a dream not realised. I would just be another person who’s all talk, no action.
2. Make the decision. Make your outcome crystal clear in your mind and write it down and put it in a place where you’ll be reminded of it daily. You need to become so certain of your decision that it feels inevitable – almost as if you’ve already done it.
Yep, I’ve made the decision. Running a marathon, Marysville, November 2013. It’s on my wall calendar. Means it’s official. I’m visualising myself crossing the finish line…visualising…visualising…and no, I am NOT collapsing in a trembling heap, I’m totally estatic…I’m eating a bucket of ice cream….
3. You take some sort of action that commits you. There’s no getting around the fact that training for your first marathon is hard. But it’s much easier to take some action that makes sure you’ll follow through when it gets hard. Do something. Write down what you’re going to do, then do it.
This is what I’ve done so far:
- Bought new trail runners
- Asked other running enthusiast friends to join me
- Got a new iPod
- Created a running playlist of songs at 180 beats per minute – amazingly helpful (more on this in a later post)
- Calculated when to start the training program (which is now)
- Signed up for my first fun run for 2013 – Salomon Trail Series Race 1, 10.8km, Studley Park
- Told EVERYONE I’m doing the marathon – the more people I tell, the more pressure to actually follow through! (I recommend using this technique for any sort of challenge – fear of public humiliation is a strong motivator…)
- Finally, I’m blogging about it. Now the whole world (well, the world on the web) knows. Eep!
This is what I’m still going to do:
- Sign up for the Marathon! (Entries aren’t open yet)
- Do a workshop on proper running technique (to follow in a later post)
- Sign up for other fun runs as mini goals along the way
- Keep on training :)
So that’s it! 2013 is officially the year of Achieving The Impossible, and I am incredibly excited. I’ll keep you updated with posts on how I’m finding the training, and what I’m doing to stay motivated. (And how I’m surviving the Melbourne Winter. It’s been crazy cold the last week, which does NOT make getting up at 6am very appealing at all…)
Yours in lycra leggings,
Links to 2013 fun runs I’ll be doing: