12 Things I Learned from My First Half-Marathon ...

I started running seriously six months ago. Many runners say that their lives changed when they took up the sport. I must say that I completely agree with them. On the 5th of September 2010, I experienced a true test of character when I ran my very first half-marathon. Let me share the 12 things I learned from that event.

1. Be Prepared

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My training for the half-marathon definitely helped me get to the finish line. Preparation is as important as the execution. You can’t just jump into something without knowing to a certain extent what is required of you.

2. Believe in Yourself

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No one else can run for you so you better believe that you will reach that finish line. There is no place for self-doubt in a sport that relies on your mind and body to succeed. Just like in life, no one else can live yours for you. So you better be strong and believe that you will make it through.

3. One Can Always Use a Friend

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Running is one of those sports that you can participate in by yourself. I always thought that I didn’t need a running buddy. But the half-marathon made me realize that it is more fun and empowering to run with a friend – someone who understands what you are going through.

4. Support is Important

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Support from fellow runners is important – whether you are giving or receiving. This is applicable to everything we go through in life. Why do we need to bring people down when we are all struggling to get by? Support from family and friends is also wonderful. It is nice to know that even though they don’t understand your reasons or what you are experiencing, they are still there to cheer you on.

5. Do Things with Your Whole Heart

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While physically training my body, I was also preparing my mind and spirit for two and a half hours of running. If I ran those 21 kilometers half-heartedly, I knew I would not finish. When you put your whole heart into anything you do, there is nothing that can discourage or stop you from succeeding.

6. Have the Right Reasons

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I ran that half-marathon because I wanted to prove to myself that I can finish whatever I start. I ran because it made me happy. I ran because I wanted to reinforce my belief in myself. Those things kept me going throughout the training and the race. I believe that you need to have the right reasons for doing the things you do. You need a reason that will last through all the rough times. You need a reason that will bring you fulfillment.

7. Run at Your Own Pace

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Someone will always be faster and stronger than me so there is really no point in competing with others. During the race, I made sure that I wasn’t running against anyone but myself. In life, you won’t always be able to keep up with other people. Don’t stress about that. Enjoy your life and your experiences the way you want to.

8. Listen to Your Body

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During the half-marathon, I was running with a friend. We ran at the same pace and took walking breaks together. However, he couldn’t tell when I was getting tired or thirsty. Only I could have known all those things. So I made sure that I was aware of how I was physically feeling. An injury today could mean that I won’t be able to run tomorrow. You should not be afraid to know your body and how it works. Listen to it because it might save your life.

9. Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Limitations

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Running that half-marathon has taught me to accept my need to run at a slower pace and to take extra walking breaks. I was already breathing heavily but I wasn’t ashamed of that. At least I kept going. Limitations are there to protect you from pain or injury. It is not disgraceful to admit that you are tired or starting to feel pain. You don’t need to hide the fact that you are unsure or confused. Limitations don’t make you less lovable, respectable, or capable.

10. Have a Life Mantra

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When I could no longer stand the heat of the sun, I kept repeating the mantra “I am born to overcome.” When I felt like I couldn’t run anymore, I repeated the same thing in my mind. It is always wonderful to have motivational sayings to keep you going through tough times. Sometimes, you just need to be reminded that you can do it.

11. Be Thankful

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No matter how hard that run was, I finished within the curfew time. I got my medal from the race organizers and the “congratulations” from my family and friends. I couldn’t have done it without everyone who helped me so I thanked them – my parents, my sisters, my boyfriend, my coach, my running friends. Success is achieved, not only by your hard work, but also with the support and help of your family, friends, and the Divine. Don’t forget to express your gratitude.

12. Enjoy the Journey

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It was fun to experience my city in a whole new way. Running through the city streets was as fun as running the last 100 meters. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s about how we live our lives; it’s not about how we get to the end.

My half-marathon experience has greatly reminded me of the lives we live. It is not easy, people will cheat, things will get rough, and you will get hurt. But with every challenge we overcome comes greater learning and understanding. We can only get stronger with each passing day.

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