Author Wendy Gwo – Image credit: Edward Arenberg
What would happen if I just sat down and cried for a few minutes? I wondered to myself at mile 16 of my 21 mile training run last Saturday. My IT band in my left leg was killing me and the end felt so far away. I thought back to when I first decided to run the LA Marathon eight months ago, while training for a half marathon after three years off. I’d recently started running again because a friend of mine started running seriously, and had pulled me back into the running world.
We trained for and completed the 2012 San Francisco Half Marathon, and my enthusiasm for running came back with a vengeance. I had always wanted to run a marathon, but felt like I’d never be able to train for one by myself. Now that I was running on a regular basis again, and had a group to train with and keep me accountable, I figured it was now or never, so I signed up and off I went.
Training went well, with a few half marathons scattered here and there, until the week I hit 14 miles on my weekend long run. Up until then, I had been fortunate enough to have not suffered any injuries, just general soreness. The week we ran 14 miles was the first time my IT band started acting up. Since I hadn’t had any injuries until then, I had no idea what it was; so I chalked up the pain to the longer distance, and kept running. By the time I was done with the run, I could barely walk. After that, I hopped on the Internet, learned what I could about the IT band and how to prevent the inflammation I was experiencing, and continued on with training. It continued to act up on my long runs, but it was manageable after that initial occurrence.
Now here I was on my longest training run, and I wasn’t sure I could make myself go on. We were running up and down hills on twisted, windy roads that were so steeply graded that my IT band was being stressed to a point the had never been before. There were more than a few times when the pain forced me to stop running, and walk or stretch, to give my IT band a rest. At mile 16, my energy and willpower were both faltering. It took a lot of yelling at myself in my head, but after 5 or 10 minutes of seriously considering the option of just stopping, I found the resolve to carry on and complete the 21 miles. Despite how hard it was, I’m glad I went through the experience of being pushed to the breaking point, and finding the strength to carry on. Now that I’ve been through it once, I know, come race day, that when I start breaking down, I can push through and carry on to the finish line.
What I’ve realized through my training is that a big part of being able to run any distance is mental. As long as you’ve been training properly, if you believe you can run a certain distance, you can do it. When I first started running, completing a 10K seemed impossible. After I finished a 10K, I thought I’d never be able to finish a half marathon. You can guess what I thought when I finally completed a half marathon. I’ll never be able to run a marathon.
Well, I’m working on breaking through that mental barrier now. We’re only a few weeks away from the LA Marathon, and we’re now tapering, so I won’t have to run over 20 miles again until the race. However, because I’ve been preparing myself both mentally and physically, I know I can do it. All I have to do is run. I’ll see you all at the finish line!
Author/runner Wendy Gwo is a technology enthusiast, aspiring entrepreneur, non-profit supporter and adventure seeker,