I’m not a sporty person. The extent of my sporting career was ballet lessons I had growing up, which fizzled out when I entered high school. I never really understood the appeal of waking up before dawn, or committing to the same schedule every Saturday, on loop, for years and years.
I remember when friends would excitedly share how they’d won a medal at their netball game over the weekend. And I was happy for them, I just didn’t “get” it.
Until I found running.
For years I treated it as a band-aid; a tool to use only when my anxiety was so bad that I could feel a panic attack bubbling up in my chest. Then, the ultimate anxiety-inducer began: COVID-19.
After two years of lockdowns, cancellations and vaccine shots, something tangible appeared before me: The Melbourne Half-Marathon.
Twelve weeks out, I bought my spot in the pack, set up a donation page and began training. What I learnt over the course of the next few months changed my life — it sounds corny, but it's true. Here's what I learned.
It's important to make commitments – and see them through
Making the commitment to run a half-marathon (21 kilometres) was easy. I excitedly popped in my card details and told my close friends and family. That night, I ran my first six kilometres, with my legs screaming. It was more than double what I would usually run, and I wondered if I’d made a mistake.
Rather than convincing myself to put it off or cancel altogether, I stretched my calf muscles, ate a good meal and knew that I just had to be better than the day before. From then on, I set myself a dedicated training plan, aiming to up my distance by 10 per cent every week.
While I sometimes slacked when work was busy or my PCOS was flaring up, I made sure to dedicate a minimum of five hours per week to running. The only other thing I’d committed to in the same way was my career. This also gave me an identity outside of being “the writer”, which, honestly, felt good.
I was committing to a hobby and showing up every week — not just to tick a box, but to genuinely enjoy it as well.
You can push yourself further than you think
The number of times I thought I couldn’t go any further during training is more than I could count on both hands. From stopping to stretch to convincing myself that I’d done enough, it took so much willpower to get those muscles back into gear. One thing that helped? Thinking about crossing the finish line.
Even if it was months away, knowing how good I’d feel when I’d achieved a goal I set my mind to was inspiring enough for me to get back on the saddle (or rather, the pavement).
This stretched my mind to realise that you can push yourself beyond your threshold. Not to the point that it’s dangerous but to know that you’re improving every day, step by step and kilometre by kilometre.
A support team makes all the difference
While I was motivating myself on the running track, someone else was motivating me off the track. From the moment I told my close friends and family about my commitment to running for three hours straight, they were right there every blister-wracked step of the way.
I ended up exceeding my donation goal to The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) not once, but twice. My support team and I raised $1500 for the charity, which was the cherry on top of achieving my personal goal.
Even as I was completing the actual event, I was regretting not training in a hat and sunglasses. Seeing the pros in their slick sunglasses without needing to use their arms to shield them from the glaring summer sunlight, made me realise I had something to learn and implement for next time.
You actually can do (almost) anything you set your mind to
Twelve weeks of training, some new shoes, and five gel packs later, I’d completed my first half-marathon. Even with years of ruined plans (thanks to COVID-19) and just general anxiety over life, I’d actually put my mind to something and seen it through. There’s not many better feelings than that.
Even if you don’t want to run a half-marathon, or don't feel like you're a 'sporty' person, running in general is an incredibly motivating sport. From pushing your PB to finding the meditative groove to quieten the loud world, if you’re looking to bask in the glow of personal achievement and growth, then this is the sport for you.
If you’re interested in giving running a go, try it in Melbourne with ADIDAS this International Women's Day. Register here.