I’ve reached the halfway point of marathon training. I ran 50+ miles last week.
Training for a marathon—despite the motivational quotes, viral videos, and commercials—is not glamourous. It’s exhausting. It wrecks your brain. It trashes your legs. It toys with your emotions. Kills your social life. It’s sweat and grit—and sometimes it’s tears and frustration.
During the week, my alarm goes off at 4:00 AM. I don’t know how familiar you are with that time of day, but it’s DARK. Like, can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face dark.
Truthfully, I hate every second of waking up that early. All I want to do is crawl back into bed. But I get up anyway. I take my two dogs outside and I stand in the backyard making a mental list of all the reasons why I shouldn't run. I have a lot of excuses. Then, after my dogs finish their business, I go back inside and leave my mental list outside.
You see, it’s those early morning runs where things feel magical---they feel possible. As my lungs burn and my legs turn over, Boston feels less like a dream. Waking up that early feels like you’ve been let in on a life-altering secret; it’s desolate in a way that makes you feel special. It’s quiet in a haunting way that I find endearing.
Everyone else is sleeping right now, I remind myself. Dreaming their dreams, while I’m out working toward mine. Pushing just a bit harder toward the things I want.
The best thing I've ever done is surround myself with people who push me. They push because they care. And they push because they know tough love is the best way to tap into the part of yourself that doesn’t want to go back to bed at 4:00 AM.
My husband is one of those people. He wakes up early with me and trains alongside me—for a race he’s not even running. Last week, in the coolness of a foggy morning, we sprinted down a normally busy street in the darkness, side by side.
Arms pumping. Legs churning. Reaching for that faster pace.
As the female robot voice on my running app prompted a brief break, he said, “Your stride is getting smoother. It looks more effortless. And you’re finally picking up your feet.”
It was too dark for him to notice, but I smiled. All those early mornings were worth the effort. I was getting somewhere, even when it felt like I was just treading water.
But it begs the question: What are you actually capable of? How do you know?
So far as I can tell, you may never know. But that shouldn't stop you from trying. And pushing as far as you can go.