Run the Mile You’re In

As I begin training for the Portland marathon, I’ve had so many different thoughts and emotions.

I feel a constant buzz of excitement running through my body, but every once in a while, I feel the biggest wave of nervousness. Nervous about enduring the long training process, nervous about the many what ifs (what if I hurt myself during training? What if I fall again during a run and bust my knee? What if I just can’t do it?), and, of course, nervous about running freaking 26.2 miles. I think I’d be crazy not to be nervous about that.

But I realized I can’t let that nervousness consume me and taint my experience. Running a marathon has been a lifelong goal of mine and I aim to truly enjoy and savor every second of this crazy journey I’m embarking on with my running.

Two weeks ago I was getting close to the end of my 10 mile long run and naturally was feeling pretty proud of myself, until a thought popped into my head: “HOLY SH*T. One day my long run is going to be DOUBLE that mileage. And then one day I’m going to run more than two and a half times this. There. Is. No. Possible. Way.”

After having a slight panic attack, I was calmed by this reminder – run the mile you’re in.

Runs become unenjoyable very quickly when I think too far ahead of myself. When you’re on mile one and start allowing yourself to get nervous for the next 9 (or 25…) miles, you lose the joy that you could have found in that first mile and every mile after.

I kept this lesson in mind during last week’s 10 mile long run and I was amazed at how much more fun I had. I opted to run it without any music and forced myself to take it one step at a time. Mile 1-5 flew by, despite a few hills that slowed me down; mile 6-7.5 was rough on the knees; mile 7.5-9.5 felt like a piece of cake; the last .5 miles were mentally tough, but I pushed through by allowing that buzz of excitement for the marathon to rush through my body.

Instead of allowing the bit of anxiety that accompanies long runs and thoughts of the marathon consume me and suck the happiness from my run, I let myself get excited, I let myself get lost in my thoughts, I let myself think no further than the next step forward, I let myself take in my beautiful surroundings, I let myself run slow as a snail when my knee was hurting and faster than was probably “smart” when I felt like it. I gave my full attention to each mile which also helped me listen to my body more deeply than ever before. Because I wasn’t so worried about the miles that lay ahead and so over-consumed by my music, I was able to notice when I needed to slow down, when my body was telling me to speed up, when my form was off and hurting my knees/hips/legs. I simply noticed more. About myself. About my thoughts. About the people, buildings and beautiful nature around me.

I enjoyed each and every mile because I thought of them as individual pieces that fit into a larger picture. I didn’t overthink or anticipate or get scared. I just ran. I know this process of being in the moment is what’s ultimately going to power me through 26.2 miles.

Thinking too far in the future, already deciding how hard the next miles or how hard a run two months away will be and letting the nerves start brewing in your stomach, is a sure way to get discouraged.

Even if you’re not a runner, it’s important to take life one “mile” at a time too. In every aspect of life, not just running, I tend to think too far ahead and in return get anxious too far ahead. As a naturally anxious person, this turns into a really bad cycle where even exciting events or life changes coming in the future turn into a negative because I overthink them and make up the worst-case scenarios months in advance.

This past week I not only let myself take those 10 miles one mile at a time, but I also let myself bask in feeling proud of the miles I had run, despite the much longer runs that loom in the future. I let myself feel the unexplainable happiness that running brings me and pushed aside any of the doubts and nerves that were wanting to creep in. I believe in myself and that belief is what’s going to successfully and strongly carry me those 26.2 miles. One step at a time and one mile at a time, I’m getting closer to reaching my goal.

XO nat