When I give examples of a time in my life that I reached a major goal, I often refer back to when I ran a half marathon. In my twenties, I told myself I would run a half marathon before I turned 30. Each year, 30 would creep closer and closer until finally I was 29 and a half and had not started training at all. It became clear to me that if I was going to reach this deadline, I had to start immediately and I had to create a plan.
Step 1 – Invest in some level of commitment!
About 6 months before my impending deadline, I researched a half marathon and registered. I figured if I was going to spend almost a hundred bucks on something, I better stick with it. By putting money on my goal, there was an added pressure of not wanting that to go to waste.
Step 2- Create an action plan!
You are more likely to follow through on a goal if you have a solid plan on how to actually get there. When you get in your car to go somewhere new, you use your phone or GPS to guide you to your destination. You have to create a guide to get to the finish line. I started jogging and walking to build up my stamina. When the half marathon date was getting within sight, I created a 12 week mileage plan to get me to the 13.1 mile goal. I tracked my plan and what I actually stuck with. I wasn’t 100% accurate, but the key was to not give up and to keep going.
Step 3 – Adjust my environment
I didn’t realize how much time was involved in training for a half marathon when I first set out to do this. At the time, I was a full time teacher in grad school so I had to work every day and then go to class twice a week in the evenings. I decided the best time to run during the week was in the morning or it just wasn’t going to happen. Many nights I would sleep in my running clothes with my sneakers nearby and get up at 4:45am to meet my running partner. Thankfully, I had a friend to keep me going and we stayed accountable to one another.
After about building up to 4-5 miles, I started to get tired during my run. I realized I needed to do some research on how to sustain a longer run. It was time to invest in a few new items. I went and got fitted for proper running shoes and my favorite ones now are Brooks Ghost. Recently, I tried another brand, but I don’t like it as much so I will go back to Brooks with my next pair.
I knew I needed to carry water with me so I got one of those vests that can hold small bottles. One of my favorite discoveries was the sustaining power of GU. My favorite flavor was the chocolate. The little packets fit nicely in the vest as well. Because of my training plan, I was able to experiment with just the right amount of GU to keep me full, but not too full.
Step 4 – Tell everyone!
Some people say you should keep your goals to yourself. And some researchers say telling friends improves your chances of actually reaching the goal. For me, the more people I tell, the more likely I am to reach it. And because I was teaching kids, I had cheerleaders every day asking me how my training was going and rooting for me to succeed. That meant something and inspired me to keep going even when it got hard.
Step 5 – Follow through!
Sometimes this last step is the hardest one. Just show up. Follow through. Trust that you did all the training and that you’re ready. Weeks 9 and 10 I had bronchitis and I wasn’t sure I was going to get through to the end. However, I trusted that the weeks of training leading up to it would take me through. I didn’t go fast. I took my time because it was about finishing and not about speed. When I ran through that finish line, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment. It was amazing. I’m proud of reaching this goal and working hard to achieve it. You can do it too!