A Lesson in Strength

By Stephanie Milam

Running a marathon is hard. Very hard. Not only does it take immense dedication to the physical training, but it requires the mental strength of which I have never before experienced. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s this mental strength that made me truly believe I can do anything.

The 2012 LIVESTRONG Austin Marathon was Sunday, February 19th, which was the first 26.2 miles I have ever run. I trained hard for 6 months and felt ready, but what I experienced during the race tested the limits of my mental will-power.

I began the race with a few friends from my training group and we all agreed to take it really easy for the first several miles through the South Austin part of the course. Because I live in South Austin, this was the most familiar part of the race for me, and I was having a good time.  Unfortunately this feeling did not last long.

By mile 7 I began to feel sick to my stomach. My stomach had gotten the best of me on a few runs during training, but it had never been a regular or predictable occurrence. Consequently I was becoming upset mentally and emotionally because I had done everything I could think of leading up to the race in order to avoid this situation.

Joining back up with the crowd of runners after taking a break, I felt better, but still not great. I told myself I would feel better soon, and to just keep running. I was most frustrated because my muscles felt strong and it was my stomach that was holding me back, and I just didn’t want to accept that. The next couple miles were a blur of discomfort and the mental challenge of keeping myself going. By mile 17, I was no longer concerned about my finishing time, because by now I just wanted to finish. I was disappointed because I had wanted so much to really enjoy the race, and it had instead become quite a struggle.

But then, finally, on mile 18 I actually felt good for the first time since mile 6. My stomach wasn’t killing me and I began to pick up the pace and run strong. I began passing other runners left and right – at last! This is what this race is supposed to feel like. As my legs pumped beneath me, I really started to soak it all in. I was able to now appreciate the struggle I went through during the middle of the race, and I was extremely grateful for how strong I now felt at the end.

As I ran through the UT campus for the last mile of the race, I just let it all go. I had experienced extreme lows and extreme highs, and I knew I was going to cross that finish line. I was happy and I just ran.

Crossing the finish line brought tears of joy to my eyes – I just ran a marathon, finished strong, and met my goal with a time of 4:31:22 despite some serious challenges along the way. My commitment to training had paid off.  It’s taught me that fully committing to something – whether it be work, a relationship, or a marathon – means accepting all of the guaranteed difficulties that come along with the benefits of your effort.

True mental strength is the commitment it to making it through a seemingly impossible challenge. Coming out on the other side of such a challenge provides the unyielding wisdom that you really can do anything you set your mind to.

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One response to “A Lesson in Strength

  1. Pingback: Mid Year Blog Recap | On Your Mark Research

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