Today, I ran the Shamrock’n Half Marathon in Sacramento. I got the best pace I have ever had for a run longer than ten miles, and I finished my half marathon in under two hours (For comparison, my previous runs had both been about two hours and fifteen minutes) Today I felt great the whole time, and though I really pushed myself and feel very proud of myself, I didn’t let ego attachments run the show. Instead, I was thoughtful, prepared, and was able to push myself in a way that felt good.
Before I started today’s run, I remembered something: I have always felt like a runner. In fact, when I was approximately seven years old, I used to do little running races on the grass at my school with the other kids. I enjoyed the feeling of running as fast as I could. I remember once seeing an image in my mind of a glowing being, as if of my spirit. He was running. I am a runner, I thought to myself, and it felt right.
Throughout grade school, I enjoyed running in games like kickball, baseball, or football. My school was unique in that every day our teacher would take us as a class on a jog around the block. Running with my teacher culminated one or two times in a few of us running the Bay-to-Breakers, a 7 mile family run in San Francisco (Clearly, my grade school was not your average grade school: in addition to jogging as a class with our teacher–whom we called by his first name–we went on camping trips, voted as a class for what our P.E. sport would be each month, and shared resentments and appreciations with each other during our class meetings).
During my grade school years, running was seamlessly interwoven into life. I even remember reading a book about a kid who ran all over his city. Wow, I thought, I like that! During my teens, however, exercise in general got put on the sidelines, as I embraced academics and being a suffering artist (er, did I just say that?), at the expense of everything else.
A few years into college, I came to my senses. Upon dropping out of college in the East Coast, I came back to sunny California and started to study up on personal happiness. This re-introduced me to the idea of exercising regularly, something I hadn’t done in years. Naturally, running came to mind.
Finally, eleven years ago, I made the personal commitment to make exercise (particularly running) a regular, non-negotiable part of my life. I haven’t looked back. I wrote about my running journey in detail in a post from the early days of this blog. In the three years since that post, my exercise regimen has changed dramatically: I stopped doing five days a week of fast-paced five mile jogs, and instead I started to train for and run half-marathons, which were longer runs than I had ever done before.
As of today, I have done three of them.
Half Marathon #1 was in April 2017: I ran my heart out, and because of my inexperience and over-exuberance at running a race with thousands of people, I burned myself out and had to walk the final mile. Considering this, my pace was actually quite decent, but I was unsatisfied with not being able to run the entire way. Embarrassed but determined to redeem myself, I started to prepare for my second go at it.
Last April, for Half Marathon #2, I used the opposite approach: instead of crashing and burning in a blaze of glory from over-excitement and inexperience, I made sure I had enough juice to make it to the finish line. My total time was a few minutes better than the first half marathon, but otherwise not a vast improvement, because of how careful I was not to repeat the mistake of the first go-around.
In the past year, I made another significant change to my approach: I discovered and embraced intermittent fasting. Through this method, I lost 30 pounds, and quickly noticed a change in my running: suddenly I was running much faster!
Because of this, and because of having another year of mentally and physically preparing, I entered today’s race–Half Marathon #3– with a calm mind and positive expectations. I was not disappointed. In fact, I’ve never run better, and was entirely in the zone for this run. The results were thoroughly satisfying.
During Half Marathon #1 I got used to the idea. During, Half Marathon #2, I established basic competency. Today, I knocked it out of the park.
It turns out that regarding running half marathons, the third time really is the charm! The St. Patrick’s Day Lucky Charm in fact… today being St. Patrick’s Day, and today’s race being St. Patrick’s Day-themed.
Or maybe it’s the luck of the Irish 😉