8 things I learned from running ten half marathons

10thHalfMarathonOne gorgeous day in Swanzey, NH in September of 2005, I ran my first half marathon. I so vividly remember crossing the finish line and promising myself, that I would never EVER EVER run another half marathon again in this lifetime. Ever. Never. Ever. Ever. (I'm fairly certain I pinky-swore myself. Yup, that's possible.)

This past Sunday, on June 1st, another gorgeous day this time in Newburyport, MA, I completed my 10th half marathon. (The one and only time I've ever broken a promise!)

When I crossed the finish line on that fateful day in 2005, I cried. And believe me they were tears of mental and physical exhaustion, of anguish and suffering.

And I cried again this past Sunday. Yet, this time around they were tears of pride and accomplishment. They were tears of joy of being so damn happy and feeling on top of the world. (Yup, runner's high totally exists.)

I am stronger and more fit (and wayyy more sexy) now, at 35 years of age vs 26 years old when I ran my first (and what I thought was my last) half marathon. In fact, I'm in the best shape of my life, which is no accident.

This accomplishment was a long time in coming. There were great races, shitty races, awesome training days and days when I wanted to toss in the towel and swore to never run again.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, on FB + Twitter, or even in person (imagine that!), you know there's been weeks of running in blizzards, during heat waves, in the wee hours of the morning and on occasion late at night.

I've run alone. I've run with friends. I've trained by myself, with friends, in run groups, with my mom and random strangers.

As I sit and think about the road traveled (pun 100% intended, thank you very much) to this accomplishment, here's what I learned along the way.

1. Your body is in better shape than your mind thinks.

This was a favored quote of a former High School Class advisor of mine, Mr. Tatto. He and I would run together between the off seasons of Field Hockey, Track and Softball. At this point in my life, I didn't consider myself a runner nor did I ever really run more than 3 or so miles. God forbid.

When we set out on our runs, he would never (ever ever) tell me how far we were going. He knew that if he did, I would immediately reply with "I can't run 5 miles." Or "I can't run 6 miles"  Or his favorite "I can't do that." He always responded to my distance inquiries with "Your body is in better shape than your mind thinks." Turns out he's right.

Next time you are asked to do another rep of weights,  sign up for a 5k, run a bit faster or spectate a sporting event, think to yourself "I can do that." Better yet, say to yourself, "I WILL do that."

2. Can't is the new "C" word.

Uh, yeah you can. See above.

3. What you eat matters. I repeat, what you eat matters.

The older you get and the further you run, the more true this becomes. There's really no other way to say this. Eat real food and stop eating the garbage that you are surviving on and convincing yourself "isn't that bad... right?"

And you who thinks you're doing fine by always ordering salad when you order out, or skipping breakfast because you don't have time and grab a Lara bar instead, please, for the love of your body and your health, stop. Make the commitment to yourself, your longevity and your future self that today you will start to cook more, eat in more, bring your lunch every once in awhile and cut out the double venti iced whatever that liquid sugar is you order at Starbucks.

If you run and hate it when your energy bonks, improve your eating. If you have wicked muscle soreness after a long run, examine your diet. If you think you can eat whatever you want because you run, think again.

Not sure where that leaves you? No sweat. Check out this program I've created just for you.  CLICK HERE.

Not a runner? That's cool. You still need to cut out the shitty food and sugary drinks. Email me, hire me and I'll rock your world. Promise. johanna@johannavoss.com

4. Nothing worthwhile happens overnight.

In other words, Mom's right. (Hi Mom!) Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

A half marathon training program is about 12 weeks long. You sure can't go from couch - half marathon in a matter of hours or days. It means that at some point around week 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (or all of those), when you have forgotten why you are doing what you are doing and the goal is just too far in the distance, that you will want to quit.

Don't. All those weeks, months, miles on your sneaks, stinky loads of laundry and early morning wake-ups will pay off. Keep your eye on the prize and keep on putting one foot in front of the other. There have most definitely been days when I just told myself "I'll run to the next telephone pole. Okay, I'll run to the next mailbox" just to get home.

Committing, recommitting and staying the path will pay off.

5. The last victory is just as sweet as the first one.

Every half marathon had it challenges. Every training experience was different. And crossing that electronic finish line so the chip in my bib would stop humming away always wrapped me in the sweet thrill of victory. I've won - each and every time.

RunningCollage6. Don't go at it (anything really) alone.

I trained for and ran that first half marathon alone. While I wouldn't say it was miserable, now I know better. Running, training and life is just generally better with others. Even better with friends and people you adore.

Friends have dragged me across finish lines. And in turn, I've dragged friends across finish lines. I've been buoyed, carried and motivated by race course spectators, both ones I know (My parents are President + VP of my fan club) and strangers.

<On a side note, if you are cheering on a runner, for the love of God, make a funny sign. We appreciate it. >

Not creative? Poster suggestions:

  • This parade sucks.
  • This is still a good idea (better towards the middle and end of the race)
  • I don't even know you and I'm so proud of you.
  • Don't stop. People are watching.
  • Hey girl (with obligatory pics of Ryan Gosling.)

NotaSprintHalfMarathon7. Life isn't a sprint. It's a half marathon.

Pace yourself.

8. Go the extra distance.

Eeking out an extra lap. Pushing yourself for an extra 5 minutes. Cranking out one more push-up. Whether it's the literal or figurative extra distance, do it. Go there. It WILL pay off.

Pace yourself.

*****On Sunday, June 15th at 8pm EST, I'm hosting my monthly *FREE* training call.

"How Pen and Paper made me the healthiest person I know. Learn the 3 things I track on a regular basis and how they've made the sexy bad-ass that I am."

Sign up here-- > http://eepurl.com/RAtFz

Hope you join me on the call.