The first mile

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The first mile lies.

The last mile does too.

When you’re running a marathon, the first 26 miles is easy. It’s that last .2 that kills you.

This is about the first mile, in running, and in life.

The joke is that you don’t ever want to spectate in the first mile of a marathon. After spending an hour or more in the corral waiting for the shot gun start and the waves to cross the line, we all have to pee. Marathon runners in a sanctioned event generally go where we want to go without penalty or repercussion. The misconception is that we have to go in the first mile. In my experience of running 13 races, this is not true. We often spend the first mile jostling each other, trying to break away from the crowd, settle into pace, and avoid colliding with people slower than us without being run over by those who are faster.

The first mile is a hot mess, and the last thing on anyone’s mind is stopping to pee.

We just want to get the heck out of the pack.

The first mile of any life event is the same. When you start something new, you have to avoid going out too fast so that you do not lose steam, and you have to avoid standing still before the opportunity passes you by. Beginnings are hard. Running marathons has taught me to not only embrace finish lines and the accomplishment they bring, but to also appreciate the opportunities that start lines and new beginnings bring.

One of the hard parts of the first mile is finding your pace or settling into your rhythm. Depending on how large the race, I like the really big ones with 20,000+ runners; sometimes it takes to mile 5 or 6 before you actually settle into your pace. I call it cruising altitude. Kind of like an airplane, it is the point in the race in which I just go, my body doing what I have spent the past 5 months training it to do, and my mind just enjoying the euphoria that is the feeling of the race and riding on the energy of the cheering crowds.

It takes guts to put your self out there like that. 26.2 miles – what could possibly go wrong? You put 5 months of your life into training for one day. One day that you don’t even know what the weather conditions will be like for an outdoor event, if you will be sick or well, or any other technicality or detail, other than you have signed up to toe the line to run 26.2 miles that day. It’s been circled on the calendar, sometimes for a year in advance, depending on the race for which you registered, and so many hopes and dreams hinge upon that date.

Did you adequately train? Did you adequately hydrate? Are you really ready to toe the line? All the doubts and insecurities that you have well up inside you as you spend that hour or more in the corral waiting for the start.

The first mile lies.

The first mile says: why am I here? What did I get myself into? What if I fall? What if I do not finish? What if I fail?

That moment when you hit cruise control is when faith kicks in. That is the moment when you realize you have trained, you are ready, and you are now entering cruising altitude in giddy anticipation of the finish line.

But what about that first mile? How do you get through that?

It’s scary. Trying anything new is scary. Whether it is a new job, a new relationship, letting your walls down and allowing yourself to be vulnerable with someone, anything new is scary. The first mile lies.

I don’t know what to tell you other than that. The person who starts a marathon is not the same person who finishes a marathon. Everything you ever wanted to know about yourself, you will learn in 26.2 miles. The first mile lies. While it may not seem possible the moment you are in that first mile, once you are past it, you will know that you can get through it and will have this feeling of invincibility that will never leave you.

Beginnings are hard. I’m not sure how to make them easier, but I know that it is possible to get through them. Most times, the best things in life are just on the other side of fear.

I would rather be a “did not finish” than a “did not start.” Even a “last place finish” is better than a “did not start.”

There are times in my life when I am facing new beginnings that have absolutely nothing to do with running. I try something new, I feel needy, clingy, insecure. That’s the equivalent of the first mile. Yet, somehow, those negative feelings always pass and things work out all right. If running has taught me anything, it’s to keep going because the best sight may be just around the next corner.

As I slow down in life and try new things, I have to learn to be comfortable with those challenging feelings that sometimes come with new experiences. It is hard to sit there with those feelings. Insecurity and doubt are not pretty. I know that it is all about finding the balance between going out too fast and standing still. I can tell you right now, that I am not the type of person to stand still.

While the first mile may be challenging, it is definitely worth it. Once you get over the initial hurdle and settle into your race pace, everything works out fine. You are able to enjoy the race, the crowd, and the experience for which you have given a significant portion of your year and life to have.

The first mile may lie, but once you get past the fear, you have one of the best experiences in your life.

What new things have you jumped into lately?

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