COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - This is one of the toughest challenges of my life. Now, I'm less than three weeks away from running my first ever full marathon. I'll admit, I'm a little nervous, with so many thoughts running through my head.
I know the training I've done the last 14 weeks has prepared me, but I'm also being careful to not let my mind play tricks on me.
During the long runs, it's often mind over matter. When I ran 19 miles recently, I wanted to stop halfway through and I tried to talk myself into excuses for more breaks during that run. A few days ago, it was 20 miles – my longest distance so far and final long training run before the marathon.
While I ran alone for that 3 hours and 35 minutes, I was trying not to go crazy but did talk to myself and God - repeating these positive phrases: "Just relax" and "You got this Jesus" and "Come on!" It's self-motivation to keep those legs and arms moving, even if I don't feel like it.
I'm trying to learn to relax more while I run, not focusing so much on the difficulty or how long I've been running. One key is to break the run or race into small pieces. For instance, after 5 miles, I'm ¼ of the way done with those 20 miles – or after 14 miles, I only have a 10K to go.
You might say there's a point on my long runs when I feel "in the zone" (not Auto Zone) and just there, my mind occupied on something else instead of the run or the possible pain. It's not an out-of-body experience, but close.
We can't forget the elephant on the race course either. Inevitably, we hit that wall while running, especially longer distances when you have to concentrate for hours and hours.
That's when distractions help, whether it be music or talking to someone you're running with or just thinking about something else.
I've been glad to have a few running partners join me during this training, which included 153 miles on roads and parks and trails last month. It was also fun running alongside my teen daughter in a 5K last weekend.
Overall, I'm pushing myself beyond what I ever thought I could do, but also being careful not to over-train or suffer from an injury.
When my body talks to me, like the whispers of my quads aching after 3 hours of running recently, I have to listen and slow down my pace a bit, to prevent my quads from tightening. Still, I can't think about the pain or worst case scenario.
Some degree of apprehension going into this marathon is natural, but I'm not saying "I want to give up." My training and my God have pushed me, so that my focus is "I can do this."