Run the Mile You're In (Even During the Longest Runs)

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As I begin training for the Portland marathon, I’ve had so many different thoughts and emotions.

I feel a constant buzz of excitement running through my body, but every once in a while, I feel the biggest wave of nervousness. Nervous about enduring the long training process, nervous about the many what ifs (what if I hurt myself during training? What if I fall again during a run and bust my knee? What if I just can’t do it?), and, of course, nervous about running freaking 26.2 miles. I think I’d be crazy not to be nervous about that.

But I realized I can’t let that nervousness consume me and taint my experience. Running a marathon has been a lifelong goal of mine and I aim to truly enjoy and savor every second of this crazy journey I’m embarking on with my running.

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Two weeks ago I was getting close to the end of my 10 mile long run and naturally was feeling pretty proud of myself, until a thought popped into my head: “HOLY SH*T. One day my long run is going to be DOUBLE that mileage. And then one day I’m going to run more than two and a half times this. There. Is. No. Possible. Way."

After having a slight panic attack, I was calmed by this reminder – run the mile you’re in.

Runs become unenjoyable very quickly when I think too far ahead of myself. When you’re on mile one and start allowing yourself to get nervous for the next 9 (or 25…) miles, you lose the joy that you could have found in that first mile and every mile after.

I kept this lesson in mind during last week’s 10 mile long run and I was amazed at how much more fun I had. I opted to run it without any music and forced myself to take it one step at a time. Mile 1-5 flew by, despite a few hills that slowed me down; mile 6-7.5 was rough on the knees; mile 7.5-9.5 felt like a piece of cake; the last .5 miles were mentally tough, but I pushed through by allowing that buzz of excitement for the marathon to rush through my body.

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Instead of allowing the bit of anxiety that accompanies long runs and thoughts of the marathon consume me and suck the happiness from my run, I let myself get excited, I let myself get lost in my thoughts, I let myself think no further than the next step forward, I let myself take in my beautiful surroundings, I let myself run slow as a snail when my knee was hurting and faster than was probably “smart” when I felt like it. I gave my full attention to each mile which also helped me listen to my body more deeply than ever before. Because I wasn’t so worried about the miles that lay ahead and so over-consumed by my music, I was able to notice when I needed to slow down, when my body was telling me to speed up, when my form was off and hurting my knees/hips/legs. I simply noticed more. About myself. About my thoughts. About the people, buildings and beautiful nature around me.

I enjoyed each and every mile because I thought of them as individual pieces that fit into a larger picture. I didn’t overthink or anticipate or get scared. I just ran. I know this process of being in the moment is what’s ultimately going to power me through 26.2 miles.

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Thinking too far in the future, already deciding how hard the next miles or how hard a run two months away will be and letting the nerves start brewing in your stomach, is a sure way to get discouraged.

Even if you’re not a runner, it’s important to take life one “mile” at a time too. In every aspect of life, not just running, I tend to think too far ahead and in return get anxious too far ahead. As a naturally anxious person, this turns into a really bad cycle where even exciting events or life changes coming in the future turn into a negative because I overthink them and make up the worst-case scenarios months in advance.

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This past week I not only let myself take those 10 miles one mile at a time, but I also let myself bask in feeling proud of the miles I had run, despite the much longer runs that loom in the future. I let myself feel the unexplainable happiness that running brings me and pushed aside any of the doubts and nerves that were wanting to creep in. I believe in myself and that belief is what’s going to successfully and strongly carry me those 26.2 miles. One step at a time and one mile at a time, I’m getting closer to reaching my goal.

So remember - run the mile you're in. It's the only one that matters!

XO nat

Related: 10 Lessons I've Learned From Running, In It For the Long Run: My 10 Long-Run Must-Haves, Marathon Training Taper Week Tips