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How loathing the mile run led me to marathons:

In freshman P.E. class, I purposely threw my body into a bench positioned conveniently along the track. I was desperate to get out of finishing the mile. A scrape on my knee? Man down. I had been on lap three of four and life was terrible. The dreaded high school mile, where your worth was determined by your time. Exercise-induced asthma and a dreadful disposition didn't help my speed. I would chug along beating only the walkers, wishing I had lungs of steel and legs like rubber bands, and believing my toes were a few steps from falling off. 

Fast forward three years and I'm registered for my first half marathon, surprising even myself. The exercise hiatus might have caused me to forget that burning, ripping sensation in my calves, but I like to think it was the classic second-chance story. Such as when I used to avoid avocados and now I go to the store even if all I need is one.

Committing to a race was easy, but training was a different beast. Training — both physically and mentally — manifested a form of myself I had never met before, which led me to sign up for three marathons thereafter. In October, in Kansas City, I'll run my fourth.

This morning, I clocked nine miles. It sucked. One mile down the street, I decided I hated running. I decided after this run, I would resort to yoga and boxing and other forms of cardio. I decided I would rather sleep until noon than wake up early to beat the heat. I decided I didn't care to be a runner.

My legs were stiff. I panted heavily. My playlist successfully drowned out the morning traffic, but failed to interrupt my antagonistic thoughts. This internal battle of self doubt is not unusual. The internal battle is what keeps me going. It creates a race, a competition, against myself and challenges all the times I've told myself I can't do something.

In less than 12 hours, after a shower and food, I have come back to my senses and remembered again why I love running. I often say running is my meditation, like it is for a lot of runners. Part of that is knowing I'm overcoming my own limitations. Even though I have 13.1 miles under my belt already, during a difficult run, I don't believe it. I don't believe I can ever do it again. The mind game. There are runs I look forward to, runs I force myself into and runs I skip entirely. As in life, even the things I love most I won't always like. Work. Friends. Parents. A husband. Children, eventually.

For me, nine miles on a Saturday is an accomplishment. For ultrathoners, my weekend long runs are their warmups. And I'm okay with that, because this isn't a race against everyone else. I'm still motivated by how far I've come since 14-year-old me. I'm still busy fighting with my own shoulder devil to compare myself to other runners. For that reason, I would be happy dying without finishing a 100-mile ultra run, or even 50 miles. A full marathon, on the other hand? It's on the horizon.

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