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The work is what matters

It’s hard to believe that in less than three weeks I will have a SECOND half marathon under my belt. Yeah, I’m still letting that sink in.

I haven’t written about my training much this time around, mostly because I wasn’t sure if people wanted to hear more of the same. Or really, I wasn’t sure if it was nearly as interesting this time.

While I have been a lot faster and stronger this cycle, I think training has lost a little bit of its sparkle. Don’t get me wrong – I still love running! But with my first training plan, every long run was my longest ever. Every piece of gear I bought was new and fascinating. Every trail was new territory. EVERYTHING WAS AWESOME!

Feeling STRONG after an 11-miler
This time, things are more familiar and less fascinating. Before I started officially “training” for this race, I had moved beyond the apprehension and intimidation of signing up. I knew I could do it because I had already done it once before. Plus, training through the WORST. WINTER. EVER. presented more challenges than excitement. (Everyone was sick of the snow, so who really wanted to read a blog about running in it? Not me.)

But despite the cold, dark mornings and the frigid, lonely weekend runs, I survived. I’m actually starting to look forward to race day instead of merely praying it would come and release me from the obligation of getting up at 4 a.m.  – or earlier – two or three times a week. (Who am I kidding ... I'll probably still get up for workouts after the race.)

Mentally, I’m trying to keep my expectations low. I know a faster time is possible, if not probable, but I don’t want to set a time goal and disappoint myself. My only objective is to finish STRONG. In Cleveland, the wheels fell off the bus after mile 10, and I did more walking than running in the last stretch of the course (I blame the damn hills). This time, I want to run strong and steady the entire way through. I want to focus on my form and my body, and I want to finish knowing I gave my best effort. (BONUS: It's a flat course, so hills won't be an issue.)

I love this little guy!
At my Weight Watchers meeting Friday, I got a charm for completing a four-week activity challenge. My goal was to get in all my training runs – no skipping or cutting. I didn’t care if I went fast or slow, or if I had to rearrange my schedule to fit them all in. What mattered to me was sticking to the plan and truly preparing my body for another race.

Everyone at our meeting had a different goal, and I was happy to see other members reach their milestones. Running, walking, biking, lifting – whatever it was, we all set a goal and found a way to get there. I think that’s the beauty to be found in any fitness plan. Sometimes we focus too much on the goal, or the end result, because that's ultimately what we want to achieve. But the WORK, the sacrifice, the time between the start and finish – THAT'S WHAT MATTERS.

When we challenge ourselves and push ourselves to change, that's where the magic happens.

So all goals aside, it won't matter what happens when I cross the finish line in Toledo. The 12 weeks prior to that will be what prepared me and pushed me to new limits. Despite all the scheduling conflicts, the relentless weather and my general lack of sparkle, I will have made it to the starting line feeling strong and ready. And that's really all I can ask for.

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