On Running: what I've learned from running the Berlin Marathon 2017

 Photograph by @nell0k

Photograph by @nell0k

It's been almost 4 weeks since the Berlin Marathon back in September and I am slowly (very slowly!) starting to feel okay again, okay with running and training.. I still can't believe what my body and mind did that morning, but I just have to ride that wave! Whenever someone congratulates me for the marathon, still, I am not sure what to say, so I smile and say thank you. Appreciating the support and energy. Few of you I told my long story, from being super smiley, standing and waiting right before the start, chatting with strangers, to feeling pretty decent up until 42km. I also shared some miles with another runner and even shared my fueling with him but to cut things short, I was very surprised and happy and grateful on how good I felt on that day. Still, it wasn't until I hit the 30km and then the 35km mark that I realized I was about to run a sub-3.30 marathon. For my mind, there wasn't much to think about during and I believe I was able to stay relaxed and focused at the same time. 

If you followed along on Instagram, you saw that I wrote 'In 2016, I finished my first marathon (New York). In 2017, I raced my second marathon—this morning in Berlin. I shaved off 43min and 5sec and finished it with a time of 3:27:25' and when I posted it, I made that clear distinction because I had two completely different races. New York City as my first marathon was tough, I didn't know what to expect and when I thought I was training, I really wasn't.. compared to this year. Here is what I've learned from running my second marathon:

1. Be patient: you just have to be. Period. Running with its ups and downs, your body adjusting, maybe little pains and aches (or injuries even) here and there, you have to stay patient and listen to your body. At the end of the day, when the lights are off, and you're in your bed, after a hard workout, it is only You who will feel the pain in Your body. So, as Mira Rai said to me once 'slowly slowly'. Drink all the water, have all the sleep and take good care of yourself!

2. Stay consistent + run longer: I ran much more this past summer. Averaging about 50miles a week and peaking with 58miles. I never ran this much, this often, this far, but this summer, I pushed beyond the 30mile mark and it felt good. Much better than compared to one year ago. So, run longer long runs, add warm ups and cool downs if you can and keep it up!

3. No pressure: for this race, my goal was to run a sub-4hr marathon, at least that's what I told everyone. Maybe 3-4 weeks out, I played with the idea of running a 3.45, but I was honest and kept it light on myself: 'the only goal is to break 4hours, anything faster will be a bonus.' No expectations, no pressure meant relaxation and being okay with 'whatever might happen, happens'.

 Photograph by @fredgoris

Photograph by @fredgoris

4. Run alone: running in solitude has given me a lot this past year. I remember one of my friends saying 'Girl, you got this. On race day you will be running by yourself anyway.' It's true. When at times I didn't want to run alone (especially long runs), I remembered her sentence and still got up to go running by myself. There is something to it. Spending time by yourself is like 'getting to know yourself.' See it as your me-time, the time where you're not surrounded by all the noise, from social media to friends and family to your workplace. You will remember those moments. During the race in Berlin, images of me running by myself in the woods of Germany, the streets of New York, popped up and I was happy I was able to gain strength from those moments. Make it a thing and enjoy! 

5. Keep yourself stoked: YES! I started my personal hashtag with #keephuyenstoked - not to keep myself overly excited all.the.time. but I like to stay stoked, excited and passionate about things. So, when running gets boring (oh yeah, it does at times..), I try to stay stoked by mixing it up or simply remembering myself why I am running, why I signed up for this race, why I set this specific goal. Be clear about what's driving you and maybe even make it your mantra. Happy runnings!!

6. Rest up and sleep: no way we do it enough (especially with life in the city), but for my 2nd marathon, I really tried to take better care of myself and made sleep and rest and rolling out and massaging and elevating my legs a priority. 

7. Training is the hardest part: These words came into mind when I ran through the streets of Berlin and funnily enough, I had to smile. It felt like I just found a solution to a big problem! Looking back, getting up every day and challenging your mind and body on an ongoing basis is the most difficult part. That's why you gotta make it fun and then, the race is easy, or at least should be - takes me back to c o n s i s t e n c y.

8. Be kind to yourself: you can prepare all you want and still not hit your goal but be honest with yourself (have you really trained?) and also, you never know... The marathon is so fickle, anything can happen! Weather changes, jet lag, fueling, and yes, my period came on race day before. So, take it as you go, and be kind to yourself. Honor your body, cherish the journey. There are so many more races and marathons to run. Don't break yourself, mentally and physically!

9. Smile and stay positive: The marathon amazes me and I still have so so much to learn, but when it hits you and the energy hit me hard when I was at the start line, waiting for it all to begin, I looked around and thought 'Wow, all these people came out today, put in the training, and are about to run this humongous (I love this word!) distance, isn't it a beautiful celebration of the sport?' So, when I ran the first few kms, I thought of all the people who got me here and especially of all the women and girls in my life - yes, I was running for them, so knowing that my own personal race became so much bigger, I kept on smiling throughout the whole race. Stay positive, be confident and whenever your mind tries to come in and say something negative, don't give up on yourself, think words like 'You got this.' 'Keep it up.' 'No, I won't let my mind trick me out.' or high-five someone, take in the energy from the spectators and you might be able to surprise yourself.

10. Seek advice and support: always. I wouldn't be able to accomplish what I did without the group training, running alongside my teammates, without the advice from my coach and without my community's support. Sometimes, you do need a little push, and it's great to seek help and understanding because they are also going through the same stuff.. A team, or a friend can hold you accountable and honest. So, don't be a total loner, find the balance in both. There are only good experiences to gain, nothing to lose. 

Many thanks to my team, my coach and my community, friends and family. Stoked for what the future holds.

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