#RunPhD: Mile 11

Last weekend I ran the Holiday Half Marathon in Portland Oregon. I have actually lost track of how many times I’ve run that race, and Facebook was of little help with all those random cold and sweaty memory pictures. I’m going to guess about five times with the half marathon and another one or two with the 5K distance. It is one of my traditional races each year because of its perfect timing in the midst of all the holiday hustle and celebrational sugars. Getting away from it all for 13.1 miles is exactly the break I need.

For this year’s race, I had a 2:15 time goal (strong but definitely do-able for me) and a focus on just enjoying the morning. Work has been extra busy lately and I had other plans for the rest of the day. A grumpy race wouldn’t help with any of the rest I desperately needed.

A few miles into the race (which had perfect weather, cold but not frozen, overcast but not raining), I was struggling a bit on motivation. “Enjoyment” just wasn’t getting those miles done. So I broke the race down into smaller milestones:

  • Mile 1 – The first mile was the biggest uphill of the course. There would be other hills, but nothing like that forever one.
  • Mile 3 – After about two minutes past that sign, I could solidly say I only had single digit miles left to go.
  • Mile 6.5 – Turnaround point. Every step was one closer to the finish line, instead of one farther away.
  • Mile 11 – The gingerbread cookie station. I took a picture, and then swallowed that little man whole…With no regrets.
  • Mile 12 – Remember that first mile? An out-and-back course means what goes up forever gets to go down forever (though it didn’t seem quite as far down as it had up).
  • Mile 13.1 – Stop running. There was also a medal, some soup, and other things, but really it was about stopping with the running.

Running is a challenge, even after doing it for almost a decade. But I maintain that it’s a challenge that is worth it, and one that anyone can make it through, IF they want it and IF they figure out what victory looks like to them.

For me last week, victory was the smile on my face at Mile 13.1 when I crossed the finish line at 2:10.24. Boom Baby!

I’ve survived 15 marathons and one Ph.D. program. So…now what? I’ve learned through the journeys that it’s not about intelligence, speed, magic beans, or waiting for it to get easy. It’s about strength and perseverance. This year’s blog series will be about #WhatsNext after crossing some major finish lines, and preparing for new starting lines as a runner and a (not that kind of) doctor. I am #RunPhD.

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