13.1 Ways a Half-Marathon Is Like My Life With Mental Illness

It’s Tuesday, two days after I completed my first (and possibly only) half-marathon. I’m sitting here sunburned, sore and nursing a quarter-sized blister on the inside of my toe, but I’m also sitting here reflecting on the experience. I’ll be the first to admit my training was not what it should have been for a half-marathon, but I went in knowing it would be a run/walk experience and I was OK with that. My goal was to finish and that’s exactly what I did. As I’m reflecting, I’m realizing how my life is a lot like running a half-marathon. Let me explain what I mean…

1) Although completing a half-marathon was on my bucket list, I never thought I would actually complete one. I never thought I would be affected by mental illness, but I am.

2) Peer pressure can be good. I had lots of people encourage me to sign up for the half-marathon (because they were also doing it), just like I had lots of people encourage me to seek help when things got/get bad.

3) I had ups and downs in my training, just like my days. I have good days and bad days. Some training days felt really good, others felt like crap. I think everybody can identify with having good and bad days.

4) I didn’t train as much as I could (or should) have for the half-marathon. As much as I like to think I’m doing everything I can to manage, I know there is always something more I can be doing.

5) I was nervous and unsure about actually running/walking up until we actually started the half. I was super nervous and unsure about seeking help until I actually did it.

6) Once we started, I knew we were in for the long haul. I didn’t realize it at first, but I now realize I’m in it for the long haul with my depression and anxiety.

7) There were hills (although not too many and not like the ones in Dubuque) and valleys on the half-marathon course. The hills were more difficult to go up, but then we got to see the view and have an easier time going down. There are hills and valleys in life. There are difficult times I go though, but I can then enjoy the view and hopefully have an easier time for a while.

8) As we reached each mile marker, we had a small celebration. Many times, a mile marker was followed by an aid station with water and Gatorade. Each small accomplishment reminded us we were that much closer to our big goal of finishing. The same happens in life. I celebrate small accomplishments like getting out of bed with the first (or second) alarm which puts me closer to my big goals in life.

9) People are always there. I had an amazing buddy throughout the whole half-marathon (shout out to Kelsey). She was by my side during the majority of the course. There were also people cheering alongside the course — most often people we didn’t know, but people we did know showed up at exactly the right moment. These people cheered us on and even ran part of the course with us. People are always there in life too — they could be there to lend a shoulder to cry on, send an encouraging text, write a letter or a handful of other things. Sometimes these people walk the whole journey with you and other times they show up when you really need them.

10) There is a great sense of pride and accomplishment at finishing a big (or small) goal. We were excited to reach each mile marker, but we were even more excited to finish. The pride of reaching each small goal encouraged and pushed us to finish the whole thing. Finishing the whole thing brings a sense of accomplishment that can’t be taken away. There is a weird sense of pride and accomplishment at (successfully) living with and managing a mental illness. No, I’m not proud I have to deal with what I do, but I’m proud I’m living and accomplishing things each and every day.

11) Finishing something big gave us the reason and ability to celebrate with friends. Our friends had us over to their house for a BBQ (and a shower) after finishing the half (shout out to Erin and Shannon!). It was lots of fun for us to be able to celebrate a big accomplishment with friends. While I may not have a party every time I accomplish something in life, I know there are people around who are proud of me and celebrate in smaller ways, whether that’s a high five, a hug or a trip to get ice cream. Always celebrate those accomplishments in one way or another.

12) The soreness I’m experiencing in the days following the half-marathon is a reminder of what I accomplished. Of course, I’d rather not be sore, but it’s a great reminder. There are wounds and areas in our life that remind us of how far we’ve come. I have emotional wounds (or emotional soreness… weird, I know, but work with me) that remind me of how far I’ve come since diagnosis. I also have friends who have watched me work and grow, who can remind me of how far I’ve come when I can’t see it myself.

13) There is a great sense of knowing I can do it. This helps me to look forward to the future (possibly another race, even if it’s just a 5k) and encouraging others to chase their dreams. As I accomplish things in my life, there is that sense of knowing I can do things, even when it seems impossible. I look to this feeling and these accomplishments to help me push through when things get tough.

13.1) I couldn’t think of a “small” way in which a half-marathon is like my life, so I’m just going to include a few pictures! P.S. I actually finished in 3:12, but the timer started when the gun went off with the first group.

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Unsplash photo via Martins Zemlickis. Final images via contributor.

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