RIHEL Gave Me Confidence to Run My First Marathon
Written by Rachel Jervis, Advanced Leadership Training Program Class of 2017
On May 5, 2017, I graduated from RIHEL’s Advanced Leadership Training Program (ALTP).
On October 15, 2017 I completed my first marathon.
The latter is a direct result of the first.
I’ve been a runner since moving to Colorado in 2007. Over the years I’ve completed numerous short and mid-distance races, including six half marathons. I never planned to run a marathon. I’d joke “I’m such a slow runner that I’d have to stop mid-race for a meal.” I feared injuring myself, abhorred the time commitment, and was dubious that I could physically complete a marathon even if I wanted to. In short, marathons held no appeal to me.
Fast-forward to April 2017, when I was in the homestretch of the RIHEL Advanced Leadership Training Program (ALTP). Since attending college in Boston, I find myself glued to Boston Marathon results and human-interest stories each Patriot’s Day. Unlike previous years, some part of my brain wondered if I could conquer 26.2 miles. In a row. I confessed this thought to a friend on a long run the following weekend. Having completed multiple marathons and a full ironman, she assured me that with proper training I could finish a marathon. That evening I thought, Maybe I should run a marathon.
One of my focuses during the ALTP was to use strong, confident language (no more “I just wanted to ask if perhaps you could…”). In discussing this, a RIHEL classmate told me that she’s stopped saying “should” as it implies value/judgement. From that point on, I worked to eradicate “should” from my vocabulary. So when I caught myself thinking I maybe should run a marathon, I rephrased with confident language: I am going to run a marathon. The next words out of my mouth were equally strong: Oh %*@$, I’m going to run a marathon!
When I caught myself thinking I maybe should run a marathon, I rephrased with confident language: I am going to run a marathon
The ALTP demonstrated the value of a documented plan and skilled mentorship/coaching. Accordingly, I hired a fantastic coach (http://mercuriarunning.com/) to get me to the start line feeling confident and across the finish line still enjoying running. I expected the mindfulness and emotional intelligence work during the ALTP to increase my confidence marathon training, but I didn’t realize how interrelated they would be. In addition to four runs a week, two strength sessions, daily core work, and stretching, my coach assigned weekly “mental toughness” readings or podcasts. I found myself talking about the ALTP and sending her RIHEL resources in response to my homework.
During five months of training, I ran 539.73 miles to prepare to run the marathon. I went from a goal of “just finishing” to thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could complete my first marathon in under four and a half hours.
I met my coach for a “shake out run” the Thursday before the race. The following day I was flying to Detroit. The weather forecast called for heat and humidity. Despite summer heat conditioning, there was no way I could safely run 26.2 miles in under 4.5 hours in the predicted weather; and if I tried I could risk not finishing at all. My coach reassured me that I was trained for a 4.5 hour race, but it wasn’t 4.5 hour race weather. I agreed to readjust my goal to complete the race in under 5 hours and promised to go out nice and slow. Only if I felt good at mile 10 would I pick up my pace, but ultimately I would run conservatively.
Driving home from my last coaching session I burst into tears. I didn’t want to try for a sub-5 hour marathon. I wanted a cool, crisp fall morning where I could push the pace. I’d trained for months, couldn’t the weather cooperate? Mental toughness and emotional intelligence be damned, I had a meltdown.
On race day morning, my father and 5 friends who’d come to cheer me on showed up in the hotel lobby wearing matching “Run, Rachel, Run” shirts. I burst into tears again, this time tears of gratitude for all the people who had supported me along my marathon journey. Starting (unknowingly) with my RIHEL classmate who told me she doesn’t say should anymore. I dug into my emotional intelligence reserves and told myself today I run the best first marathon I can.
On race day morning, my father and 5 friends who’d come to cheer me on showed up in the hotel lobby wearing matching “Run, Rachel, Run” shirts. …[I] told myself today I run the best first marathon I can.
It was 70 degrees at the 7am start time, I sweat more in that race than all my training runs combined, and my visor blew off in the final quarter mile because the wind was so strong. But it was an amazing race day. I started slow, felt good enough to pick up the pace at mile ten, chatted with other runners, and kept going. I never hit the proverbial wall. When my friends met me at mile 24 to pace me in, I was all smiles. I crossed the finish line at four hours, 51 minutes, and 44 seconds.
This summer I’m focusing on some shorter trail runs to challenge myself with hills and enjoy the mountain scenery. I plan to run my second marathon in 2019. It will give me the opportunity to strive for a 4.5 hour marathon and continue practicing resilience and other ALTP skills.