Dear Jon.. Running Your First Half Marathon ‘Above the Line’

Dear Jon,

A couple of days ago, you asked me for tips on how to reach your goal of running your first half marathon in August. I’ve thought about it a bit more and thought these tips might help you.

First and foremost, keep your goal ‘above the line’. I know you’re familiar with the phrases ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’ but let’s elaborate for the outside world – at least, my interpretation of them.

In Goal Setting, we want to ensure that all of our goals are coming from a place that keeps you motivated, inspired, and ultimately excited. Setting goals from ‘below the line’ is, as you can guess, the opposite of this. It comes from a place that is filled with expectations and “should’s”.

It’s just hitting me that I have the perfect example of this.

  • My first marathon (read race report here) came from a place where I thought I should do it. Running a marathon was never on my life list but given the amount of running I was doing and had done, and from what others were telling me, it seemed like the right thing to do. Fast forward, I finished the marathon and I was near tears .. but sad tears.
  • My second marathon (read race report here) started off from a place where I thought I should do it, again. But as I progressed and learned more, I was excited. When I stepped over the finish line, I was again near tears .. but tears of joy.

First marathon = ‘below the line’. Second marathon = ‘above the line’.
First marathon = ‘should’. Second marathon = ‘will’.

So back to running YOUR first half marathon. I’ve narrowed it down to a few steps, because I am a HUGE believer of breaking things down into smaller steps to keep things manageable:

1.  Declare Your Goal! I know goals are structured in the “I will (blank) by (blank).” I’m asking you to take it one step further and describe it – give the why’s and how’s and read it back to yourself. Make sure it’s coming from a place that’s ‘above the line’ so it makes you happy and excited. Keep this with you all the time. If your goal isn’t going to make you happy, excited, inspired, and motivated, then what’s going to get you there?

2. Set Your Milestones!  These are benchmarks that lead you to your goal. These could be things like:

I will join a run group by [16 weeks before your goal race]. Your race is in August, so it would be “I will join a run group by April.”
I will run once a week in January.
I will run twice a week in February.
I will run three times a week in March.

3. Build Your Tasks!  For each milestone, there are a number of tasks that need to be done. For example:

Milestone: Join a Run Group by April

– Find the running stores close to work and home that offer clinics.
– Visit each of the running stores to find out which one suits you best.
– Ask your friends, family, or coworkers to join you.
– etc.

4. Tips! This isn’t necessarily a step but some tips to make sure you don’t stray from your goal.

– Share your goal, milestones, and tasks with a friend, spouse, or coworker (or all three!) and ask them to keep you accountable. Ask them to check in on you. Or join you.
– Schedule your workouts! Put them in your calendar and don’t “snooze” or “dismiss” them unless you’ve done them.
– Read your goal to yourself when you’re feeling unmotivated. You’re in the midst of Winter and it’s not the most inspiring time to get outside so read your goal to yourself and get jazzed up again! Do this often.
Bottom Line: Have Fun. If you’re not having fun, why bother? When you’re out on a run, try to be aware of your surroundings and how you’re feeling. At those moments when you are loving it, remember it. Are you listening to music? Are you in trails? Are you on the seawall? Once you know what those positive triggers are, use them. When you think running’s not fun, pull your positive triggers out and activate them!

I’m going to share a couple of fun facts:

Fun Fact #1 – Yesterday, during the photo shoot, we were asked to smile a bit while we were running. One person said that they don’t really smile when they run. But I do. And, coincidentally, the location where we were shooting is often the place where I AM smiling because it can sometimes take me by surprise how beautiful Vancouver is and how lucky I am. So I smile. Because it rocks.

Fun Fact #2 – I learned to enjoy my really long runs solo through my iPod. I used to never run with music but you can’t always convince your friends to run 3 hours with you in the rain at 3pm in the afternoon. So I used it as an opportunity to tour through Vancouver. To music. I called it my “soundtrack to the city”.

Fun Fact #3 – Those happy triggers that I talked about.. I’m not a great hill runner so when I’m getting back into training and am finding it difficult to walk out the door, I go to my default. I run the seawall. Both the Stanley Park and False Creek seawall. iPod set with fab tunes and hitting some of my favourite spots. Epic. And I fall in love with running all over again.

Ok, those are all my secrets – but not so secret.  Happy training and smile when you cross that finish line.



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