How Yoga Helped Me Finish My Half-Marathon

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

As many of you know, I participated in my third half-marathon this past weekend. The Savannah Rock & Roll Half-Marathon, which was an inaugural race. I was super excited to be participating in the very first Rock & Roll event to be held in Savannah, and to be able to go with a group of my running buddies. My only goal was to be able to run the whole thing from start to finish, without having to walk. I had to walk a bit in my first two half-marathons, due to some pretty bad IT Band issues, so I really wanted to be able to run the entire time for this event.

However, over the past month, I’ve experienced minor injuries with my left leg (sartorius muscle, piriformis, and the inside of my left calf) that made me wonder if I’d be able to meet my goal. I purchased compression sleeves, saw my chiropractor, and got a deep tissue massage that focused on my legs. The day before the race, I was pretty bruised up from all the digging and prodding, so I resigned myself to just taking it for what it was. I’d do the best I could, and if that meant walking some, then so be it.

On race day morning, I took a couple of ibuprofen, put on my compression sleeves, and warmed up all my trouble spots as best I could. I was as ready as I was going to be, so I just programmed my Garmin to beep me every mile, as a reminder to check my pace on a regular basis. Amazingly, I was not nervous at all…I was truly just ready to get it over with, come what may.

It was great to be in the same corral as my running buddies. This is the first time I’ve ever had that luxury, and it really made a difference for me to start with people I actually know. There were six of us in total who started together, but three were pretty quickly ahead of the rest of us. I stuck with the other two through mile 4 or 5, and at that point, I started to back off the pace a little. I was feeling some pain in my left piriformis, and I knew that if I wanted to meet my goal, I should probably slow down a little.

Around mile 6, I noticed the pain again, and that started the worry. I started wondering if I could actually do this after all, and started to have a mini anxiety attack. I recognized it immediately, and something clicked in me mentally. This little voice piped up and said, “Melanie, are you gonna give in this easily and just forget about your goal? You’ll never forgive yourself if you just give up…if you want this, what are you gonna do to make it happen?” So I just started taking deep breaths, slow and steady, and kept repeating to myself, “You can do this…you’ve got this…slow down and just focus on what’s important.” I kept saying that over and over in my head until I believed it.

From that point on, whenever the pain would return, I just kept doing my breathing and repeating those words. It really helped, as all of a sudden, I stopped caring about how fast (or slow, in my case) I was going or about how many people were passing me. At that point, it stopped being a competition and started being about meeting my intention. Which was to finish the race, no matter what, without having to walk. If that meant slowing down, then so be it. No matter how long it took, I was going to run this whole thing just like I planned!

Before I knew it, I was at mile 11.5 and was feeling OK. I couldn’t believe it. At that point, I knew I was going to meet my goal and so I just kept going, slow and steady. At mile 12, I picked up the pace a little more, and when I saw the finish line, I kicked in to high gear and busted my butt to cross the finish line. Not only did I meet my goal of running the entire thing without having to walk, but I also ended up beating my best time by 8 minutes! Talk about ecstatic…I started crying right after I got my medal!

My running coach, my chiropractor, my massage therapist, and my dedication to following their plans were crucial to me being able to finish the race. But yoga played just as big a role in helping me meet my goal.

Because of my regular yoga practice, I was able to turn to my breath when things got stressful. And repeating positive, encouraging words gave me the confidence to believe that I was going to do what I set out to do, no matter what. I believe my steady breath helped me maintain the pace that was right for my body, as every time I checked my Garmin, I was pretty darn close to where I needed to be. The few times I noticed I was going too fast were the times I noticed I was feeling pain, and I immediately slowed my pace. In past races, I have given in to the negative thoughts that creep in to my head when things start to get tough or seem impossible. But not this time.

So when I run from now on, I am going to make sure I continue to practice my yoga right along with it. Even if it’s just a training run, I will try and remember to find my breath when it gets tough, and to encourage myself with positive words. Maybe if I do this enough, it will spill over into my regular life a bit more. With the right mental attitude, who knows what I can achieve? I can’t wait to find out!

Categories Yoga

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