What Half-Marathon Training Has Taught Me about Art

“So...what do you think? Are you in?”

My internal dialog went something like this…”You’re crazy. I’m not doing that. I haven’t done anything like that since college...not even close!”

My friend, Sally, and I were running when we had this breathless conversation. She wanted me to train for a half-marathon with her. 13.1 miles. Of running.

I really enjoy running and I love being outside. There is something that comes alive in me when I am out there, but training for a 13.1 mile race sounded way more than my 30+ body could handle. I had a lot of other reasons to NOT do this:

I am diabetic and on an insulin pump.

I have two young children.

I am a self-employed artist working on my own to build my business. (That's like 1 person doing the work of five!)

I was very, very skeptical that this was a good idea, but since I’m terrible at saying no, I’m sure you can guess what happened.

After 9 months of training for my first 13.1 mile race, here are some of the invaluable lessons learned about life and art.

1. Slow down--When I first started tackling longer runs (6-7 miles), I quickly found out that I needed to intentionally slow my pace at the beginning of my run in order to finish the run well. Same goes for life and art. As someone who likes to jump right into things with both feet, I have to deliberately slow myself down, pause and think, seek advice, etc, before moving ahead. I finish stronger as wife, mom, and an artist when I slow down.

2. Find friends-- It is really hard to skip out on a run when you know that someone is meeting you. I am not sure I would have gotten through my winter of training without my running buddy, Sally. There were many a run when I wanted to skip it due to fatigue or busy schedule or weather, and she could say the same thing. We needed each other. We need friends not only in running, but in life and in business too. (Check out this post about my villagers)

3. Small bites--When a long run just feels too daunting, break it into smaller chunks. I talk myself through these rough training runs by like this: “Ok, just get to that sign post and see how you feel. Good job, got to the sign post...feeling ok. I think I can get to the top of that hill.” And before you know it, the run is completed and it really wasn’t that bad. These runs are important in training because of the mental strengthening that happens. Same is true for work as an artist. There are many times when a project looks too big or daunting. I take a small bite like this: “Ok, I know you don’t feel like doing this, but just paint for 20 minutes…” Before I know it, I’ve painted for an hour and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

4. Take breaks-- Sometimes less is more. Especially when it comes to training. I thought that I needed to build up stamina and strength, so I complimented my training with elliptical machine training when I wasn’t running. I would train 6 days a week. I discovered pretty quickly that I was doing too much. My body needed time to recover, especially for the long runs. I was scared to try it at first, but I decided to take more breaks. I started just training four days a week...three runs a week and one session on the elliptical. My body thanked me by giving me more and more successful training runs where I would get home and feel like I could run about 5 more miles. Your mind and your spirit need breaks too, so I’m slowly learning and working on taking breaks in other part of my life. Breaks from art, breaks from social media, breaks from the routine of cleaning and cooking. We all need breaks or we can’t perform at our best.

5. Practice--Since I have diabetes, I knew that I would need to do practice runs as long as my race so I could be sure I would know how to manage my blood sugars. Practice makes perfect. I was able to run my race in September with confidence and joy because I was ready. I had practiced. Anyone who has been doing their craft for a long time knows that perfection does not come overnight. It takes lots and lots of painstaking practice.

6. Don’t let external conditions stop you-- Colorado is a pretty great place to do outdoor training, but I had to gut out certain runs in very cold, windy weather, rain, and nasty heat. One thing I discovered during those runs is that I love running in the rain. I never would have known that if I would have let inclimate weather keep me inside. Adversity can strengthen us in our endeavors. As long as it’s not stupid and dangerous, don’t let adversity in any aspect of your life stop you from moving forward. You might just surprise yourself.

7. Give yourself grace-- I would go weeks without any enjoyable runs. Sometimes I would have to walk. What I learned in those moments is grace. Grace for myself. Some paintings are awesome. Some events and shows make you feel like you’re on top of the world. Some feel like utter failures. Since I’m human, and so are you...we are not going to perform at our best all the time. That’s simply unrealistic. Give yourself grace and keep on going.

So, those are my lessons I’ve learned. Training for a half marathon was NOT easy, but something I don’t regret in the least. I love what it taught me about myself and life as an artist.

Will I run another half? Maybe. Depends if Sally asks...like i said, I’m horrible at saying no.

Any runners out there? What has running taught you?

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