At the beginning, I wasn’t sure what possessed me to pay money to put my body through what I imagined would be 3.1 miles of torture.
But when it comes down to it, I know why I did it. It was a combination of an aging crisis and a desire to test my mental toughness.
Last September, a friend suggested I consider running with her and some others in a 5-k, and surprisingly, I didn’t automatically dismiss the idea. The race was scheduled for November, about a week after my birthday. I reasoned it would be the perfect way to prove to myself that I’m really not that old. I also thought it would be a good mental discipline.
Before making my final decision, I gave it a week to think it over, during which I tested out the first three days of a training plan.
Was I miserable that first week? Yes. But something inside me compelled me to go for it. Once I signed up for the race, I was on a mission. I faithfully hit the road three mornings a week, using an app on my phone to track my progress.
As I slowly increased distance, I began to see improvement in my average pace per mile without even trying. Setting a new personal record or running farther than ever before was addicting, and I became increasingly excited to see what I could do.
Some days were easier than others, and I didn’t always improve my times. Sometimes, my feet would drag as I completed my workout, and I usually ended up feeling varying degrees of miserable when I’d return to my apartment after a run. Truth be told, I never reached the point where I felt like I could run forever.
But no matter what, I told myself I could do it.
Along the way, I told a handful of people about my goal. These people affirmed me and cheered me on. Anytime I wanted to quit during a run, I remembered I didn’t want to have to tell my friends I stopped and walked. It was an unspoken accountability system.
The night before the race, my friends and I gathered for an evening of fellowship—and to load up on some pre-race spaghetti. I could hardly sleep, I was so excited. After seven weeks of training, I couldn’t wait to test myself.
The morning of the race, I donned my new dri-fit shirt and pinned on my race bib. I hardly recognized the girl in the mirror. I, Janae Rempel, was running a race.
I had two goals in mind prior to the race: I wanted to run the entire route, and I wanted to finish in less than 30 minutes. It was a chilly morning, but I hardly noticed. Soon, it was race time. The course, at Carey Park in Hutchinson, was beautiful, and I set my pace. I enjoyed the scenery and told myself to persevere.
The miles passed, and although I became tired, it wasn’t unbearable. My training had prepared me.
As the end neared, people lined either side of the road, and I set my eyes on the finish line. In that moment, all that mattered was crossing it. My friends cheered me on, and I gave everything I had as I raced to the finish.
After the world stopped spinning and the initial sick feeling subsided, I began to feel incredibly good as I waited for my time. It was like a shot in the arm when I saw my name typed in the results, just like the countless cross-country results I’ve written up for the paper. Not only did I achieve my time goal and set a new PR, I placed second in my age group. The achievement I felt in that moment was second to none. I floated through the rest of the day. Nothing could bring me down.
For me, running that 5-k was more than a physical race. Yes, I pushed myself to run farther than ever before. But it was also a quest to achieve a goal, challenging my ability to persevere through adversity.
I learned what mental toughness looks like and how to work methodically toward a goal, keeping my eyes focused on the finish line. That symbolizes how I want to live my life.
I can’t wait to do it again.
Janae Rempel is the Free Press sport editor. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.