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Committing to Fitness Goals: My Honolulu Marathon Story

Have you ever accomplished something so monumental that all the hard work it took to get there seemed worth it? I took a personality quiz the other day, sort of like “which Disney Princess are you”, except actually legit. It turns out, I’m what you call, an “obliger.” Just another way of saying “people pleaser,” which I already knew about myself. Essentially, if I tell someone I’m going to do something, I follow through at all costs.

Why are you telling us this?  You might be wondering.

Well, knowledge of your tendencies reveals much about your motivation to do all sorts of things in life. In my case, I’m motivated by the expectations of others.

It’s also January, which means everywhere you look people are hitting the gym, setting fitness goals and working hard to get in shape. If you happened to see my unboxing video for the amazing company, Brave Crate, you saw all kinds of motivating products and services available to military spouses during deployment. I couldn’t love this more.

In fact, long before Brave Crate was around, I decided to set a fitness goal of my own during a deployment.

Here’s how it played out:

Clint and I ambitiously signed up to run the Honolulu marathon while we were stationed at Pearl Harbor. We gave ourselves about four months to train. On date nights, we’d head straight to Barnes & Noble to study mileage charts in running books and educate ourselves on everything from the right shoes to how to carbo-load. I’m a planner by nature, and writing out training calendars was my kind of Friday night fun.

Clint spent those four months in and out of port, not able to consistently put in the miles. I, on the other hand, took great pride in completing every planned mile, crossing out the day on the calendar, one step closer to the marathon. The hot, thick air in Hawaii can take some getting used to exercising in, and my lungs needed those months for acclimation.

Here’s what I noticed:

  • I never missed a run, because I wanted to cross it off the calendar and Clint would be asking me about my training (hello, Obliger!).
  • My focus shifted from missing Clint to plotting routes for long weekend runs (distraction!).
  • Long runs provided stress-relief, fresh air, and the feeling of accomplishment, even if I got nothing else done that day.

Race day was fast approaching and I was ready. Did you know that the Honolulu marathon begins at 5:00 am? Because when the sun comes up in Hawaii, it’s hot!!

We wanted to roll out of bed and stumble outside to the starting line, so we booked a couple nights at the Hale Koa, the fancy military hotel in Waikiki. It was dark and felt very middle-of-the-night-ish when we made our way out to the street among the crowds.

Clint had splurged and bought us both mp3 players which held a whopping 12 songs. I knew I’d be hearing my tunes on repeat, so I chose carefully. And to this day, every time I hear Vanessa Carlton’s, “making my way downtown, walking fast, faces pass and I’m home bound,” in my mind I’m right back on that race course!

The gun signaled the start of the race and runners took off in the dark past Iolani Palace, former home to Hawaii’s final monarchs, and then out towards Diamond Head.

Clint sprinted away from me, pushing himself towards his best possible time. I had completed 18 and 20-mile runs before my taper in the month leading up to the race, and was confident in my pace. My trusty sweat-stained Roxy visor kept me focused on running my own race, not worrying about those on either side of me.

Striding out towards Hawaii Kai, on the eastern side of Oahu, as the sun came up, I wondered how Clint was doing. Marathoners talk about “hitting the wall” around mile 20. I had heard of this phenomenon and wondered whether it would happen to me. It certainly did. Right on schedule. At mile 20, my legs felt like they were going to fall off of my body and I started second-guessing this crazy form of self-torture.

I had almost talked myself into walking- just for a few steps- but, that pesky Obliger in me said “no”. As much as I wanted to stop and rest, the thought of having to admit to Clint that I’d walked part of the race was enough to keep me going.

So, I kept shuffling along.

Somehow, some way, I crossed the finish line. I’d ran the whole thing. And my playlist had looped 3 times. When it started over for the fourth time, I shut the dang thing off. Music was no longer motivating by that point. Grueling determination and pride took over where J.Lo left off.

It was time to find Clint, so I made my way over to our meeting spot on the beach. I saw him lying in the warm sand, face-up, like a starfish. If I tried to lower myself down to sit next to him, I knew I’d never be able to get up again, so I hunched over and asked him how his race went. He proceeded to tell me that he had sprinted the first 20 miles (7-minute mile pace), then hit the wall and walked over half of the remaining miles to the finish line, taking long breaks to stretch along the way.

Really.

All I could do was laugh.

The ONLY reason I hadn’t walked was because I had too much pride to admit to Clint that I’d walked and then to find out HE had walked a big chunk of it. He blamed his four-week underway leading up to the race, and I suppose that’s valid.

Arms around each other’s shoulders, walking side-by-side, we eeked out another mile back to the Hale Koa. Before the race, I had visions of us relaxing in the pool and going out to eat to celebrate our big accomplishment. In reality, though, it hurt so much to move, that we stayed in our room, crashed on the bed and ordered room service.

Setting fitness goals is about so much more than the actual exercise. It’s about commitment, discipline, focus, confidence and, of course, fun! Even though it was painful there at the end, I’m so proud of the months of training. And it doesn’t have to be a marathon. Sign up for a shorter race. Commit to a new studio class. Make a calendar and cross off the days when you show up and do the work. Find out the benefits for yourself and count the wins along the way when you work towards your fitness goal.

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