Why talk about it?
I've been thinking lately that I should share more about why I'm doing all of this. I post a lot to social channels during the run up to my marathons, and I can imagine this has different effects on people. Some may find it inspiring, others might find it annoying, and some might not read the posts at all. That's perfectly OK. For me, it's a means to an end. Communication helps get the word out. It gets homes built for those in need. And it helps me achieve a goal that's much bigger than anything I can do alone in a bubble. And so I press on.
There are many days when I don't feel like going out for a run. Maybe it's raining? Maybe I'm still sore from a long run a few days before? Or else I'm just tired and looking for excuses. On those days, I deliberately take a moment to remind myself why I run at all. In short, I run for how it makes me feel at the end of each run.
When I finish a run, I'm more relaxed, my mental state is more positive, and I can sleep well knowing that even if I accomplish nothing more that day, I'll have at least done something useful. Running is good for my health. It gives me space from the pressures of everyday life. It helps me take distance from some thoughts, and get closer to others. And it's freedom. Freedom from information overload. Freedom from 'to do lists'. Freedom from schedules and 'must do's'. And freedom from the pressure that I put on myself in other areas. When I run in nature, I also feel more grounded and connected.
Why a marathon?
I felt inspired to run my first marathon because it seemed impossible. I wanted to do something so big and out of my reach that I'd feel great when I achieved it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do anything I put my mind to. I was also in between jobs at the time and wanted to keep moving forward, doing something that would make my grandmother proud. Even if she was no longer here with me, I knew that she'd be looking down on me smiling when I stepped over that finish line.
I was always told I was a slow runner, and I grew up hating running. So that made the goal even more scary and seemingly unachievable. I had to run for high school sports (softball, tennis and basketball), and at the time, it felt like something I should be doing rather than something I wanted to be doing. For me, running used to be a major buzz kill.
When I started training for a marathon, I completely turned those thoughts around. I trained my mind to see that running and my health is a privilege. And I now remind myself that running is something I get to do. It's not something I have to do. It gives me 'me time', and it quiets my mind. It's both my meditation and my therapy. And there may come a time when I cannot do this. So why not do it while I still can?
Why raise money?
Before running my first marathon, I read as much as I could about how to achieve a goal like this. So much was written about the need for training and consistency, but I also found a few articles saying that the mental training was even more critical than the physical. This made a lot of sense to me. And two tips in particular resonated:
1. Raise money for a cause you believe in. That way, even if you don't make it across that finish line, you'll have done something big that makes a difference in someone else's life, and you'll feel great. With this, you cannot lose.
2. Tell everyone you know you're doing this. Especially if you're a person whose word and integrity is important to them. By commiting publicly, your friends, family and colleagues will be in the boat with you, and you'll feel even more focused on your training and getting it done. Plus, when people donate money, you'll feel indebted to getting it done on their behalf.
Why more than 1 marathon?
What I learned from my first marathon is that it's all about the journey, not the destination. The beauty comes in the small buildup of achievements. It comes in proving to yourself each day and each week that you can do a little bit more and go a little bit further. It makes you realize you can push past fears and make progress despite any obstacle that comes your way. To me, this is a metaphor for life.
It's not always fun waking up early on a Saturday to go for a long run and leaving my partner in bed. It's not fun reaching out to friends to ask for donations. But when the marathon is finished and a home is built, everyone who was involved can feel good about that. So I try to reframe this for myself as helping give others the opportunity to do some good in the world.
But how many? And when are you going to stop?
I'm now training for my 3rd marathon, and I'm proud of my network. You've helped me build 3 homes for homeless families with Habitat for Humanity so far, and there's a 4th on the way. What we've managed to achieve together:
- 2017 - Amsterdam Marathon - Completed - Built a home for a family in Uganda.
- 2018 - Chicago Marathon - Completed - Built a home for a family in Cambodia.
- 2020 - Barcelona Marathon - Postponed due to Covid 19 - Built a home for a family in Zambia.
- 2021 - Barcelona Marathon - To come - raising money to build a home for another family in Uganda.
My strategy for running is to take one, baby step at a time. I'd like to think that strategy applies to life and future goals too. I'm not sure if I'll run more marathons, but I do know that my intention is to keep moving forward, keep doing things that are good for my health, and keep helping others. Because by helping others, I find purpose, and that helps me too.
Why Habitat for Humanity?
Poverty housing is a huge issue. But Habitat believes that by continuing to build houses with those in need, by working with other committed groups, and by putting the issue of poverty housing on the hearts and minds of compassionate people everywhere, the problem can be solved. I believe that too. And I'm grateful for your support to keep building homes, chasing dreams and moving forward. Thanks, friends. Jill