I don’t make that many New Years resolutions. And if I do, the resolutions I make are small, like read more books and write more during the year. Or they’re things that relate to my mental health, like spend less time online and stop drinking coffee before bedtime and cut back on alcohol. I don’t make big, grandiose statements to myself like “eat better” or “lose/gain weight.” But last year, I made myself a decently big promise: in 2016, I would run a half marathon. Specifically, I would run in Disneyland’s Superhero Half Marathon weekend.
For a few years, I’ve watched friends participate in the weekend and I always wanted to join them. But, well, I’m not a runner. And getting to California isn’t cheap. It’s so much easier to let the idea slide and say, “well, I wish I could…maybe next year.” So, in January, when I was making a list of goals in my passion planner, I kept it in the forefront of my mind and made it a number one priority. If I planned for it enough, and saved enough, I could commit myself to it.
Here’s a secret: initially, I was going to sign up to run a 10K. To me, the 10K race was less intimidating than doing a half-marathon. I then found out that the theme of this year’s 10K run was Doctor Strange, and, well…not to be a bummer, but I was less enthused about participating in a race that honored a character I wasn’t that into. The Avengers Half Marathon promised to make the run a celebration of all the Marvel characters I loved, and so I asked a few friends who were serious runners if it was totally out of the question for me to run a half — given that, while I’m in good physical shape, I’m not a serious runner and have never run any kind of timed race before. With the reassurance that I could train and work up to it, I booked myself into the half-marathon run when sign-ups went live in April. Running 13.1 miles? Getting to see my favorite Avengers? Not such a bad thing. And so I trained — at least, as much as I could. I got myself to a comfortable 5K in about half an hour and built up my stamina over the summer.
Then depression and my mental health and personal commitments and being busy took a toll. As the race got closer, I trained less and less. I slacked a little more on getting outside as the weather got a bit chillier. I didn’t do any long runs or practice runs the way I was supposed to, which left me nervous about my race — so nervous that I kept making self-depreciating “I might die” remarks leading up to last Sunday whenever anyone asked me about running. But I still got on a plane and flew across the country. I still got up at 3:30am. I still stood at the starting line. I was doing this, and damned if I was going to back out on the one thing I had promised myself I’d do this year, in a year that has been one of the hardest years for me, mentally. One of my favorite lines in Hamilton is when Burr sings “I am the one thing in life I can control” which, for me, really resonates. I can’t control if I get a job, or what the country is doing with this goddamn election, or my mind getting down because I’m unhappy with certain things I can’t change. But I can control this. I can say I’ll do something and then DO IT. In therapy, I often talk about how one of the things that’s been really hard on me with unemployment is the loss of control, and feeling like there’s not a lot that I can count on in my life right now. But this? This was something I could control.
Guys, I ran a half-marathon.
Was it easy? Hell no. The first few miles were fun, getting to run through all of Disney and California Adventure. I stopped for photos with Black Widow and Hawkeye (naturally), took in some of the sights that were super cool to run through, and there was MCU music blaring everywhere in the parks. (I regret not taking a photo with Captain America but he was the first person I saw and I was worried at that point about timing so I chose not to stop.) The hardest stretches by far were miles 8-10, particularly the stretch where I had to run around and then through Angels Stadium — mostly because the length between the miles was so long it seemed like it would never end.
By Mile 9, my legs hurt enough that when I would slow to a walk, I really felt it, probably because I had never really trained to run more than 50 minutes at a time and I was going on two hours of continuous running. But I kept going, little by little, and managed to pace myself so that I ran/walked the rest of the way and ran the last 800 meters to the finish line. Those 800 meters were arguably the most painful because I was ready to be DONE, but I knew I had to push myself to finish. And so I put on “My Shot” from the Hamilton Mixtape and let Busta Rhymes guide me over the finish line.
Coming out to California, I had three goals for my first half-marathon: finish the race, don’t come in last, and run in under three and a half hours. And the girl who used to absolutely dread mile run day in middle school accomplished everything on her list. I finished the race, well before a lot of other people. I didn’t come in last — far from it, in fact. And while my clocked time was about 3 hours and 25 minutes (I started in the second to last corral, so my run didn’t actually start until 40 minutes after the race officially began), my actual run time from start to finish line was 2 hours and 38 minutes.
I ran a half-marathon.
The RunDisney crew was great. The people were great, the atmosphere was great, and all of it contributed to making my first run a success. People came out with signs, and my friends came out to cheer me on. Right now, the world is in a state of turmoil that feels so despondent and so bleak that I don’t know how to cope. This election hit me hard, left me vulnerable, and left me feeling helpless. I admit it was a bit of an escape to have this trip come at the time that it did — I admit it made me feel better to be with friends who shared my sexual orientation and provide them with love — but more than that, the whole weekend was about people of all ages and all ethnicities and all skill levels supporting and loving and being appreciative of each other. I hugged and talked with strangers I didn’t even know, and those anonymous encouraging smiles during the race or people who would talk to me before the race to share their stories were what helped me power through. It was a weekend about feeling good, and about love.
We could all use a reminder of love right now.
Crossing that finish line gave me a sense of exhilaration that I can’t describe. Everyone says you get adrenaline highs and endorphins while running, and while running has certainly helped my depression, I never got that total “high” people talked about. But when I was running, I felt a sense of accomplishment that can only be described as relief. Not just relief that I had finished a race, but relief that I had completed a goal that wasn’t easy, and that I worked for. I proved to myself that it didn’t matter if I hadn’t worked out enough or run enough. I had pushed myself to complete a big goal. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget what that feeling felt like. I didn’t beat my depression, and I don’t know how to do that yet, but in those moments I crossed the finish line? I beat my depression. Because I proved I could do something beyond what my body thought it was capable of.
And I did. And I can do it again. And I will.