What Training for a Half Marathon Teaches Me about my Soul

It still surprises me to note that I am training for a half marathon. Last year, I ran one for the first time and it was my first experience of running a race. Ever. And I liked it. So I’m doing it again this year, this time with a little bit more understanding of what I’m getting myself into as well as a little more motivation to train towards a specific goal. (Last year the goal was to run 13.2 miles without stopping.) 

So I looked up training plans for people trying to run a half marathon in less than two hours (that’s a 9:09 pace, which may or may not be possible for me, but seemed reasonable to attempt). The training sessions surprised me. It’s 4 days a week of running, and typically one longer run each week. The surprising part is that for the vast majority of those days, I’m supposed to run at an “easy” pace, which is to say, at least 30 seconds slower than the intended pace on the day of the race. One day a week, I’m running at or above that pace. This week, for instance, I’m supposed to run a total of 23 miles. Only for three of those miles am I supposed to run at the 9:09 pace. 

I wonder whether there’s something to learn here about the pace of life. Yes, there are moments when it is appropriate to push, moments when working harder than usual and leaning into the discomfort of extra effort is worth it. And those moments aren’t just appropriate but even necessary as preparation for pressures that will inevitably arise–at work, at home, in relationships. But the vast majority of the time, pushing hard is just a way to get injured. 

All of this has led me back to wondering about not just my inclination to run harder, run faster in a literal sense, but also in a more holistic way. What if I stopped pushing hard all the time when it came to our schedule of activities? What if I stopped working so hard to produce content? What if I worked deliberately–with occasional bursts of extra energy–on family, friendships, and writing? 

I haven’t run this race yet, so I don’t know whether the training plan will work. But if it does, I know it will have taught me more than just how to run a half marathon in less than two hours. 

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