We all have moments in our life that stick with us no matter how far away they are. I remember standing on the edge of the 3 meter high dive at my swim club, staring down at the water practically paralyzed with fear, not wanting to go forward and not wanting to go back. I remember a rappelling trip at summer camp, standing at the top of a 40 foot drop, again frozen with the thought of crashing down against the rock. While in both of those moments I did eventually go the way I was "supposed" to go and you can say I conquered my fear, I also never did either one of those things again. It wasn't the first step in a long history of high diving or rock climbing. It was the first step in me realizing that I'm not afraid of heights, but I'm very afraid of falling from heights.
At the time of those events, I remember being embarrassed by my fear, ashamed that I didn't just leap like some of my friends. It was much later that I realized the important lesson I learned in those moments was that I could move forward even when I was afraid.
Recently the fitness team at my company (yes, we have a person who's job it is to create and manage fitness programs) announced that they'd been given 10 entries to races at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January. Knowing those races are pretty expensive and I'd probably not pay for it myself, I entered the drawing for the half marathon with the thought that if I won it would be a great push to start me on the path to my first 13.1. The drawing was held last week and I did not get one of the entries, but then the crazy part of my brain started thinking. If I was willing to train for a free half in January, why not just find a race to run. I believe this is the same voice that started me up the ladder to the high dive and talked me into signing up for rappelling.
The races in the Atlanta area are just a bit too hilly for me to comfortably tackle for my first half, but a little research found two possibilities. The St. Pete Rock'n Roll half is on Feb. 10 and the Publix A1A Marathon and Half is on Feb. 17. The fact that my 40th birthday will be on Feb. 11 fit nicely into my vague goal of doing something I never thought I could do by my 40th. I've spoken to my wife and she's supportive, so here I am standing at the top of this cliff again.
In the last year I've probably read 100 race reports and training stories, people talking about their fears and their triumphs, successes and failures. They are all very inspiring, but nothing really prepares you for stepping off the edge and making this type of commitment. Am I mentally strong enough? Can I be consistent in my training and my nutrition for the next 5 months? What if I'm not? Which would be more painful, succeeding or failing? Can I deal with the pain of either?
As I learned as a kid on the high dive, you won't know unless you give it a try. I still need to work out logistically which one of those events I'm going to do, but I'm committed in my mind, sometime within a week of my 40th birthday I will run a half marathon. There, I said it.