Alexis Walker right after finishing the Chicago Women's Half Marathon in 2013.

Alexis Trass Walker right after finishing the Chicago Women’s Half Marathon in 2013.

Smack In The Middle:
Keep Going! It’s How You Win At Life

In about 2 ½ weeks, I will complete my third marathon. I did marathons in 2002 and 2004, so this is the first time in a while that I’ve tackled the training that has to be done in order to run 26.2 miles at one time.

This period of training is far more difficult than 10 and 12 years ago. What’s different now as opposed to then? Many things. Over the years I got married, changed jobs, gained a little weight, had a baby, gained a lot of weight, had another baby, lost a little weight, became a stay-at-home mom, and had a set of twins. Needless to say, my mind and body have taken multiple hits in 10 years!

I enjoy running very much and have done it off and on for most of my adult life. When I picked it back up in the spring after nursing an ankle injury, I really just wanted to lose weight. I had no intention of racing and I definitely had no plans to run another marathon. I didn’t think I could do the training because I didn’t have time to train. It’s hard to fit extras into your life when you have young children—especially four of them.

I changed my mind about training and racing because I saw so many ladies in my running group who weren’t letting life stop them from running. They experienced deaths in their families, sick parents, sick children, job losses, schedule changes, and injuries, and they would still run whenever they could. It was inspiring for me to see people who had every good reason to stop running decide that they would do it anyway.

Related: Monday Morning Motivation: Give Up, Give In Or Get Going.. Which Will You Do?

I signed up to run a marathon to be held in my hometown and started training in the middle of June. I like to run in the mornings because that’s when I’m fresh and if I don’t do it then, it’s not getting done. It was so easy to get up! During that time of year, the weather is warm, so there are no covers holding me down in bed. The sun is starting to come up at 5:00 a.m., so there is not much darkness that cues me to stay in bed.

Fast forward to now. Those early mornings are colder and the sun is rising later and later. I had to buy new clothes for the weather and get a headlight. Whereas before there was light at the start of the run, now it’s dark with the barest pinks and blues in the eastern sky when we finish. Some of the other runners have fallen off the morning runs, preferring to do it later in the day. Don’t even get me started on the minor aches and pains.

The bottom line is that because of many factors, running when I want to and how I want to is hard. Most days, it’s very hard. And not so much physically as mentally. On one of my long training runs, I thought about quitting multiple times throughout.

Related: Smack In The Middle: What I Will Tell My Children About Race

Still, I rallied myself and decided to keep going for four reasons: my children Sophia, Makayla, Devin, and Donovan.

I often talk to my children about persevering in what they want to do, even when it gets hard—especially when it gets hard—because that’s how they shape themselves into the kind of people they want to be. I talk about finding the silver lining in every dark cloud. I talk about learning to control their minds rather than letting their minds control them. I talk to them about not being afraid to push themselves to find out exactly what they are capable of.

All that talk sounds good, doesn’t it? But that’s all it is—talk. We all learn more from what we see than what we hear. Kids are particularly skilled at giving their parents the side-eye when they hear us saying one thing and then see us doing something completely different. I want my children to learn from what they see me living.

So I ran, even when it was hard—especially when it was hard—because that’s how I shape myself into the kind of runner I want to be. I found the silver lining in getting wet when I wasn’t expecting the dark cloud of rain (natural hair, don’t care!). I learned to drown out the voices in my head that encouraged me to give up this foolishness. I pushed myself to run longer and faster to find out exactly what I’m capable of.

And when I finally run those 26.2 miles, it will be with pride at winning over myself and pride in showing my children how to win at life.