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How running a half-marathon boosted my mental fitness

How running a half-marathon boosted my mental fitness

I was running my fourth half-marathon that morning. The air was crisp and the euphoria was palpable. St Pete is a gorgeous place - on my left was the Salvador Dali Museum, and on my right peaceful waters of Tampa Bay.

While stretching before the race, I started chatting to a woman warming up next to me. It was her 57th half-marathon. Needless to say, I was amazed. Running 57 half-marathons seemed like such a phenomenal achievement. I asked how she did it, marathon after marathon.

“Just focus on the next step, that’s all you should worry about.”

I got into running half-marathons for several reasons. Obviously, it was a way to keep myself fit. I also appreciated the charitable side of many races (for example, the St. Pete half-marathon I recently ran was raising funds for the St. Petersburg Free Clinic’s Food Bank).

But as I started running, I discovered so much about myself. It gave meaning to everything else I do, not only to the exercise. It gave me a sense of belonging and togetherness with other runners.

No matter how physically prepared we were, regardless if we ran the five-mile race or the full half-marathon, everyone was dealing with same challenges. Everyone was doing their best to overcome doubt, mental fatigue, and tiredness.

We were all there not because of our physical abilities, but thanks to grit and perseverance.

This translated into other areas of my life too - all of a sudden, work challenges or personal crises didn’t seem as insurmountable anymore.

As my fitness level rose, so did my confidence. I was feeling good about myself, not only in front of the mirror or running through the finish line, but also in business meetings or whilst giving a presentation. My friends noticed the new sense of calm and positive attitude I had developed. It became my signature, my recognizable trait.

All of this happened off the track. But my biggest motivation to carry on came from running itself.

While running, I would practice everything I've learned about breath work. I was rejoicing in the thought of all of the neuro-plastic processes happening in my brain while I exposed my body to physical exertion. I was looking at the faces of the people cheering us on, offering refreshments or a high five. I wanted to stop and hug each and every one of them, even though I didn’t know them.

The support and motivation that comes from other runners is invaluable, especially once fatigue sets in. It feels like an energy boost when you need it the most. It makes you feel incredibly grateful and inspired to do the same for other runners who may need help. It starts the chain of giving back that makes the running community so supportive.

When I think of running, I don’t think about muscle aches, blisters on my feet, or catching my breath. I recall the feeling of my feet hitting the tarmac, the sound of other runners around me, the breeze on my face taking away any intruding thoughts, leaving me with reassuring mental clarity, cognitive agility, higher optimism, more confidence, and increased desire and flow.

Most of all, I recall the feeling of living my life to the maximum.

If you'd like to learn more about how mental fitness can help you, get in touch - I will be happy to help.

Jessica Godshall is a solutions-oriented professional with a proven track record of leadership success in launching a startup business, serving on leadership committees, promoting engagement, and advancing philanthropic campaigns.

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