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The First Holy Half Marathon

| Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a series of columns chronicling the journey to the Holy Half Marathon on March 29. 

I don’t have an athletic bone in my body.

Not one.

Unlike 80-something percent of the Notre Dame student body, I was not a varsity athlete in high school. The thought is actually laughable.

My dad tried in vain to find a sport at which I might be halfway decent. I did everything from gymnastics to softball to cheerleading to basketball. I was awful at all of them. The pinnacle of my childhood athletic career was once scoring six points in a recreational basketball game. It was a big day in my life.

So, you might ask yourself why someone like me would make running the Holy Half Marathon the number one item on her Notre Dame bucket list.

I’m asking myself the same question. But let me try to explain.

I don’t like limits. I’m not a fan of assigning them to myself, and I’m even less fond of other people imposing them on me. The thought that I might be incapable of doing something scares me. I want to believe that if another human being can do whatever it is, then so can I.

That’s probably foolish. But quite frankly, I don’t really care.

I’m going to run the Holy Half on March 29. It’s not because everyone else is doing it. It has nothing to do with fitness as a lifestyle, as admirable as that is, or my sense of body image. And it sure as heck isn’t because I have a natural inclination to run 13.1 miles.

It’s because I want to prove to myself that I can.

I’m not harboring the illusion that this will be easy. In all honesty, I’ve already failed once. Last year, I began training at the beginning of winter break, made it through an eight-mile run in February and then quit.

I gave up for some reasons that I can justify to myself and other reasons that I can’t. I got shin splints in one of my legs from using the wrong running shoes. I felt like I could no longer make time for four runs a week. But I also just got frustrated with how difficult it was to push myself so hard, day in and day out.

This time, though, I have no intention of quitting. Barring an injury, I will be crossing that finish line approximately 10 weeks from now — probably sweating profusely and in a significant amount of pain, but still in one piece.

I’ve learned to consider this experience as about more than just the physical act of running. I think it’s bigger than that.

At the onset of my training last winter, I sent a text message to my friend and training buddy. I told her that the whole thing was just too hard.

“It’s supposed to be hard,” she replied. “You just have to learn to keep running through the pain.”

Those words stuck with me, and I’ve since realized they don’t apply only to running. They’re relevant to just about everything.

Every time a spoken word injures me, every time I lose someone or something I loved, and every time a door slams shut in front of me, I face a choice: I can decide it’s “just too hard” and remain on the ground, or I can get up, brush myself off and keep going.

I choose to keep running — physically, around this university’s campus, until I’m capable of going 13.1 miles, and metaphorically, until I’m past the challenge of the moment and on to the next one.

Maybe my Holy Half aspirations aren’t really about running at all. Perhaps they’re about the ability to keep going, despite pain, despite heartbreak, despite sweat and tears and (hopefully not) blood.

I fully intend to finish the race in March. But even if I don’t, I think I’ve already discovered what I needed to learn.

At the end of the day, what matters is that we keep running. Over the next two and a half months, I’m going to see if I can do that.

Stay tuned.


About Marisa Iati

Assistant Managing Editor. American Studies major. Ice cream addict.

Contact Marisa