At the risk of sounding overly confident, I’m pleased to report that my training for the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon has been going very well.

Even though work has been emotionally taxing and stressful and we’ve had a lot going on as we settle into our new home, I haven’t skipped one training run yet and been pretty faithful with my cross-training.

joe turned 33

No better way to usher in my 33rd year than a nice long ride on the exercise bike!

Although I’ve been doing some training runs on the treadmill, I have been forcing myself to do my weekly long runs outside unless there is accumulated snow and ice on the ground. (I actually can’t even use that excuse anymore now that my sister-in-law purchased a set of YakTrax for me. Thanks again, Sara!) Even though my past two long runs have taken place in 20 degree temperatures, I’ve been able to post a pace lower than 9:00 minutes\mile for each run, putting me well on my way to set a new half marathon PR in May.

These gains haven’t come without cost, though.

I ran in shorts in 20 degree weather two weeks ago. I won’t do that ever again. You can laugh when I wear shorts over my running tights, but I won’t be the one getting frostbite! The run took place on the course of the Towpath 5 Miler, and if I can replicate my 42:10 time (8:26 minute\mile pace), I’ll be thrilled.

towpath in march

The Towpath never gets old!

Last Sunday’s 6 mile run was the roughest in quite some time. The weather seemed to get colder throughout the run, snow began to fly, and I felt each and every poor food choice that I had made over the weekend as I struggled to make it through the first few miles. Seeing that I had posted a time of 52:10 for 6 miles (8:48 minute\mile pace!) was very rewarding, but I definitely left everything out on the trail at the Rocky River Reservation that day.

rocky river reservation

No, this photo was not taken in black and white. It was a pretty gray day.

My times have given me a tremendous mental boost, but these runs and consistent training have made getting out of bed on Monday morning pretty rough. On Monday, I was walking through one of the high schools at which I mentor students and I saw a recruiting board from the Marines. The slogan “Earned, Never Given” was prominently displayed on the board. I’m sure that I have seen this slogan before, but when I saw it on Monday, I was floored. (I have since learned that a similar phrase was used in a Nike ad campaign starring an athlete whose name still should not be spoken around Greater Cleveland.)

I would imagine that this phrase and its variations are trademarked by the Marines and Nike, but if it wasn’t, I would hope that this slogan would be displayed on every single medal and award distributed at every single race in America.

One of the reasons why I love running is that no accomplishment is “given” to anyone. Every PR, medal, or accomplishment is the product of hard work, intense training, sacrifice, and effort. Nobody crosses the finish line of a race because of familial connections, good looks, or wealth. They’re able to cross the finish line and to earn a new PR because they were willing to do what they needed to do in order to make their accomplishments happen.

Are you willing to do what it takes to earn the goals, triumphs, and successes that you want in life? If you want to set that new PR, run that new distance, lose that weight, or earn that shiny medal, it’s completely up to you. The choice is yours.

When you force yourself to get out there and knock out that long run when the weather is cold, you’re earning your PR.

When you bypass the donuts at work in favor of the whole wheat bagel that you packed, you’re earning your medal.

When you’re running on a treadmill in an empty gym and feeling exhausted and you hear a voice in your head saying, “You don’t need to go so hard…nobody will know if you take it easy for the rest of the workout”, but you tell that voice to get lost, you’re earning the right to pump your fist and let out a triumphant whoop as you cross the finish line.

sheila training

Sheila busting her butt late at night on her first training run for 4 Miles 4 Water!

When you make yourself complete a midweek training run after an incredibly stressful day at work, you’re earning the right to call yourself a 5Ker, 10Ker, half marathoner, marathoner, or ultramarathoner.

When you cross the finish line at the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon on May 18, remember that you didn’t get there by accident.

You didn’t get there because of your cute running clothes, because you had a lot of money, or because you were born into a well-connected family.

You got there because you trained hard for months and made yourself train when every bone and cell in your body wanted you to stay home on the couch and watch TV.

You got there because you wanted to be great. You got there because you knew that your body, your health, and your well-being deserve nothing less than the best.

You got there because you knew you didn’t want to spend your life saying, “I always wanted to run (insert race here), but (insert excuse here) and I never did it.”

You got there because you knew that spending May 19th celebrating is far more preferable than sitting bleary-eyed at your desk at work on May 19th wallowing in regret and self-loathing.

When the weather’s cold in Cleveland, get that run in and earn that PR.

When you’re tired after a long work day, pound that pavement and earn that medal.

lastonetoleaveisfirstonetofinish

When you’re tempted to put off a training run until tomorrow, remember that you probably will say the same thing again tomorrow, get out there, and earn the time you never thought you could achieve.

When you figure that you’ll stop and grab some fast food in the morning instead of taking a few seconds at night to pack your breakfast and lunch, hit the kitchen and earn the body and wellness that you’ve always wanted.

When you do these things, you’ll cross the finish line on May 18th with no regrets and the great medal with the spinning guitar will look that much shinier because you will know that the medal was earned, not given.

1606311_10151943930606446_556770808_o