I went from never having run more than 3 miles in my life to running my first half marathon, splitting my training in 3 different international cities over the course of 3 months.

Since high school, I’d always been a “run one to two miles every few days” type of person. Running kept me in shape, boosted my mood and metabolism, and provided an outlet for me to empty my jumbled thoughts. I would circle the parks around my suburban home in Orange County and tread alongside the cliffs of Isla Vista during sunset when I got to college. During my term abroad in Florence, Italy, I pushed myself up the hills of Piazzale Michelangelo to enjoy one of the city’s best views after reaching the top. Running gave me the excuse to explore the city limits of Florence, past the tourists of centro and through beautiful flower gardens that wove into the lush Tuscan countryside. Then, I felt that running was a matter of “wherever the wind took me,” with no specific or set goal in mind. I ran for enjoyment, for the pleasure of running in itself.

As much as running had become a routine part of my life, I would never have imagined I’d willingly run a half marathon until I was finally at the start line of the Ventura Half Marathon race. I signed up on a whim, daring myself to run a total of 13.1 miles when I’d never run more than 3 miles, ever. But part of me wanted to prove to myself that I could do what I put my mind to, and I thought that maybe this solo journey could teach me a lot more about myself.

Juggling my half marathon training amidst hours of class, a full-time work schedule, and constant traveling was a challenge. After reading several training guides to prepare myself for the race, I had to accept that I wasn’t going to get the recommended distances on schedule. But the hardest part was putting my mind to it, and pushing through the miles I hadn’t yet traveled. I saved longer runs for the weekends and had to train indoors (ugh, treadmill) during the midwestern July storms of Chicago, where I spent a few months working. On harder training days, kicking through walls that seemed to be in the way came with the feeling of exhaustion more than accomplishment. The days I worked overtime ate into the precious daylight of waning summer days, and playing catch-up with my last month of training led to unwarranted blisters and stiff muscles. But the race date and time wasn’t going anywhere, and I knew I’d have to put in the work to get there.

On the second to last day before the race, I’d only reached 7 miles. Overcoming the “hump” of miles 5 to 6 were particularly difficult. But because I needed a full day of rest before the big day, I could only hope for the best as I laced up my shoes and hopped in the car up the California coast.

When the horn blew, adrenaline immediately took my senses – almost until the 3rd mile. From then until the 6th mile, it was coasting through a familiar synchronization of breathing and stepping that made my brain relax, making me realize how my training, self-determination, and commitment had paid off. At the halfway point turn of the race, I hit my first wall, but kept going. And then with more effort than the first 6.5 miles, the last flew by and I made it to the finish line.

Accomplishment and the work towards it: it’s all a state of mind.