If you were to ask me six months ago if I could see myself running the Chicago Marathon, I would laugh and respond with a huge N.O. Heck, if you asked me the same question the day before the race, I'd give the same response—N.O. Little did I know that I would actually run and complete the Chicago Marathon just a couple weeks ago! From the beginning of training in April, to taking the last few strides across the finish line, I learned countless amounts of lessons. Here are just a few of the most important ones that stuck with me:

1. It’s a mental game as much as it’s a physical one.

Whether you're a trained athletic runner or just now thinking about running, I'm sure you can testify to the battle of the mind when it comes to physical activity. For me, the hardest part of training was the self-doubt. Across the time span of six months, there were some really great runs, where I felt as if I could run the whole 26.2 miles in that very moment, and then there were some really sucky runs, where I mentally wrote out the email I send in order to withdrawal from the race. Each individual run determined how well prepared I thought I was, leading to either a low or high self-confidence in my running. However, regardless of whether a run was good or bad, fear and doubt continued to grow. I learned that throughout my training, I couldn’t just be training my body in strength and endurance, but also my mind in positive and motivational thinking. Changing my mindset helped me to gain a stronger sense of self-assurance in my running. Our actions stem from our thinking. Don’t let fear or doubt stop you from beginning, continuing, or finishing something you want to accomplish. Put your mind towards it and do it. You’ll be surprised by the result.

2. Having a running partner makes all the difference.

Throughout the six weeks of training, I ran mostly by myself, with the exception of Saturdays. Saturdays were group runs, where I would run with Team World Vision (a charity group I was running on behalf of). During the rest of the week, however, I ran by myself. Don’t get me wrong, I didn't mind running solo. I actually preferred it! However, on the day of the race, I knew I wouldn't have the motivation to stay running on my own. I mentally prepared myself to solo run all 26.2 miles but was secretly hoping to make a friend with a stranger and stick with them. Amazingly, before the first-mile marker, I found myself running at the same pace as another TWV runner, who I ended up running most of the race with. Looking back on the race now, I don’t think I would’ve had as much fun and felt as good as I did if I didn’t have a running partner. Having someone there to talk to, laugh with, and cry to throughout the hours of pain is very much necessary for the human soul!

3. There will never be anything like running through Chi-city.

I don't think I can fully capture in words what running 26.2 miles through Chicago is like, but boy, was it surreal. Starting out in the Loop with the perfect breeze seeping through the skyscrapers and endless amounts of people cheering you on was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Passing through neighborhoods such as Andersonville, Pilsen, Greek town, and Chinatown were all different experiences (disregarding the different amounts of pain felt at each point). Each area of Chicago had its own personality with different music tastes, distinctive food smells, and diverse groups of people singing and dancing. Seeing people from all around the city come out to show support with their witty signs and kids dressed in costumes was a great distraction from running but also motivating to keep going! Running through the city and taking in each aspect of it, helped to make for an entertaining and exciting experience.

4. The finish line does exist, and it’s the greatest feeling ever.

Training for six months gets a little old. It gets so old that it begins to feel like race day, especially the finish line is unattainable; but it’s that feeling that makes reaching the finish line that much sweeter! I’ll never forget the moment I turned the corner onto Columbus Dr., spotted the large red banner, and read the word “FINISH”. It was in that moment, that I forgot all the aches and pains I was feeling and began sprinting full speed ahead toward that six-lettered glorious word. What a feeling it was, to finally had finished all 26.2 miles that took six months to train for. The finish line does exist, everybody! If you ever are running a race or are in the middle of a process that may seem never ending, know that there is a finish line and you will get there!

5. You don’t have to be a marathoner to run the marathon!

It was only summer of 2015 when I remember being super proud of running four miles—the farthest I had ever ran at the time. Never did I think that that next summer I would be training for 22.6 miles more! With doing my best to stay consistent with training and a relying on my friends for support through prayer and advice, I did it…somehow, someway. This journey showed me that anyone can accomplish anything they put their mind to, and I experienced that first hand through training for and accomplishing the Chicago Marathon. So trust me when I tell you that if I can do it, so can you! Whether it’s running the marathon, studying for midterms, or applying for a job that scares you, you can do it! Stay consistent, rely on your support group, and just go for it!! Only greater things are yet to come.