Catia Hernandez Holm Speaker Author The Courage to Become TEDx.jpg

Originally published on 6-2-13

Late February my brother, Carlos, and I were at my Sis’ birthday party and he said, “Hey I’m running a marathon in May,” and after having a few vodka martinis I said, “I will too!”

Half of me wanted to tackle a challenge, something way beyond my reach, something that I knew would take a good chunk of commitment, and the other half of me wanted to support him (at this point Carlos had lost 100 pounds and had been challenging himself physically and mentally in different ways), a little solidarity if you will.

I was not in real shape; I was what I call ‘gym fit.’ My clothes fit and I felt good about the way I looked but I had zero endurance.

So I decided to get with it and of course, started by buying new clothes and supplies!

The running coach fitting me for sneakers asked, “How many miles can you run now without stopping?”  “8 miles,” I quickly replied. 8 miles was a total and complete lie, I hadn’t run 8 miles since 2011! Now scared I asked, “Do you think I can do this?” He answered seriously, “Absolutely, but you can’t skip a day of training. Most people train over 6 months.” I only had 9 weeks. Uh oh.

I Googled, sought advice from the fittest people I knew, bought cool running gear, downloaded songs, but there was no magic formula, no magic pill.  No one offered the number to their blood doping connection. I was out of luck. I’d have to go it alone. I decided to forge ahead and I started to chip away at it.

My first long run was 8 miles and every Saturday after that I upped the mileage by 2. I ran 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18! At 18 I thought, “Woah.”  As I ran up the driveway after mile 18 I thought, “Ok. Now this is a lot.”  I gingerly lied on the floor and got lost in the wooden beam above until I could move again.

One week later I ran the big kahuna, 20. 20 was my best run. I left the house on my own, knowing there would be no jam bands or spectators along the way, knowing there would be no aid or water stations, no one handing me half bananas to keep me going. It was only my carefully chosen shoes, my favorite Pandora rap station, my Gatorade and my inner voice. You see, I have the same chatter box that you have. The chatter box that tells you whether you can or you can’t.  While I did experience things happening on the exterior: corner store activity, blessing the homeless man I ran by, running through plumes of cigarette smoke, watching the city busses stop and go and stop and go, I did not allow myself to sink into my negative chatter box. If I had, I would have never laced up my shoes in the first place. Who runs 20 miles on there on a volunteer basis? As negative thoughts would float in my head I would coach myself through by saying, “Nope, not now, negative chatter box, you can try to come back later.”  All of a sudden the negative rhetoric was gone and in the moment I knew I could do it, because I already was. I was already at mile 16, what was another 4 miles?

Soon we were 2 weeks out I came down with a virus and my Dr. said, “Hey I know how hard you’ve trained but I can’t guarantee you‘ll be able to run.”  With some certain attitude I replied, “Give me the meds, not running is not an option.” I had worked out 5 days a week, rain or shine, sick or tired. Nothing got in the way. I ate the right foods, drank the right fluids, passed up a tasty alcoholic beverage on many occasion because I knew my body couldn’t withstand it. Some head cold was not going to stop me.

She ended up seeing me again a few days after the marathon because I had a little GI tract bleeding from running- whoops.

For 9 weeks Carlos and I trained separately but cheered each other on in our own way, watched each other’s progress. Finally, race day was upon us.  We woke up even before the roosters crowed, threw on our best battle gear and headed for the starting line. When we stepped out of our toasty warm car and into the race zone, it was 46 degrees. Icy.

The marathon we signed up for was the definition of low key. I’m not sure the casual Saturday morning trail runners even knew there were races being run. Folks were running 10ks, half marathons, full marathons and 50ks. Carlos and I ran with no promise of glittered good luck signs, fanfare or fancy refueling stations. The statement, we ran the most boring marathon possible, is not far off.  

I was packed down with energy chews, electrolytes; a water bottle, my iphone and my ipod shuffle just in case my phone decided it didn’t have enough juice to go the distance with me.

Throughout the run I observed nature, thought about a new hair style, thought about cool posts for Facebook once I had finished, but then like a Mom is proud of her child, I started feeling proud of myself, so I got teary eyed and had to stop thinking about Facebook posts. Onward. I sang along with Jay Z, Ja Rule, J Lo and 50 Cent. I’m clearly stuck in 2001.  I thought about how crazy the people who put on the marathon were. Instead of offering us Gatorade and orange slices, they offered us Rootbeer and Oreos. With each lap the sun came out more and with each lap I peeled off layers of clothing. In the middle of the third lap I felt my face flush and my head heat up and I thought, “What’s going on here? Oh, I’m overheating. Whoopsie daises, better not let that happen.”


It warmed up to 65 degrees by the time we were on mile 24, when Carlos and I met up on the trail. We changed our individuals running paces and joined up, and decided to run the last few miles together. No winner, no loser, but together.  Here we were, months and weeks and hours and hours of training later, together. Knowing there would be a camera we gave our best Hernandez smile and sprinted across, we probably looked a little more energetic than we actually were. We may have even had a little juice left for crossing the finish line at mile 26.2. We crossed, high fived, looked around for some fanfare, but there was none to be had, so we took a moment for ourselves, packed up and went home.

Carlos finished because he told himself he could. I finished because I told myself I could. There was no magic pill for either of us, no super-secret way to get through it, no back door way to get a marathon medal. All it took was a little courage.

Never underestimate the power of courage. It takes courage to set a goal and grind away at it.

You are capable of so much more than you give yourself allowance for.  Don’t be afraid to reach just beyond your grasp. I believe in you. 

Last Day

Last Day

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