*Let me preface this post with a link to My Journey. I was not born a runner, nor have I ever had any significant athletic tendencies until 2011. If you think that you could never reach an accomplishment like a half marathon, think again.
If I could sum up the process of training for my first half marathon in one word, it would have to be courage. Too often, I relate better to the cowardly lion than the lion-hearted. Big goals scare me speechless. I fear the long process, the unknown, and I fear failing. In the end, I know that there will not be anyone more disappointed in me, than me, if I fall short of the goal. And that is the major miracle and milestone that occurred in February of this year (2014). Not simply that I ran 13.1 miles for the first time in a race, but that somehow the courage to take on the task and be faithful to the training, so that I could meet the goal. There was a specific reason that I chose the Princess Half Marathon as my first, which goes beyond the fact that it was a fun Disney race. As a Daughter of the King (which makes me a Princess), recognizing just how much of a privilege and a blessing it is to have His strength offered to me as His child was/is part of my growing process. Though I am not “young” in the Lord, there are things that I learn every day that gives me a greater understanding of what He desires to do in my life. Running the Princess was an exercise in deepening my dependence on Him to lengthen my endurance.
This was not a decision made on a whim. The Princess had been calling my name for over 2 years, but I was shy and afraid. It seemed like that was only something that elite athletes would do, not a less-than-three-year-runner would take on. My dear friend Angel had been encouraging me to jump in, but I was not nearly on her level of fitness and felt like, “sure, you think it’s easy… but not for me!” Because she has been my faithful fitness streak partner for almost 2 years, she said if I signed up, she would be right there with me. As an added bonus, my friend-that-is-more-like-a-little-sister, Dara, who had also taken up running signed up too! I knew it would be a big weekend, and having companions would make it even bigger!
At the time of registration, in the summer of 2013, the farthest that I had ever run was 7 or 8 miles. My sister, Kim, kept telling me that if I could go that far, surely I could make 13.1. I still was not so sure. I kept up my weekly maintenance runs of 3-5 miles a couple times per week and did a “long run” of 6-8 miles at least 2 times per month. My long runs were maintenance runs for real distance runners, or so I thought. On October 29th, I started the suggested Jeff Galloway training plan that was offered on the Princess website. I loved the fact that it would download into my calendar on my phone so I always knew what my scheduled runs were.
By this point in my running, I was not using any interval training apps, simply MapMyFitness/ MapMyRun. For a very long time, I depended on an app to tell me when to run and when to walk, because it gave me something to shoot for. If I left it up to myself to create intervals, I would probably not push myself as far as I could go. I felt like a big girl now, just hit the start button and go! There were occasions when I would walk a few paces during a drink break or at a turnaround point, but I for the most part it worked better for me if I kept the momentum going. Not everyone is the same, and many have found great success with Jeff Galloway’s walk/run interval method. You have to go with what works for you.
During the Fall of 2013, while I was training, I was also taking a full load of classes and maintaining a crazy schedule with my kids. Lots of taxi time and even more time in the books. Running first thing in the morning seemed to set the day in order and gave me that great feeling of accomplishing a small goal at each run. I normally run with one earbud in (for safety), and listen to music or podcasts, but so many times I tuned out the music and worked on sorting out an issue at hand… exactly how many amino acids are there?... what are the names of the B Vitamins?... How is Hannah going to get to class tonight when Trent has practice?...Will Trevor be at work or school tomorrow?
At the beginning of 2013, the main physical goal I had set for myself was to hit 13.1 in ’13. Even though the training plan did not suggest for me to run 13.1 yet, when I set out for the long run on December 28th, I ran my first 13.1. It was pure adrenaline! Up until this point, I had only done 10 miles. As soon as I turned off my app, my husband called to find out where I was (I had taken longer than the 11.5 miles that I originally told him I would run). He had planted a water bottle at a specific location for me earlier, and when I called, I asked him if he would start an Epsom salt bath for me. To my surprise, he said it was already done. When I got home, my daughter had a smoothie ready for me and he had some eggs and veggies waiting. I was so moved by their support of this goal that meant so much to me, and I was only still in training!
January and February in Florida can be pretty chilly (I know, nothing like up north…), so making myself get out there in the cold mornings was sometimes a struggle. I did fairly well keeping to the training schedule, because I did not want to get to the race and fail.
The last 2 long runs did not go quite as planned. The time needed for the long run was sometimes difficult during these mornings when the sun did not come out until after 7am. Saturdays were frequently filled with one activity or another, and we have church on Sunday. In order to get my miles in before the sun arose (since I did not have a running partner) my dear husband followed me in the vehicle, shining the headlights on the sidewalk and keeping me safe. At one point, he rode a little ahead of me. A shadow fell on the sidewalk ahead of me and I could not see the uneven pavement and I fell hard. I was carrying a hand-held water bottle, which I landed on, and it exploded all over me (yes, you can laugh… I did). I was soaked, scraped, and a little shaken, at only the 3rd mile of a 12 mile run. My husband jumped out of the car and made sure I was ok. There was a time in my life when I would have gotten in the car and said forget it… Instead, I gave him my wet jacket, had him refill my water bottle, and proceeded on. I think he was really concerned for me, because he followed me for a while, even after the sun was up.
The very last long run was supposed to be 14 miles. It looked like it might rain, but I had no other time to fit it in so I headed out anyway, telling myself that I needed to be prepared in case it rained the day of the race. The first 5 miles were fine. Then the mist began….It was fine until about mile 8, and by mile 10 it was pouring. I huddled under a tree, hoping for it to pass. My hubby called and asked if I needed a pick up (how does he know the perfect time to call?). I finally conceded and he agreed to come and rescue me. Up until this point I was faithful to the plan. I believed in the plan, and I trusted that it prepared me for the race. I will say, I knew that I would not be a record setting runner. My average run pace for a long run was in the upper 10 min/mile or 11 min/mile range. I was perfectly fine with that pace. All that mattered to me was to finish strong. The fact that I had the courage to see it through the training plan was a major accomplishment for me.In the next post, I will share with you the fantastic experience of the Princess Half Marathon weekend.
*Disclaimer: Please consult a physician before beginning any exercise plan. This is written as encouragement.