Well, here we are…week 12. Three days away from my first half marathon. I posted weekly updates until week 4, then combined weeks 5 and 6, finally giving up posting about it altogether for some reason. I figured I needed to document everything, even minimally, just so I can remember this in the future!
I was only barely a month into my health and fitness journey when I was propositioned about this half marathon. We had just run the Monument Ave. 10k in Richmond and I had beat my PR by 3 minutes. I did interval training (4/2) the entire time and felt really good when I was done. I knew there were going to be at least three people I knew doing the same race and on a whim, March 31st, I bit the bullet and registered.
Over the summer, I tried to run a couple of days a week, but kept them short distances just to build endurance and hopefully speed. I didn’t rely on the running to help me lose weight…I just wanted to get better. I knew my previous times for a 5k, 8k, and 10k, and used those as my jumping off point. I never got into this to compete with anyone else, but knew that it could motivate me to work that much harder to reach my goals. And it worked. I was able to go from an average 11-12 minute mile down to 9 minute miles or less (8:03 this week on one of them, even!).
I knew I was going to have to properly train to get myself ready for this, because I know my body and how much it can handle. I didn’t want to risk injury or just “wing it.” Yes, the primary goal is just to survive the race, since I don’t have a PR to beat, but I have set smaller goals along the way that I knew I could achieve with the right effort, mindset, and dedication. So I decided to work with a 12-week program I had heard of others using, created by Hal Higdon. It had me running at least 3 days a week, plus some strength and cross training. I would start with shorter runs, twice a week, with a longer run on the weekend. It started with 3 and 4 miles, respectively, working up to 5 miles on the shorter days and a ten mile run the weekend before the race.
To say that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to stick with the schedule, is an understatement. I started a new job with almost an hour and a half commute on my way home. The last thing I wanted to do twice a week was run 3+ miles after being on my feet all day. But I did it. I did the shorter runs on Tuesday/Thursday and the longer run on Sunday. If something came up, I didn’t make excuses, I just shifted to Weds/Fri/Sun. I never skipped a run altogether, but two weeks ago there was the leaking water bag incident in 40 degree temps that caused me to shorten my ten mile run to six out of fear of sickness. But I didn’t make excuses…I just got out there and ran, regardless of conditions, temperature, exhaustion, or preparation. I made it work, and I learned a lot in the process. Here’s my top five!
- You don’t have to have always been a runner to run a longer distance race. I used the tag #reallyajogger throughout my posts, because I never considered myself a runner until more recently. A few years ago, I never would have known anything about keeping my toenails short, carb-loading, shoes that fit your gait, plantar fasciitis, bunions, or any of that “fun” stuff that comes with running. But it’s all worth it when you finish your run feeling amazing, connected with nature and your own thoughts, and fulfilled.
- I learned I have a lot more discipline than I thought I did. There were a lot of days I wanted to just put my feet up or do something else. Especially Sunday mornings. But I made it a priority to stick to the training and push myself just a little bit further than I did the day/week/month before. I knew my body was capable of it, so I just did it.
- I should have changed my playlist more often. In the final weeks I was running almost 20 miles a week, which is a lot of repeated songs. Songs I LOVED are now ones I can’t stand, at least for the time being. If there was one thing I was lazy with, it was updating my song selection. I won’t make that same mistake again 🙂
- There is an awful lot to see when you’re running. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the seasons change, sunrises and sunsets, deer crossing my path, moms pushing their babies in strollers, people walking their dogs, couples holding hands, other runners and walkers working toward various goals, beauty… everywhere. If you haven’t taken the time to just go for a walk outside and check things out, you don’t know what you’re missing.
- The final, and most important thing I learned…never focus on PERFECTION. Throughout this 12 weeks, there were never any perfect days. The two days where the weather was perfect, one of those runs my water bag broke, leaking cold water down my back, and during the other my shoe laces were too tight and my foot still hasn’t fully recovered. The days where I got the best night’s sleep the night before, my eating was poor, or vice versa. Today, when I knew I had to get my final run in before the half this weekend, I ended up having a late meeting then hitting traffic and had to run in the dark. If I had waited for perfect conditions, perfect weather, legs and feet that didn’t hurt, a good night’s sleep, great eating habits, and plenty of hydration, I wouldn’t be at the point I’m at…three days away from one of the most anticipated days of my life. I have worked really hard to get to this point, and as nervous as I am or as “meh” I’m feeling about it, I know I’ve done my best to prepare and I can’t wait to see what I can do. I’m going to be proud no matter my time, because I know I’m not perfect and I’m not competing with anyone but myself!
So, long story short (I know, too late), if there’s something you want to achieve, go for it. Do what you need to do to get there, no matter what. Don’t give up just because you think the time isn’t right. You have to MAKE it the right time…make it happen.
Well, I finished! I ended up RUNNING THE WHOLE THING and finished in 2:01:46. I was really hoping to get less than 2 hours, but I thought this was pretty darn close, and I’m super proud of myself considering I never went over 10 miles before this run. I’m already planning on doing it again next year, and wondering if I’d ever be able to do a full marathon (crazy, right?!). Guess we’ll see!