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Don’t Stop Believing: How the 10k Made Me a Better Person

November 6, 2016

Today I ran a 10k across the Ben Franklin Bridge. It looked like this:

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I actually took that photo in 2013. That’s part of the story.

It actually doesn’t start there though. It’s starts on August 20th, 2011. The day I ran my first official race. It was a 10k – the Philadelphia Livestrong Challenge. I remember it like it was yesterday. I woke up totally freaked out and almost didn’t go. I was going alone, and I had no idea what to expect. I also didn’t really run 6.2 miles all that much so the distance scared me, too. I went anyway. I totally had a panic attack in my car and cried on the way there (and it was a long drive). I got there, got my bib and just stood there and stared at it, with absolutely no clue what I was supposed to do with it. A random stranger approached me, and said, “You look like a newbie. Here’s some pins for your bib.” A wave of relief washed over me, taking my shame with it. I thanked him, and proceeded to attach what would wind up being the first of many, many racing bibs to the front of my shirt.

I made my way to the start, but I still had this bag with the race shirt in it. “How come no one else seems to have this?” I wondered. I felt clueless again. So I did what any person running their first race alone would do – I ran holding the bag. I also wasn’t sure if running with headphones was a thing – so I left my headphones and ipod at home, only to discover that pretty much everyone else had headphones and an ipod. So I silently made my way through 6.2 very challenging and very hot miles, holding a bag with a shirt in it. But you know what else I did? I finished.

It took me 1 hour and 2 minutes. I wasn’t doing it for time though, I was doing it because I wanted to finish. I wanted to prove to myself that I could run a 1ok. And prove it to myself, I did. I cried again on the way home, but this time with joy.

And that, my friends, is how my love of running began.

I have since run a lot of races, but I admit that only a handful of them have been a 10k. They just don’t seem quite as popular as some of the other distances. But the 10k has and will always have a special place in my heart. The Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge is one that I’ve done 4 times total, including today.

In 2013, I had a PR (personal record – my mom asked me to define some of the terminology, so that’s for you, mom) at that race – the day I took that photo at the top. I ran it in 56:40 that day. Over 5 minutes faster than my first one. I also ran with a group of friends, including my boyfriend (who is now my husband). I had come a long way. I was grateful for the strength, dedication, and perseverance it took to get from race A to race B. I was grateful for the love and support of my running peeps. I was hurting though, and thought that would be my best 10k for a long time.

If your definition of “long time” is 2 and half years, than I was correct.  In April of 2015, I ran another 10k at the Riverwinds in Deptford – the “411 Race”, at which I ran a 56:04. I was honestly, surprised. I really didn’t think I could run a 10k any faster than my previous PR, but somehow, I managed to beat it by 36 seconds. I ran this with some friends, too. In fact, I don’t think I’ve run a single race alone since 2012.

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my partner in running, and everything else.

That picture was taken today. At the Run the Bridge, 2016. On the way there, I told my husband that I was going to PR today (I actually also told him I was going to win, but not all dreams come true). The weather was perfect. We found our friends. We had our bibs pinned on, and I had my headphones, ipod, garmin, fitbit and wrist wrap (to hold my keys and ID).

As I made my way across the bridge, I thought about those races of days past. I remembered how hard they were. I remembered how long they felt. I remembered how amazing it was to complete each and every one. I was grateful for my ability to grow, and for everything I’ve learned and accomplished. I was grateful for my husband and my friends. I was grateful for running.

I finished in 54:38. I did it.

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Good things come to those who work hard, stay strong, and believe they can do it. It’s never too late to start believing.

It’s So Amazing Here.

November 1, 2016

Today was a big deal.

I ran 18 miles, which is the farthest distance I have ever run, ever.

Not only was it the farthest distance I have ever run, ever, but for many years I told myself:

“If you can run 18, you can run a marathon.”

So I ran 18. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d ever actually do it. When I started really kicking up the mileage, I was scared. Going over 13 was rough. Then I made it to 15 (barely). Then I made it to 15 again (not quite barely, but it wasn’t like a cake walk or cake run or whatever you want to call it). These were hard runs. I questioned why I was doing it. I questioned how I was doing it. I started to doubt that I’d ever run a marathon at all. I wondered if I was even capable of running any farther.

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I was.

This morning, I walked out the door and said, “Today, you will run 18 miles. No matter how tired you feel, you are capable of doing this. You will be tired. You will want to give up. Don’t. Just keep running.”

It was the best advice I ever gave myself (and actually listened to). I realized today that all this running that I’ve been doing is actually paying off. The long runs really are getting easier (who’d have thunk). In fact, I’m pretty sure I could  have kept going. The last three miles I started unknowingly picking UP the pace! I stopped at 18 anyway because I had other things I really needed to spend at least a little time doing today, but I was not about to collapse, and I did not feel sick or in any sort of major pain. I was fine.

The truth is, you can’t run a marathon overnight. Or over a week. Or even over a month. It takes many weeks of long, sometimes painful, sometimes tearful, sometimes grueling runs. They do, however, get less painful, tearful and grueling, even though they are not getting any less long.

We are amazing creatures, and are capable of so much more than we ever imagined. From the girl who couldn’t run one mile in high school, to knocking out an easy(ish) 18, I can say this with certainty.

Don’t ever be afraid to challenge yourself. Yes it will take some hard work. Yes it will take some time. And there might be some pain and tears. But it’s so worth it.

Let go and jump in. It’s so amazing here.

 

 

Fifteen Miles (to the Love Shack!)

October 13, 2016

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I finally did it. I ran 15 miles. I only wish it was to the Love Shack, but alas, it ended at my Jeep, which was the same spot where it began. It was really hard. It was really long. I almost gave up again and stopped at 13.1. But I didn’t. I kept thinking about The Love Shack – and how I’d only get there if I ran 15 miles. The faded sign at the side of road doesn’t say “13.1 miles to the Love Shack” for goodness sake. I had to go the distance if I wanted to reach my goal.

Obviously, my goal wasn’t really to get to the Love Shack (unless I start calling my Jeep “Love Shack” but that’s kinda weird and creepy), but the point is that I had a goal. And I stuck to it, no matter how much it hurt (and it hurt). I used all sorts of positive self-encouragement such as:

“You’ll feel great in two days !”(but not right afterwards – I require at least two days to return to normal)

“You know you can do it – you’ve already run 13.1 and it’s only about 2 miles more!”

“If you do it, you can blog about the Love Shack!”

“You’ll be 2 miles closer to a marathon!”

“The weather is nice, and you’re feeling good today, so just get it over with!”

During mile 13, when I was considering ending early again, Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” just so happened to come on my iPod. It was a sign – you could stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down. And I didn’t.

I had a lot of thoughts as I circled the park over and over and over. I thought about work. I thought about my husband. I thought about the past and the future. I thought about what I could teach if I had to teach a class (totally random, I know). There were many others that floated briefly in and out of my mind. Sure, the old saying is to “be present” but I gotta say, the last thing I want to do when I’m running that long of a distance is to think about each and every step. My music and my thoughts keep me going and keep me sane (sort of).

As soon as I finished, I again thought about the Love Shack. They drove their convertible, but I would have made it there on foot! That’s kind of a big deal. Granted, it took me 2 hours, 43 minutes, and 30 seconds….but I think I can safely say that the party at the Love Shack would have still been in full effect by the time I arrived. Besides, who wants to be the first person at the party?? Certainly not me (just ask my husband). 😉

It’s Gonna Take Patience and Time.

October 5, 2016

So I still haven’t made it to 15 miles.

I really had planned on it today. It was a beautiful morning – cool, sunny, breezy – the perfect day to get it run and done. I really thought I would, too. The run started off really really good. I was in no pain, I was not tired, I was properly fueled and hydrated, and I had a water bottle stashed in the car so I could stop when I needed to. It was gonna happen, I could feel it.

I felt something, yes, but it turns out it wasn’t quite what I had thought it was. I started off with a 10:04 pace. It felt comfortable, so I stuck with it. In hindsight, this was my great mistake – if I am ever going to make it to 15, I am going to have to go slower. Lesson learned.

But not all was lost, and I was definitely able to turn this lemon into lemonade. I had been maintaining the pace I started with, and realized around mile 10 that if I kept this up, I was on pace to set a new half marathon PR. Once I realized this, I decided to focus on that goal – which was a good goal, don’t get me wrong – but it cost me in the end. As I looped around for the 13th mile, I knew I’d set a PR but I also knew there was no way I was making it to 15. I was tired. I was hurting. I was done. I was happy. I rocked the 13.1. And after the last half, this was a really big deal. My hope in making it to 26.2 had been renewed.

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Rock.

Today was a milestone for me. I ran a half in 2:11:30, my personal best. And I didn’t feel like I was going to die at the end. I was going to live, and I was going to learn. I can get to 26.2 – I WILL get to 26.2 – I just have slow down, be patient, and stay focused on the goal. It’s not going to be easy; but it will be worth it.

26.2, I’ve got my mind set on you.

Make Running Great Again.

October 2, 2016

I decided to head out this morning for another try at an 8 miler. I was tired, and had felt that way since yesterday. I told my husband I wasn’t really feeling it, but I keep putting off running 15, so if I was going to put it off again today (I have tentatively rescheduled it for this coming Wednesday, if I don’t lose my nerve, again) I had to get out there and at least do a decent run. And since my last attempt at 8 was not so great, I thought I’d give it another try.

It was wonderful. I know what you’re thinking – “how could running ever be considered wonderful?!” My answer – I don’t know but that’s what it was, people. I swear.

For starters, it was cooler today – I wore a long sleeve shirt for the first time but kept my compression shorts – it’s not cool enough for pants yet. When I started, I was surprised at how good it felt right away – especially since, like I mentioned, I had been super tired the past two days. But all that quickly dissipated once I began moving. I decided to take advantage of that feeling, and began moving even faster. It STILL felt great, and I finished my first mile at a 9:31 pace. I admit, I was surprised. Although this is slow to normal for my 5k, when I go any longer than 6, I’m usually at a 10:30. But not today. For the first time in a while, I felt like I was the one who was flying. I circled the park 7 more times, ranging from a 9:18 to a 9:40. I passed a few people, and I even crossed paths with another runner who was coming the other direction, who must have been having as good of a running day as me, because we both smiled and laughed as we passed. Go us.

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Maybe it was the shirt.

I briefly considered trying to do 13.1, since after that mentally and physically trying half from two weeks ago, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do better. But I decided to let it go (just like the song says) and when my garmin struck 8 miles, I hit the stop, and walked the rest of the way back, clocking in at a 9:31 split, which also just so happens to be my 8 mile PR.

15 miles, I’m coming for you.

You’re good, girl.

September 28, 2016

“That I would be good, even if I got the thumbs down.” – Alanis Morissette

This morning, I headed out for an 8 mile run. I haven’t run for more than 4 since the half two weeks ago, but I wasn’t too concerned, since we (my husband and I) ran another 5k this past weekend and I wound up with a 26:46 which, although not a PR, was still better that the previous two 5Ks I just ran. I think it was because this one in particular was for a good cause too, so I had some extra motivation to really rock it – it was the CHOP Parkway Run to benefit pediatric cancer research. We’ve been running this one with friends for about four years now, and it’s always got such a great crowd and a great vibe – we’re all there together to support the cause, united and strong.

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good cause, good run, good friends.

Back to this morning. It was cool and partly cloudy, which makes for great running conditions. I was not planning on setting any records, I just wanted to get to eight, to help prepare me for my goal of 15 miles this Sunday, which would be the most I have ever run, consecutively. (Yes, I’m scared).

I felt good, physically, and I was doing ok with speed, but for some reason, I just felt really down and out. You would think that after the last 5k I would be in good running spirits, but in fact it was quite the opposite. I felt….like a bad runner, to put it simply. That I just wasn’t very good, and I wasn’t really sure why I continued to do it, knowing there were so many people who were so much better than me. And to top it off, a few of those people just so happened to be at the park at the same time as I was, and running in the same direction. One was a girl, probably about 15 years my junior, who was just flying. I don’t even think her feet were actually touching the ground, for real. I felt old, slow and foolish as she trotted past me, light as air. I tried to convince myself of what I ultimately know to be true – we all have different goals and it doesn’t matter if anyone is faster than me, as long as I’m out there doing it.

Well, today, it mattered.

As if that wasn’t enough, shortly after, a young man pushing not one, but TWO children in a double stroller passed right by me, like I was standing still. Really, Universe? Way to kick a girl when she’s down. I hung my head and continued to beat myself up. “You could never do that, you’re slower just pulling yourself along” and “you’re not getting any younger, you’ll never be a good runner.”

The one thing I didn’t do, was stop.

I kept going with my Negative Nancy self, and finally came to the last half mile of the 8. Still trying to convince myself unsuccessfully that I wasn’t that bad, and at least I was good at other things, I saw this older man walking towards me with an umbrella. He was strolling along, smiling. As we passed, he gave me a thumbs up:

“You’re good, girl.” he said.

Thank you, umbrella man. You’re right.

Half Way There.

September 19, 2016

This weekend, I ran the Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. I also ran the 5k the day before. I told myself that if I can run an easy half (which I was sure I would), then I’d definitely be able to tackle the full in November. And having been training for weeks, I was sure this would be no great shakes, especially since I’ve ran 6 half marathons before this one, and trained far less for some of them.

Over-confidence is a bad, bad, thing, my friends.

I’ll start with the good part. Overall, the good far outweighs the bad, and I have to say that the weekend as a whole was really pretty fantastic. I ran with a great group of amazing, high-energy people who love running as much as I do. They really made this weekend a blast, and turned it into something I’ll remember forever. So a big shout out and thanks to them.

Also, one of the bands that played were my friends, and they were by far the best band there (and I’m not just saying that because I’m biased). They kept the runners pumped with their funky grooves and upbeat tunes. Many thanks to The Big Unkle  – you helped me more than you know.

The 5k was pretty great too – after last weekend’s 5k success, I told myself it was OK if I ran it slow, since I’d be doing the half the next day. Well, once the horn sounded, that whole idea went out the window, and I couldn’t help myself – I just started passing people, and it felt so easy, I just went with it. I finished with a 27:24. Not too shabby. But definitely not the slow pace at which I said I would go. I was pleased at the finish line, but looking back, I should have stuck with my original plan. My competitive nature got the best of me. But the medal was pretty cool, especially since I have this weird mini obsession with Ben Franklin. Don’t ask.

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This one’s going in a special place.

The first part of my plan did not go as I had envisioned, but I still felt pretty good, and at this point believed the plan was actually going better than I had anticipated. I went to yoga at my favorite studio (Yogawood – it’s a wonderful, happy place) later that afternoon to prepare my hips for the half, and as I went to bed that evening, all was right with the world.

The next morning, I woke again at 5:30, and prepared for the main part of my weekend journey – the half. My husband was accompanying me this time, to cheer me on. We again spent the pre-race minutes hanging with friends, and as race time was upon us, we all parted ways and headed to our assigned corrals.

I felt pretty good. No hip pain, no fatigue, no stomach issues. I was awake and ready to run. It was more humid than I would have liked, but I was sure I’d knock this one out of the park in no time. Heck, maybe I’d even beat my PR (2:13:32, Philadelphia Half Marathon 2014).

The horn sounded, and I started off feeling the same way I felt the day before – running was easy, and I was cruising along at an under 10 minute mile pace, which definitely would be a PR. I rode that wave for 2 miles. The next mile was a little slower, but still not too bad – I could still beat the PR. And then it all fell apart. It was really really humid. I started to slow way down. I felt like the mileage on my Garmin was not increasing and I was running in place. Like that dream where you’re running but going nowhere. I was going nowhere fast. I stopped at the first water station, which I never do, but I was so thirsty. It helped and I got a little pep back. But soon lost it and became really thirsty again. From here on out, I stopped at EVERY SINGLE water station. I felt like I couldn’t get enough to drink. I was dragging myself along, one heavy step at a time. The miles were passing very, very slowly. At least I was not alone – I’ve never seen so many runners walking. I had to walk for a bit myself at one point. But I trudged on. How could I ever run a full if a half felt this bad?? I had to keep going. I stopped for ice, and downed some gatorade. I listened to “I Will Survive” on my ipod. But even good old Gloria Gaynor couldn’t get me pumped at this point. I just had to suck it up, and keep moving forward.

There was my husband at the finish line. He called my name, and I gave him the look of death. Even his support wasn’t helping. I just had to cross the line and get this thing over with. Usually I’m good for a sprint when the finish line comes into view, but that was just not happening. I fake smiled for the camera as I crossed the line, about to collapse, throw up, and cry, all at the same time.

I claimed my medal, and found my husband, and immediately burst into tears. This was my worst half marathon to date. I felt deflated and exhausted. All my training was for nothing, and how could I run a full after this? “You still did good!” my husband said, trying to lift me from my post-race funk/shutdown. We walked for a bit, and I eventually checked my time (2:23:41), which, to my surprise, wasn’t as bad as I thought, and was not my worst half by any means. I was feeling a little better, but still disappointed – not so much about my time, but about how hard the run was. And it was only half the distance I need to go to reach my goal.

But it did end on a positive. Because I ran both races this weekend, I got an extra medal. It might be the coolest medal I’ve ever received. It looks like a guitar, and it’s really pretty sweet.

Maybe, I do rock after all.

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Don’t give up.