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I’m a Marathoner Now.

November 16, 2016

I did it. I ran a marathon. This past Sunday, November 13, 2016, I ran the Bucks County Marathon, in 5 hours, 22 minutes, and 39 seconds.

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It was the best of runs and the worst of runs.

Up until I crossed the starting line, I was having doubts about doing it. There were about a thousand different moments when I decided NOT to run it. But, thankfully I kept talking myself back into it. And when I woke up that morning and saw the weather I pulled my anxious self together, put on my running gear and said to myself:

-it’s sunny and 45 degrees, which is perfect marathon weather

-you’ve trained for this and in your great physical shape for it

-you’re not injured (last year, on my very first training run, I got hurt)

-the race starts at 9am which is perfect since you hate waking up super early and running

-you’re 40 and not getting any younger

-you will be able to tell everyone you ran a marathon and you can finally put the 26.2 sticker on your car

And with that, I hopped into my husband’s car, and we headed to the race.

Like I mentioned, I was freaking out inside up until I crossed the starting line. As I kissed my husband goodbye and began jogging off into the distance, he said, “Just keep moving forward. It’s all you can do.”

And move forward, I did.

And for 16 miles, I felt wonderful. I was doing it – I was running a marathon! I crossed the half marathon point and felt great – it was an out and back course, through the beautiful, scenic fall foliage of Bucks County. At the turning point, I thought, “wow, I made it halfway and it was like nothing – I’ve only got 13.1 more miles to go – it’s gonna be a piece of cake!”

I rode that feeling for three more miles, when suddenly, like a lightning bolt from the running gods, I was struck from my high horse and found myself in a strange, dark, place.

My husband had warned me about this. “You’re going to through some rough patches, but you’ll get through it,” he told me. I nodded, but inside, I was thinking, whatever you say boss, I haven’t had any mental breakdowns throughout my training, so why would that happen this time. Well, it started with feeling sick to my stomach. It escalated into panic when I realized there were hardly any port-o-potties on this course. It turned to tears when I found myself somewhere in New Hope, PA, alone, with no other runners in sight in either direction. I was falling apart, mentally. All the preparation I had done was purely physical. I was not prepared for this. I didn’t recognize my surroundings which led me to believe I had somehow gone off the path. I stopped. I looked around for some hint of what the right direction was. I pulled out my phone, about to try using google maps, or as an absolute last resort, calling my husband to come save me. I looked around one last time, when I saw it, ahead in the distance – the 18 mile marker. I was going the right way after all.

At this point, I was doing some sort of half run, half walk thing, but I did what my husband said – kept moving forward. I was alternating between feeling sick and crying for the next 4 miles, when, at mile 22, another runner came up next to me.

“I was using you as a pacer!” he said. He was smiling.

“This is my first marathon,” I wearily replied.

“Mine too! And we’re doing great!” he exclaimed. He was right. And I needed to hear that. I ditched the tears and plowed onward.

At mile 24.5, my husband appeared, walking towards me. I was embarrassed at first, because I was merely walking at this point myself.

But I was glad he was there when he was – he gave me that extra push to take it to the end, although I complained and cried all the way through the last mile, which I swear was the longest mile I’ve ever run. It was as if the finish line was getting farther away the more I ran. But somehow, I found myself about to cross that line.

I’ll remember that moment forever. The girl on the other side, holding the medals, smiling. In my mind, it plays back in slow motion. I looked down at those things that pick up your time chip as I stepped across. I saw my husband off to the left. The music was playing, and it was a beautiful day. I had done it.

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And I have the medal (and soreness) to prove it.

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The Soul of the Sneakers.

November 11, 2016

It’s been an intense week. I don’t really want to talk politics, but I will say that after all that’s gone down, my soul needs a little nourishment. And for me, that nourishment comes from another kind of sole.

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Soulful Sole.

I’m addicted to running. If I don’t run, I get anxious and upset, and don’t know what to do with myself. When things go low, I go run. And I always feel better afterwards. Do all of my problems/concerns/issues magically vanish with each mile? No. But with every mile, I feel stronger and more focused. The issues don’t seem so insurmountable and sometimes I even wind up solving problems or tapping into a major creative flow.

After a run, I feel like me again.

Truthfully, I sometimes wonder who “me” really is. I worry that I’m not who I want to be. I worry about what’s going to happen next. I worry about what’s happened already. And when all this worry and wonder is just about to bury me alive, I run. And run. And run again. Sometimes I cry when I run. Sometimes I talk to myself. Sometimes I sing (loudly – just ask my husband). And sometimes, I’m silently taking it all in. But whatever I’m doing, it’s filling in those holes we all get in our souls – and making me whole again.

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Healing Heels.

Today, I ran 8 miles. It was a beautiful autumn day. The leaves were falling around me (one hit me right on the nose, in fact), the sun was shining, and I was flying. At least, that’s how it felt. Not because I was going  super fast or anything, but because my soul was being lifted – by the soles of my sneakers.

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Each step reminded me of what it means to be strong, aware, awake, and alive. We can change the world. One sole at a time.

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.