My First Half Marathon

As many of my readers know, the half marathon I was supposed to run in January wound up getting cancelled due to inclement weather so I was able to defer my registration to a different race. Well I’m happy to report that I finally was able to run my official half marathon with RunDisney last weekend, the Star Wars Dark Side Half, and it was a pretty awesome experience! In this entry I would like to regale you with tales of my training and meeting my goals and finishing my first official half marathon. I was able to run my first half with my godmother, Suzanne, and one of my oldest friends, Sarah, which was a great way to stay distracted and have fun for two and a half hours while running.

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Here’s just a preview of some of our shenanigans. 

For my last half, I did a novice training program by Hal Higdon that was really good for me given my starting point. The unofficial half I ran, I clocked in at around 2:53 which is pretty decent for a first go at running 13.1 miles. This time, since I was already pretty well trained from January (I picked up about 3 weeks after) so I wanted to try a different plan and settled on another Hal Higdon plan, the HM3 (for more experienced runners). Despite the fact that it would only be my first “official” half marathon, I felt pretty good after the last round of training that I was ready for a tougher program. I found it to be a great program and only had a couple of missed training runs in the 3 months and that was including a week where I was sick. I was also challenged by an article on the internet to run a 5k in under 30 minutes, which I finished in 28 and definitely attribute to my awesome training.

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28:05 – that’s right stupid internet article I AM in shape! 

Now let’s get on to the real exciting stuff, race weekend! For all RunDisney races you have to attend their running expo to pick up your bib and shirt before your race. They have tons of exhibitors set up at the Wide World of Sports selling various running accoutrements and health related stuff. There was even a booth set up by Celebration Hospital that had a body composition scan you could do for free and in just a couple of minutes.  Suzanne and I decided to give it a shot and I was thrilled with my results! After 8 weeks of bodyweight training (and several prior months of lifting) I apparently have 72 lbs of skeletal muscle mass and 18.7% body fat (despite my BMI being closer to 24). Based on this information I’m in the “fitness” category of body fat percentile and pretty close to “athlete” which of course gave me a huge boost of self-confidence which I assume helped me run my heart out the next day.

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Getting my body composition scan done, fancy machine and all. 

Now on to the actual race, which by the way starts at 5:30 in the morning, and required a bright and early 3am wake up on my part. So after sleeping about 4 hours (because nerves sometimes don’t let you fall asleep), we three lady warriors trudged to the bus stop at 4am to sit around in our corral for a while before it was our turn to run. Now it should be made clear that Sarah (who I’ve known for 20 years because we’re so old now) ran this race after having only 3 weeks of training and also one week of it being sick. Suzanne is a seasoned pro at running, she even finished a full marathon in under 5 hours earlier this year. And right in the middle you have me, who has been running for 18 months and trained the full 3 months for this race. But we stayed together for most of the race, Suzanne keeping me at a pace on track to finish in under 2 hours and 45 minutes, and Sarah kicking ass alongside us until about mile 9. I had my half marathon playlist in one ear to keep me motivated and Suzanne encouraging me and pushing me to go hard and stay on track in the other. One last motivation for me was knowing my dad & Suzanne’s son Hayden (one of my best friends and only 12 years old) were waiting for us at the Boardwalk around mile 12 to help push us through to the finish. I started getting emotional around mile 10, but after seeing them and getting to hug Hayden I couldn’t help but cry a little.

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Suzanne & I still leaping around mile 11, and hamming it up. 

I consider myself very lucky that Suzanne joined me in this race and volunteered to stick with me and pace me for my first race. Without her help I honestly don’t know if I would have been able to meet my goal and finish in under 2:45. Almost every time I wanted to walk or take it easy for a bit, I thought about keeping up with her and wanting to achieve my goal and kept running. Plus we took some amazing pictures together on the race course that I’ve already framed in my apartment and make me laugh every time I see them. I would like to one more time acknowledge the fact that she was placed in the C corral, her best ever, and she came all the way back with me in corral G so that we could be together. Thanks to her and a little bit of my training, I finished the race in 2:33:16 – far under my 2:45 goal going in. Throughout the race I didn’t have any issues until I was sprinting to the finish and my calves started cramping up. So what you can’t see in my finish line photo is the Charlie horse like pain searing through both of my calves, luckily I’m good at hiding my discomfort. I’m happy to say that after plenty of walking, a shower and a stellar breakfast at Olivia’s Café, I was all better for my day at Hollywood Studios and was able to enjoy wearing my medal proudly around the park.

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My finish line photo, feeling very triumphant and not at all like my calves are on fire and seizing up. 

For my first half marathon, I could not have had a better experience. RunDisney may not be perfect in their organization, but I had a great first race at the Dark Side half marathon and would most certainly do another in the future. I’m thinking my next goal might be to complete the dark side challenge, which consists of running a 10k on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. 19.3 miles in 2 days doesn’t sound so rough right now, but ask me again by the time next year’s race rolls around. For now, I’m going to keep running 3 days a week, bodyweight training 2-3 days (more on that soon), and working on my nutrition. At this rate, I’ll never stop working on being the best I can be- which isn’t such a bad position to be in.

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We 3 Amazonians conquered the 13.1 mile course, and I’m super proud of all of us! On to the next adventure! 

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When Life Gives You Lemons

As promised (to no one in particular other than myself) over the weekend I decided to run my makeup half marathon, after last weekend’s RunDisney cancellation. I sit here with my laptop, medal around my neck to type this up. On Sunday morning at 6am, I dragged myself out of bed and laced up my shoes prepared to run 13.1 miles to earn that half marathon medal. When I began my run, it was still dark out so I had to use the flashlight on my phone in order to see the pavement in front of me. But I knew that the later I started, the longer I was going to have to be running in the sun, so a dark start was for the best. I plugged in my ear buds, put on an episode of the “Anna Faris is Unqualified” podcast and began my nearly 3 hour run.

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After nearly 3 hours of running, I did it. 

Prior to this point, the farthest I had run was 10 miles in my training and I had planned on running my first half marathon at the happiest place on earth, with thousands of other people alongside me. If you’re not a runner you might not understand the difference between a training run and a race, but they’re pretty significant. At a race you have mile markers, water stations, medical tents, and a group of peers doing the same thing as you that provide you with the motivation to keep going. At RunDisney events in particular, there’s a sense of camaraderie fostered among the runners. When you see someone struggling you give them words of encouragement or a high-five, and other people support you. In a race you have people to pass and someone to chase ahead of you, but on a training run you’re alone and have to support yourself.

As I chugged along my running trail in the dark, I let my mind wander as I often do on my long runs as it provides a great distraction. I spent time thinking about how far I’ve come since starting Couch to 5k in December of 2015, and how now I was embarking on my first half marathon. If I could finish these 13.1 miles, I really would be able to call myself a runner and put that 13.1 magnet on my car that I was so proud to buy. The medal I had picked up from Wide World of Sports last Saturday would have some meaning, it would mean that I had achieved something significant I had been working at for months.

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Post-run on the couch with the medal around my neck. Proud as can be. 

There were times where I got a stitch in my side and slowed to a walk or felt my quads getting tight and wanted to give up and just walk home. But you know what, I didn’t. Even when I had no one else holding me accountable and was doing this for no one but myself I kept going. I thought about when I was younger and I would cheat myself and lie to my mom about running a mile like she recommended to get me in shape for softball season. I would walk up and down the street for 10 minutes and then sprint down the hill by our house to get my heart rate up before I went home. I used to cut corners and cheat myself often when I was younger, but that was no longer the way I conduct myself. Today I was going to keep going and finish this half marathon even if it was just for myself and no one else.

When I got home and collapsed onto my couch, Gatorade in hand, it finally sank in that I had just run a half marathon. That I did it by myself without anyone holding me accountable. I already had the medal I was to earn, so I didn’t do it for the bling. This time I did it for me, to prove to myself that I could do it. When I started this weight loss quest some 19 months ago I never thought I would lose 100 pounds, let alone run a half marathon. I’ve achieved so much in that time and I didn’t do it for anyone else, I did it all for me and maybe a little bit for my mom.

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My reward for running 13.1 miles, 2/3 of a supreme pizza for dinner! 

I frequently think about my mom and what she would think about all that I’ve done. I’m sure that she would be proud of me, and I know there are lots of other people who are but I can’t help but wonder what she would have to say. My mom always had something to say about things and I just miss her unique brand of humor. One thing I know for sure, she would’ve been waiting for me at the finish of my first Disney half-marathon and cheering me on, rain or shine. And I know that no matter what I do as far as running in the future, she will be there with me in spirit as she is every day.

Life Is Like Photography- Sometimes We Develop From The Negatives

Well my faithful readers, I have some disappointing news to share with you. I was unable to run the Disney half marathon last weekend, as it was cancelled due to inclement weather. This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but after 13 weeks of training for this race I was pretty upset to not be able to run on Saturday morning. Because the race was cancelled (for the first time in RunDisney history) we were offered several options as repayment for the cancelled race including park hopper tickets, a Disney gift card for the cost of the race, the chance to run the full marathon the following day, or the option to defer and run another RunDisney in the next 2 years. I chose to defer to another race so this weekend I have to email RunDisney with preferences for what race I want to run and hopefully I will get my chance to run a half marathon later this year.

While this was a pretty big bummer for me, it gave me the opportunity to learn some lessons about myself personally and physically. The biggest revelation was the fact that I was absolutely crushed when I found out I wouldn’t be able to run the half marathon. If you had told me even a year ago that I would be so disappointed that I didn’t have to run 13.1 miles, I would’ve probably laughed in your face. It really is amazing how much can change in a year- last January I was just finishing up the Couch to 5k program and this year I finished up a half marathon training program. It took quite some time, but I consider myself to be a real runner now and that’s something I’m really proud of.

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These photos were taken to serve as memories of my first half marathon weekend. Now they show me how excited I was to run 13.1 miles- something I never thought possible. 

Despite the fact that we didn’t actually get to run the race, everyone who was signed up was able to get their finisher medal either at the Wide World of Sports or in the mail. Seeing as how I was going to the runner’s expo that day anyway, I decided to pick mine up in person. When I received my medal, instead of feeling that sense of accomplishment and pride in what I had completed I just felt empty and hopeless. I had this incredible medal that I had done nothing to get, it felt like getting a participation trophy for softball and it didn’t feel good. I decided not to wear my medal to the parks, as I had intended to after running, because I hadn’t earned it. One of my friends pointed out to me that I should think of it as the reward for losing 100 pounds- because I hadn’t done anything big for myself after the accomplishment. That made me feel a lot better, but I still want to earn my medal. So this weekend I intend on going out and running 13.1 miles on my own, so I can really say I’ve run a half marathon and put the 13.1 magnet on my car without guilt.

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The excitement was palpable- just hours before the disappointing news. 

The other really good thing that came out of this weekend was that I was able to meet and chat with Jeff Galloway, the Olympic runner and trainer. My godmother wanted to meet him so I joined her to wait in line after exploring the expo. I introduced myself and shook his hand and Suzanne decided to be a proud godmother and brag about my weight loss to Jeff. He really took an interest in my story not only because of my substantial weight loss, but also because I decided to do this in my early twenties instead of waiting like so many others do. He took down my information, we took a picture together, and he said he would email me about mentioning me on his website. So that was a pretty cool opportunity! I don’t really tend to bring up my weight loss or brag about it unless someone else brings it up to me first, because I don’t want to seem like the total narcissist that I actually am. But when an Olympian acknowledges that what I did was impressive, it does make me feel pretty accomplished.

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Me with Jeff Galloway! It was so great to meet him! 

Hopefully in the near future I’ll be posting about my excitement for my next half marathon (cross your fingers that I get in)! Despite the disappointment I faced this weekend, I’m glad I had the opportunity to do some self-reflection and hopefully I’ll be able to set some new goals for a future race.

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Some good things did come out of Saturday- like this cuddle party with my Godbrothers!