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Lessons learned running a half-marathon

It’s still funny to me that thousands and thousands of people PAY money to run.  There’s a good chunk of the population that doesn’t get this at all.  We be crazy is all they think.  There’s another chunk who totally gets it.  I used to think running for the sake of running was ridiculous.  And then one day, I don’t know what changed, but I decided I was going to train for and run a marathon.  That was 16 years ago.  Since then running has saved me a lot of therapy bills.  I have no explanation for why, but it helps me find my happy.

I had plans to run the Ogden marathon this year, but changed my mind as I’ve been focusing more on strength training to prepare for the Spartan race I signed up for in August (may heaven have mercy on my ridiculously weak arms).  But a week before the race, my sister-in-law text me to come run the half-marathon with her.

Now, I exercise 5-6 times a week (30-60 minutes each day), but I’ve only been running once every few weeks.  And the farthest I’ve run in the last several months is about 7 miles.  I wasn’t prepared for a half.  At all.  And prepare (more like OVER prepare) is what I do best.  I don’t like doing things I’m not prepared for.  But I’ve been in a bit of a funk the last few months and thought I could use a good dose of racing “spirit” (if you’ve been in any type of race, you know what I’m talking about).  So on a whim, I signed up–6 days before the race.

I was nervous all week long.  I wasn’t nervous about not finishing.  They’d have to carry my cold dead body off the race course before I didn’t finish.  But I’m competitive.  I have certain expectations of myself and didn’t want to get a slower time than I’m used to.  I tried to get to the mental space of “just finish” but I never did.

This was really a test to see where my mental strength was at.  Could I push myself through discomfort, pain, probably some suffering?  I’m admittedly not as mentally strong as I’d like to be so I saw this as an opportunity to strengthen that a little.

I read a quote once from Amelia Boone, one of the toughest obstacle course racers on the planet (she wins Spartan races all over the country–she’s legit).  She said “I’m not the strongest.  I’m not the fastest.  I’m just really good at suffering.”  This quote sticks with me.  Sometimes getting where we want and what we want has less to do with being the strongest or fastest (or smartest) and more to do with pushing through whatever fear, pain, or discomfort we may have to get where we want and what we want.

So race day came and went and I learned a few things from the experience:

**Being prepared is definitely not overrated.  There’s people who seem to be good at winging things throughout life.  I’m not one of them.  Being prepared matters.  I NEED a lot of preparation time for things.

**Though our mind can push us through things, there’s always a cost.  I was hurting through much of this race.  At mile 5 I saw a sign that said “That voice in your head saying you can’t is a liar”.  I held on to that through the rest of the race and kept telling myself “Keep pushing.  Keep pushing”.  And I did.  I pushed.  And I finished with a decent time (for me).  But there was definitely a physical price to pay for doing so.  My muscles weren’t prepared for a run that far.  My body in general wasn’t prepared for a run that far.  There are some people who seem to be built for running and endurance sports.  I am not one of them.  I normally have to train, a lot, to do these type of races.  I paid for this in the days after (and am still paying for it).  Our minds can push us to do amazing things, but if we haven’t properly prepared, there is a cost.

**The aforementioned “cost” was worth it.  Sure I couldn’t walk down stairs for 3 days, I had a horrible stomach ache for several days, my right quad still screams at me when I move it certain ways, I still can’t squat, and a few other physical ailments I don’t want to discuss on the www, BUT I proved to myself I can push myself through pain.  I can push myself to do things I wasn’t sure I could do.  I learned just how powerful the mind is.

**Many times, I hold myself back from doing great things because I’m afraid to fail.  Or afraid to look dumb.  But in the end, it’s almost always worth taking the risk.  I miss out on too much for fear of not doing well when I try.  I don’t like not being good at something.  But I have to start somewhere if I want to get anywhere.  Life opens up when I get rid of the fear of looking dumb (even if it’s just to myself–most people aren’t paying any attention to what I’m doing anyway).

**This isn’t new to me, but every time I run a race I’m reminded how amazing the running community is.  People are just nice.  And encouraging.  And excited.  And positive.  I really dig the running community.

**Knowing someone is at the end of a race waiting for you makes a difference.  My husband and kids weren’t able to come because, Hi, I signed up for the race 6 days before and we had too many scheduling conflicts to get them there.  But my little brother was there and I knew he’d be at the end.  Not the same as having my husband and kids, but still made a difference knowing someone was there.  Having people is a HUGE blessing.  It rained the entire race and there was my brother at the end with a towel and blanket which I’m pretty sure saved me from hypothermia.

**Rain mixed with long runs makes you chafe in places you’d never dream possible.  Just so you’re aware next time you run in the rain for 2 hours.

**The crowd in general matters.  There’s a few points in races where your mind starts to think “Whyyyyy am I doing this?”  And then you respond to yourself “I really don’t know”.  And then the conversation continues with thoughts I probably shouldn’t type.  But then you see people.  Volunteers who came to hand you water, and bananas, and….pancakes (why was someone handing out pancakes at one of the stations–I got nauseous just smelling them, but then again, my stomach was not pleased during the entire race so coulda been that.  I’m curious if anyone actually grabbed one of those pancakes dangling from some strangers hand as we trudged past….).  And streets lined with people holding signs and cheering for people they don’t even know.  For those of you who go to races and cheer, you matter.  Trust me.  You matter a lot.

**We, all of us, can DO more than we think we can.  I’d say the majority of us are our own worst enemy.  We’re the ones keeping ourselves from doing those things we want to do.  We can do more.  We just have to believe we can and then we just have to DO.

And what’s a life event without photos.  I would have loved to snap a few during the run but my hands weren’t working at all.  I couldn’t grip or hold on to anything.  I couldn’t even unzip my ziploc to eat the gels I had.  I tried.  It wasn’t happening.  No food for me.

But I got a few pics before the race and a few after.

The finish line street when we got there to catch the bus.  At 4:30am.  An hour that no one should ever be awake.

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Starting line at Eden park.  I need a cabin in Eden.  That place is SO pretty.

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Pre-race shot.  When our hands still had feeling and our quads weren’t screaming “I hate you”.

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All of the crazy people who joined me and payed to do this.  Love the shot of the masses.  Lots of good, hard-working, goal driven people in this crowd (with a side of crazy).

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Annnnnd after the race.  As we ran down the final stretch (longest mile ever), there were what I assumed to be some older war vets on the course handing out little American flags.  Totally brought tears to my eyes (or maybe that was just rain on my face) and gave me just the boost I needed at the end (I love this country SO much) although it was incredibly difficult to keep hold of the tiny wooden stick.

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Those thin silver whatever they are (emergency blankets?) provide a surprising amount of warmth.  Maybe it’s just in your head, but it doesn’t matter.  I was really grateful for that thing.

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We didn’t linger after the race at all.  It was straight to the car.  I had to sit in there with the heater full blast for a good 20 minutes before I could grip the steering wheel to head home.

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I ran my first marathon with NO music and NO time tracker.  No idea how I did that.  I’m super inconsistent with my pace so it’s really helpful to have my Garmin to keep track of how fast (or in most cases how slow) I’m running.  Helps me know how hard I can push without completely tanking at the end.  Although I still always run too fast in the beginning.

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Always interesting to have the heart rate monitor results.   I stopped it when I made it back to the car.  My heart rate was actually higher than it usually is.  Nerves maybe?  Or the cold?  No idea.  But when the race started, my heart rate was already around 175.  And it hovered around 185 the rest of the race.  Normally when I run it’s around 170 (yes, that’s still high but normal for me.  I have a resting heart rate a little below 60 but when I exercise it goes crazy high).

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My legs were crazy sore the next few days.  Sore to walk.  Sore to the touch.  I never realized how much my 4 year old touches my legs until it brought tears to my eyes every time he touched me.

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Definitely a race I won’t forget and one that taught me a few things along the way.  Trying to say “yes” to more things than I say “no” to.   “You know all those things you’ve wanted to do?  You should go do them.”

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  • Lindsay, my dear, I’m sure you don’t remember this, but YOU are the one who persuaded me to run a marathon. You convinced me to run St. George with you, but I didn’t get in and I ran Top of Utah instead. I never ever had any interest in running a marathon. I ran my first when I was 42 – 16 YEARS AGO! I tell everyone that some of my Laurels talked me into running a marathon. I have now run 27 marathons and about 70 half marathons. Thanks for lighting the fire within this old lady. I want to be you when I grow up. Love you tons.ReplyCancel

    • ltross17

      Wait. Whaaaat?!?! How do I not remember this at all? Well, not surprising because I remember pretty much nothing. But seriously?? That was the first one you ran? And holy crap you’ve run 27 marathons and 70 halfs????? I want to be YOU when I grow up.ReplyCancel

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