So I’m Going to Run a Marathon

Last year, when I signed up for my first half marathons, I didn’t really tell anyone outside of my running friends. Mike made sure everyone knew, bringing it up in conversations with friends. “Guess what Kerri’s doing?” It made me nervous to have so many people know about my plan. What if I was the last one to cross the finish line? What if I failed? As the weeks of training passed, I became more confident in my ability, trusting that I would definitely finish.  As I am less than a month away from my third half, it is time to find that faith in myself again. 

A friend and I applied for the New York Marathon Lottery. The odds of getting in were slim, but it seemed like a good chance to let fate decide if we were ready to run a full marathon.

“Do you think you’ll get in?” Mike asked before the drawing.

“Probably not.  There are a lot of names in the lottery.”

Prim said the same thing,” he reminded me.

On the day of the drawing, I left the NYRR site open on my computer, checking it every so often. By the end of the day, we were officially told that we were not among the nine percent of entrants who won a spot in the marathon. We both thought we would be relieved. Instead, we were both disappointed and began looking at other marathons, deciding on Philadelphia. It’s flat and is known for a fun atmosphere. After texting about it for a day, we decided to register. We decided to be geeks and also order marathon training shirts.

        

We researched training plans, deciding on a twenty-week plan the seemed quite manageable.  Perfect timing aligns the training of the half and full marathons; the day we complete the half begins the training for the full.

Even though I have a training plan, paid for the race, and booked a hotel, it still does not seem real. Based on my half marathon times, I should be able to complete the full in six and a half hours. However, my goal is simply to finish. Registration requests a six-teen minute mile pace, but people went over that in last year’s results. I know I can do that.

I am still wondering why I thought this was a good idea. Here are my best thoughts:

To prove to myself that I can. Each time I do something out of my comfort zone, the feeling of accomplishment makes me want more experiences.

Never did I envision me as a runner. As a chubby kid who preferred sitting and reading books, I had panic attacks over gym class, especially when the Presidential Physical Fitness testing time rolled around. To make matters worse, my maiden name began with an A, making me the first kid to have to attempt each activity. The class stood around watching me try to complete sit-ups or pull-ups.  It was humiliating and stress-inducing.

I want to prove to myself that I can set and meet seemingly impossible goals.

I want Liam to see that I can reach difficult goals. He is my cheerleader. He writes me notes of encouragement, offers encouragement, and celebrates successes with me. I want him to see the value of setting goals and working to reach them.

 

Today, we took Liam to the Boston Museum of Science, his reward for a stellar report card. Because the Boston Marathon is next week, they were offering a bunch of marathon-related activities.  Liam was able to learn how bib chips work. I was excited to see a presentation called “How to Train for a Marathon.” When we went back to the area for the session, the gentleman leading the session, Rick Murh, was there and came over the chat.

  

“What made you decide to go for the full marathon?” he asked me.

“I signed up for the New York City Marathon lottery. I thought I would be relieved when I didn’t make it in, but instead, I was sad.”

“That’s how you know you’re ready.”

Murh explained that he has trained over 20,000 people to run marathons. When people ask if they are ready, he explains, “You’ve got everything it takes but it will take everything you’ve got.”

After explaining about proper form, cadence, negative splits,  he shared a secret he tells all first-time marathon runners. When people ask “What was your time?” he tells people to say, “The time of my life.” His goal is for runners to have the time of their lives.

As I transition from half marathon to marathon training, I need to remember those two pieces of perspective.

 

2019 Goals

Teachers enjoy two “new year” beginnings, one in January and one in September. So far, I have done a nice job maintaining several of my school year resolutions.  I have been going to bed early and getting lots of sleep. I have been meal planning.  I pick up the house a little bit each day and have been doing a good job of keeping up with laundry, avoiding the need to spend most of Saturday morning cleaning.

Where I am slacking is when it comes to working out. I have not gone for a single run after school.  The main reason for this is being in a new school with a new curriculum.  Because I stay at school a lot later than I did last year, I head home to pick up Liam and avoid spending even more on after-school care than we already do. Liam has promised to start running with Banjo and me in the afternoon. While the runs aren’t long or fast, they include bonding and watching Liam set goals.

This start to the new year has me thinking about my goals. I have my students email weekly goals.  When they ask why they need to email me their goals and create a plan to reach them, I explain that a goal without a plan is nothing more than a wish. Sharing them makes them real.

When I first decided to sign up for a half-marathon, my husband told everyone. I was not as excited to share the goal, mostly for fear I would fail and everyone would know. Once everyone knew I was planning to run two half- marathons in 2018, I had to make sure I was able to achieve this goal.

Setting these goals makes me think a lot about what I want to achieve next year.

So here, in random order, are my 2019 goals:

Run a thirty-five minute 5K.  I just finished reading Deena Kastor’s Let Your Mind Run. She talks about her goal of running a fifteen minute 5K. I’m focusing on my own goals. Cutting a minute off of my 5K PR would put me in the thirty-five-minute range. I would be happy with that.

*In the time between my first draft of this and when I got back to editing it, I shaved forty seconds off my 5K, putting me at 35:59. Next goal is to make it to 34:59!

Cut a minute and a half off my half-marathon PR: I know that isn’t a lot over 13.1 miles, but it would put me in a 12:29 pace. For some reason, dropping down a ten-second increment sounds likes an awesome goal!

 

Do a handstand: I’ve been able to do a headstand for a  few years and want to transition to a full headstand. I think a lot of it is mind over matter; I need to get over my fear and make it happen.

The Best Terrible Race of my Life

This weekend, I ran the Newport Half Marathon. A few days before the race, my friend Kerri sent me a text saying that she was thinking about running the half. I sent her this clip from How I Met Your Mother in which Barney decides to run the NYC Marathon. My favorite line is when he says, “You don’t train for a marathon, you just do it.” She was convinced and decided to register hours before the deadline.

I was not well prepared and dropped the ball on a few last-minute needs, such as drinking a lot of water the night before and getting to bed early. Mike ordered tickets to see Christina Aguilera the night before the race.  Because he had to work the following morning, we decided to only stay for a few songs. Even though we left early, we still didn’t get home until almost eleven. I had to be out of the house by 5:15 the following morning. The show was amazing! I’m sorry that we couldn’t stay for the entire set.

In case you’ve ever wondered what Easton’s Beach looks like before sunrise.

The next morning, I woke up an was out the door on time.  Liam woke up with me to wish me good luck. He asked if I was excited to run thirteen miles. When I said I was more excited for when it was it was over. “Why do you pay money to do something that sometimes sucks?”

“To prove myself that I can.”

That’s why this race represented: proving I can set and achieve a goal.

   

I rode the shuttles to the starting line and found my friends a few minutes later. We chatted for a bit and lined up for the race. The first few miles went by pretty easily. The scenery was beautiful as we ran around the island. About mile five, my left leg started to hurt. When Mike and I lived in the apartment, I broke my foot. It usually aches a little bit on the first cool, damp day of the season. Race day was the day it decided to ache. I tried to avoid it by changing how I landed; that caused other parts of my leg and foot to ache. Around mile six, I accidentally paused my apple watch, making it difficult for me to track distance and pace for the rest of the race. By mile ten, I told my friend to go ahead. I texted Mike and tried to keep my mind off the pain. As I reached Bellevue Ave’s Forty Steps, I was in tears. I had to catch myself to avoid going from simply hyperventilating to full-on panic attack.  I couldn’t breathe.  Every step ached.  Mike asked me if there was a first aid station or someplace to stop. I knew the injury was simply an old one showing its face and there was nothing they could do to help me.  Most importantly, I didn’t work this hard to only make it to mile ten. I relied on all of my “this run sucks” tricks.  I listened to my favorite music.  I reduced my interval timer. I pulled up Pokemon Go on my phone to divert my attention. I felt weak and alone. I questioned why I thought I could do this.

I sobbed for almost a half mile, then had an epiphany: I was going to finish this race. I set a goal to complete two half-marathons in 2018 and didn’t work this hard to quit at mile ten.

I finished at 2:55:35, ten minutes slower than my first half but still under my original three-hour goal.

I celebrated with my friends. We posted pictures on Facebook, sharing Kerri’s last-minute decision to run the race.

Post race Mac & Cheese!
Still smiling after the race (and I had no idea that my headband had moved)

 

Before the race, I ordered two sneaker tags for Kristin and me to celebrate our achievement. I gave the two of them to my friends and placed an order for one for myself. The Etsy shop owner sent me another one at no charge. I love that races bring out the best in people.

 

Running has taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to.

Running has provided an amazing set of friends. I am doubly blessed to have an amazing group of yoga buddies and running buddies.

Running provides an excellent example for Liam. He sees me struggle and work hard. He runs with me and together we celebrate his victories. He’s set a goal of running a ten-minute mile.

I’m not sure what the future holds when it comes to long-term running goals. I sometimes considered putting my name in the lottery for the New York City Marathon. However, when I think about how exhausted I was at the end of this half, the thought of that being the halfway point and doing another thirteen miles seems impossible. That being said, I may let fate decide if I am meant to run a full marathon.

The Race I Needed

This view makes it worth waking up at 5am!

During my first round of BRG, my goal was to run the Gaspee Days 5k in under forty minutes. I managed to finish in 39:11, keeping a 12:39 pace. Less than a year later, I completed my first half marathon in 244:59, which averaged to a 12:36 pace. I was beyond proud of this. That same pace I struggled to maintain for 3.1 miles was kept for another ten miles.

This summer’s plan was to train for a second half. It did not go as planned. It was a hotter than usual summer. I hurt my knee, putting a damper on the best intentions. When I did go out for my long runs, my pace was slower than before I began running. During last week’s 11.3 mile run, my pace was 14:59. Fear of being unable to complete the long runs prevented me from pushing myself. I struggled to determine whether this slip was physical, mental, or both.

     

With one week to go until the half, I know I will finish. I know I will not PR, but I know I will be able to complete the race. Today was the Ocean Road 10k, which was perfectly timed for my tapering before the Newport Half. Set on Ocean Road in Narragansett, the race provides beautiful views!

Because even my shorter runs have been slow, I went into today with low expectations. It was a beautiful morning surrounding my some of my favorite people in the world. We have different strategies for tackling races; mine involves intervals.

My realistic goal was to complete the 10k in under an hour and a half- my times have been so slow that I would have been happy to keep a thirteen-minute-mile pace. Not only did I finish the race in an hour and eighteen minutes, I almost managed negative splits! (Mile four had some hills that slowed me down.)

The views were amazing. The crowd was positive and inspiring. I had some of my favorite people cheering for each other. It is hard to believe that I have only been a part of this running community for less than two years; I am beyond grateful to the people who support me, encourage me, and inspire me. They have convinced me that I can conquer goals that I never would have considered for myself.  I love surrounding myself with people who celebrate the successes of others. I cannot wait to see how what the years ahead of us hold!

Has Anyone Seen my Motivation?

Here I am, less than one month from my next half-marathon, and I have not run more than six and a half miles to train for it. There have been quite a few reasons for this:

  • It was unusually hot this summer. We had several heat waves and several stretches of days with heat indexes over 100. I just couldn’t run in the heat.
  • I’m nursing my knee. I went to the doctor in May and could not find the cause of the pain. Acupuncture helped, but I haven’t made it there in almost a month. I’m so nervous about further damaging my knee that I haven’t gone out as much. And when I do go out, I am not pushing myself as hard as I should out of fear of further injury. I am slower than ever.
  • Time Time Time  Summer is always busy. The new school year has me putting in multiple twelve-hour days each week.  I bring my running clothes with me with the intention of changing and getting to 6:00 running club, but I have been staying past 6 and, when I leave, my brain and body are much.

These may seem like valid reasons, but they do not change that fact that, four weeks from now, I will be running thirteen miles. I hoped to shave five minutes off of my first time. I hoped to be a little thinner and a little stronger.  I have gained weight instead of losing it. I’ve almost finished LIIFT 4, so I’d like to think I am a little stronger.

So I have four weeks to prepare for this half. I will head out Wednesday for a ten-mile run.  At this point, I am no longer concerned with beating my previous time; I am determined to complete a goal I set for myself- to run two half marathons in a year!

 

Something Amazing

Guys! I did something horribly amazing- I gained ten pounds in a very short amount of time. It happened so quickly that I didn’t even realize it until I was back to my “Oh no” weight. (Does anyone else have a hierarchy of weights? (Mine are happy, okay, watch it, oh no- do something)

After finishing the half, I continued to eat as though I was still running twenty miles a week. Liam decided he did not want to continue with Laid-Back Fitness. (Nothing happened, he just wanted a break.) Without Liam’s parent discount and the time for me to workout while he is in class, it didn’t make sense for me to continue. I hurt my calf doing speedwork and couldn’t run for over two weeks. It got ridiculously hot. Then we went on vacation for a week, following the mantra “do what you want” for eight days.

My view for a week during our annual trip the beach house.

I was up five pounds the day we went away. When we returned, I was up ten. That is what eight days of eating cinnamon rolls and bacon for breakfast will do. I am not a huge drinker, sometimes going weeks without even having a single adult beverage. While on vacation, Mike and I drank beer each night while sitting outside, listening to the waves, watching the stars, and chatting away. With beer came cheese and crackers and, before we knew it, we were indulging in a day’s worth of calories after Liam went to sleep.

When I returned home, I fearfully crept on the scale, learning I was up five pounds in eight days. Time to get back on track! This week marks the official start to training for my second half marathon. Now that I know I can run thirteen miles, I want to focus on getting stronger and faster.

I’ve worked too hard to only come this far. It’s time to hit the reset button and get back on track.

Summer Running Buddy

By the end of the school year, I created a pretty good routine to make sure I was ready for my first half marathon.  I would come home, change, and take Banjo with me on a short run, picking Liam up from school and walking home together. Now that we are both out of school, I pondered how to get in my runs as I begin training for my second half. When a friend asked if Liam and I would be interested in training for a 5K in the fall, it seemed like a perfect reason to introduce Liam to running. He is excited to run with his friend.

Proof that Liam is my kid: he insisted on packing a snack for the run. 

When we decided that we would begin running with the dog in the morning, Liam had many of the same fears I did when I began running. He questioned his ability, could he run far and fast enough? We set out with a goal of running one mile. I asked what a good time would be to run. His reply: “3:28 in the morning.” We agreed that a fourteen-minute mile seems a reasonable first goal. We set a few norms to keep either of us from getting frustrated or discouraged:

Liam decided the course.

We run no more than a mile.

Walk when you need to walk.

Liam explaining our route.

 

We set out, walking a block before beginning to run. Liam took off, which I knew wouldn’t last but let him play it through. After a few minutes, he was tired. I set the one-minute interval on my app that I usually use for speed training. He did fine with this, then decided to use landmarks as goals. “We can run to the main road, then walk to the next street, and run again.” It was a perfect setup!  When we were close to the one-mile mark, I noticed our pace was 13:35; I decided to push a little further so we could finish at 13:30.

We walked the rest of the way home. Liam was great about celebrating what he accomplished. When he started putting himself down, I reminded him that it took months before I could run a mile. “Now you can run thirteen.”

“Yup, I can. And it took me over a year of running to be able to do that.”

I am beyond thankful that Liam is interested in running. I hope it becomes something we can enjoy together. Much like our daily walks with Banjo, I appreciate the opportunity to connect with Liam and talk about life. I only have a few summers left in which he will want to spend most of his time with me; I need to enjoy them while they’re here!

Week Seven: List the Greatest Compliments and Encouragement You Have Ever Been Given

I am a firm believer in compliments. I compliment my students, my family, and my friends as often as possible. I think about compliments that have truly affected me and encouraged me to continue working towards my goals.

              

You’re a good mom. A significant portion of parenting involves worrying.

“Am I too hard on Liam? Are my expectations too high?”

“Am I being too soft? Am I letting him get away with too much?”

“Am I reading to him enough?

“Am I playing enough games with him?”

“Is it okay that he is the only kid he knows without a video game system? Should I just suck it up and buy him one?”

With all of these daily worries, it was a huge confidence booster when my mother-in-law randomly told me I am a good mom.

My “running bully” congratulating me for beating my goal time at our first half!

You are stronger than you think you are. My “running bully” gets the credit for this one. I lovingly refer to my friend Kerri as my “running bully” because she pushes me when I question myself, causing me to PR at the ever-difficult Gaspee 5K and beat my goal time by fifteen minutes at our first half-marathon. I love my running group because we focus on getting out there and getting stronger over being the fastest. That being said, having someone out there pushing you out of your comfort zone is never a bad thing!

I’m so glad you’re my mama. Liam and I have a really good ability to bounce off of each other. We can make up games on the fly, without stopping to decide rules or goals. Mike and I each have activities that are “our things” with Liam. Liam and I go for bike rides, read books, sing Hamilton, and tell each other silly jokes. Every so often, Liam wraps his arms around me and tells me, “I’m so glad you’re my mama.”  It melts my heart.

Gaspee Recap

There’s a sweet spot in New England weather that promises the arrival of summer. It’s warm but not hot, not too humid, but most of the spring pollen is on its way out. This past weekend brought just those promises to life!

Saturday started with the Gaspee Days 5K, the culminating activity from last year’s Beginners Running Group. A year ago, we were nervous to mingle with “real runners” and doubted our training. This year, we were seasoned, having multiple 5Ks and a half-marathon under our belts! It was great to return to see our progress and help a new round of BRG graduates to complete their goal.

Photo courtesy gaspee.org

Those who are not local may not be familiar with the story of the HMS Gaspee. While everyone knows about the Boston Tea Party, the burning of the British customs ship the Gaspee occurred the previous year, leading up to the start of the American Revolution. Each year, the town celebrates Gaspee Days over the course of several weekends. There is an arts and crafts festival, fireworks, music, race and parade, and even a reenactment of the burning.

It is worth noting that the Gaspee race is one of the most challenging 5Ks around; it contains long, sloping hills that never seem to end. But the race also happens before the start of a parade, so there are thousands of people cheering you on. Residents set up sprinklers for runners; kids hold out their hands to high five racers. While it is a challenging course, the energy is fantastic!

I was excited to run this race, even though I have been nursing an injury and haven’t really been able to get a good run in since the half-marathon last month. My expectations were not high for this race; my goal was only to improve my time from last year, even if only by seconds. At the beginning of the race, I took off, pushed by the crowd and excitement. My first mile was 11:11, a pace I knew I couldn’t sustain. (Remember, I am an okay runner!) My sugar started to drop, and I felt a little woozy. I slowed down at times, allowing myself to walk some of the tougher hills.

I made it through the turnaround, enjoying my turn under the passing sprinklers. I was just starting to get discouraged at mile two when I saw my friend Kerri waiting for me.

“You don’t need to wait for me; I’m not running as much.”

“Yes, you are.”

“I need to walk a bit.”

“We can walk tot he top of the hill. Then, we’re running.”

And we did. Kerri stayed by my side throughout the race, slowing down when necessary, but keeping me motivated to try my best. I would not have pushed myself so hard had it not been for her encouragement, to remind myself that I am stronger than I think. I need people who believe in me when I am doubting myself.

Pushed to a PR!

Kerri stayed with me until the final turn of the race. For that final .1, I pushed myself as hard as I could, finishing the race in 36:44, two and a half minutes faster than last year! That gave me a PR for my 5k, which I know will improve when I race again on a flatter, more forgiving course! My current goal is to complete a 5K in the 35-minute range.

Words cannot express how happy I am that I joined BRG last year.  I am grateful for the confidence BRG provided to teach myself that I, too, am a runner. I can set goals, work towards them, and achieve them. The summer offers a lull before “race season,” which includes a 5K, four-miler, 10K, and another half-marathon. Now that I know I can do all of these things, I can focus on getting stronger. I cannot wait to see what the next year brings!

52 Lists for Happiness

I stumbled across a blog mentioning the book 52 Lists for Happiness. The writer is posting entries weekly on her blog. I liked the idea so much that I immediately ordered the book myself and decided to try to follow suit. The next year is bringing a lot of changes, so it seems like a perfect time to prioritize and search for happiness.  I’ve decided to use this exercise as an opportunity to get ideas from Liam as well.  We walk Banjo twice a day, allowing plenty of time for discussions.  These walks are some of my favorite times, even when Liam talks my ear off about Zelda or Minecraft. I’d love to ask Liam to create as many of these lists as possible and share them with him when he gets older.

Week one is pretty straightforward: List what is making you happy.

Mike and Liam: They’re both such great people! I am truly blessed.

Spring: Finally! We will soon be complaining about the heat and humidity, but for now, let’s enjoy the warm weather, open windows, and longer days. This is the first week Liam and I didn’t have to bundle up during our morning walks. Last night, we ate dinner outside. It is such a welcome change!

My friends: Without them, I would never have signed up for a half-marathon, nevermind been excited about it! My friends keep me laughing and trying to be a better person! What more could one ask for?

Fitness Challenges: Last weekend was the half-marathon. I’m also participating in a challenge through Laid-Back Fitness. I’m interested to see how my body changes when I focus on strength over cardio.

And from Liam:

Banjo

Going for walks with Banjo

Playing with Banjo (Do you see a theme?)

You and Dad

Harry Potter

Making my First Communion

I love the idea of focusing on the positive things in our lives. While the next few months will bring a lot of changes, there are a lot of great things going on in all of our lives. Perspective helps keep us all finding the positive things happening in our lives.