Race Recap: Philadelphia Marathon

Race Recap: Philadelphia Marathon

Exactly one week ago I was sitting on my couch feeling exhausted, sore, and accomplished.  Just one week ago I finished the Philadelphia Marathon for the 2nd consecutive year with a one minute and 17 second improvement.  Three months of long runs, speed workouts, group runs, solo runs, happy feet, sore muscles, and mindful eating/drinking resulted in a 26.2 mile race that took me 3 hours, 45 minutes and 7 seconds.  But let’s not start at the finish line where this story would end, just like the race did.  Let’s start the two days leading up to the race.

Friday I worked at the marathon expo with Angela and Sparkly Soul.  Our adventures to Philly and during the expo are always exciting but what I liked most about working at the expo is that I was able to focus on the race without getting stressed about it.  I was surrounded by a bunch of other people who were running either the half or the full marathon.  I enjoyed myself at the expo because I enjoy selling Sparkly Souls!

Then, I went to work on Saturday.  The day wasn’t overly horrible, but I had a lot more time on my hands to worry about the race and the race day weather.  I wasn’t surrounded by other runners about to embark on a 26.2 mile race like I was at the expo.  I was left with my own thoughts, doubts, and fears.

When I got home I went for a quick 3 mile shake-out run.  The wind was already picking up speed.  I ate pasta for dinner and went to church to pray for serenity and acceptance of whatever weather I was going to face the next day.  It was hard for me to keep my doubts at bay.  I went to bed more anxious and nervous than I had been for the past 3 months.  I could hear the wind outside my window and I was worried my chances of PR’ing at the race the next day would be literally blown away (no pun intended).  My alarm was set for 3:45 AM so I went to bed early.

I woke up and the wind was still whipping.  My weather app showed temperatures would reach 48 degrees but the wind chill would be in the mid-30s.  For my race outfit, I opted for long leggings, a long sleeve light Under Armour, my Sneakers and Spokes jersey, my gloves that convert to mittens, and my standard Nike ear warmer.  I bundled up in extra layers as I walked out the door with my parents and Josh at 4:45 AM because I knew waiting around the corrals would be brisk.

Race outfit with my Altra Torins!

I planned to get to the city by 5:30 AM which would leave plenty of time to find parking, get through security, and use the port-a-potties (ew!).  We arrived early so we sat in my dad’s truck for 15-20 minutes to stay warm.  When we arrived at the security gates, they told my dad and Josh bikes were prohibited so they locked them up outside of the secure zone and we continued on our way to the starting area.

my favorite candid

I was completely disoriented due to the crowds and because the sun still wasn’t up past the horizon yet.  I had no idea where the starting line was or in which direction I would be running.  I eventually found the green corral and waited with my parents and Josh until closer to the start time.  My mom took a few candid pictures and I tried figuring out where the front of the green corral was.

I hesitantly started taking off layers and the chill in the air became evident.  I left my sweatpants, 3/4 zip, and sweatshirt with my parents/Josh which left me with a tshirt and a long sleeve over top of my race outfit.  I just wanted to be warm.

I’m not sure if I started in the correct corral.  All I do know is that I started in the middle of a corral on the right side of the street.  After the national anthem, the wheel chair and elite athletes started the race.  I began taking off my last two layers on top of my race outfit and tried finding a nice spot to start the race so I wasn’t tripping over clothes that had been haphazardly tossed on the sides of the corral.

Before I knew it, the corral I was in was at the starting line. I double and triple checked to make sure my Garmin had signal as we inched closer toward the starting line.   I was happily adorning my Altra Torins and unlike last year, I wasn’t worried about my toes bleeding half way through the race.  The wide toe box of Altras is my favorite!  We inched closer to the 26.2 miles ahead of us and everyone’s watches around me simultaneously beeped as we crossed the starting strip.  The race had begun.

I told myself to start comfortably – don’t go out too hard, pace yourself, don’t do what you did last year.  Easier said than done.  I ran my first mile in 7:24….not exactly what I set out to do but I consciously told myself to settle in to a more reasonable pace for 26.2 miles.  Just like last year I planned to look at my watch every 3 miles so I wouldn’t drive myself crazy looking at my watch 26 times.

For the first 5 miles of the race I was searching through the crowds to find my dad and Josh on their bikes.  They had planned to ride parts of the course to cheer me on.  I kept searching and searching but I just couldn’t seem to find them.  Worst case scenarios started running through my head…maybe someone stole their bikes after they locked them outside the secure zone or maybe they couldn’t get out of the secure zone for some reason.  But my thoughts were soon replaced by the overall sensory overload of the race – the noises, the weather, all the people – I was plenty distracted, but still curious as to where my biggest supporters were.

The run down South Street reminded me somewhat of trail running.  The road was completely uneven with ruts and holes down the entire length we ran.  Not nearly as tough as trail running, but I needed to find humor in something to get me through the next 20 miles.

At mile 6, I distracted myself by searching for a friend who told me she would be at mile 6.5.  I kept searching and when I finally found her I threw my hands up in some silly way and gave her a wave and a “hello”.  I was still very much happy at this point so doing that required little to no energy.

still happy at mile 6.5!

The race continued toward the zoo and I remember my dad saying he didn’t have any plans on heading toward the zoo so I knew I’d be running the next 5 or so miles without seeing them.  Where could they be?!?!  There were musicians playing huge drums near the zoo which set a nice beat leading up to the biggest hill of the course.  I remember feeling like I was slowing down but I told myself to keep powering through the hill.  There were more musicians after the top of the hill who were playing drums.  The course took some weird turns that I didn’t remember running last year but all I could do was keeping running forward.

After a long down hill which I took advantage of, we began running next to the path for Fairmount Park.  We were approaching the half way point and that’s when I finally got to see my dad and Josh.  It was about time they showed up to cheer me on!   My dad yelled out that I was right on pace and I couldn’t help but think “right on pace for what?”.  I knew I was running fast.  I knew I was running too fast but I needed to just keep going.

13.1 miles in 1:44:55.  Simple calculations made me realize I was running for a sub-3:30 finish…what kind of torture had I set up for myself in the last 13.1? There was no turning back – what was done was done. I had 13.1 miles to go and I needed to hold on.  I was running to PR.  That was my only goal – I needed to PR.

The race rounded the front of the art museum.  The wind picked up significantly once we were headed in the direction of Manayunk.  I tried using the crowd’s energy to augment my adrenaline.  I needed to channel their energy into my legs, my body, my mind, my anything.


The 30 MPH wind gusts made me feel like I wasn’t moving forward any more.  My feet weren’t landing underneath my body anymore; rather, they were landing slightly to the right of my body. I started cursing in my head.  Then out of frustration, I started cursing out loud.  I tried latching on to so many people in attempt to draft off of them.  I wanted them to block the wind for me.  Yet, every person I tried to draft off of was either running too fast or too slow.  Nobody around me was running my pace and I became frustrated by that.

I didn’t remember how far away Manayunk was until I was running against 30+ MPH winds.  It was so far away.  The wind made my hands cold.  I was using a lot more energy during my run out to Manayunk than I did in the cumulative 14 miles that came before this point.  A guy cheering on the side of the road said “only 10 more miles to go!”…“only”.  I wanted to be done.

I knew that I would also be without cheering from my dad and Josh from mile 15 on out because last year my dad didn’t go out towards Manayunk so he could make it back through security and to the finish area in time to see me finish.  My new goal was to find Angela.  My legs were cramping up, my handheld was empty of water, and I desperately needed a Shot Blok.  Without water, I couldn’t eat a Shot Blok so I reached a very low point in the race.  I was running with my hands on my quads because they weren’t functioning right.  I was getting more and more frustrated at my body for shutting down and I was getting even MORE frustrated at the wind.  I needed to find Angela.

I told myself to stop throwing myself a pity party and get myself together.  I found Angela and told her she looked great and to keep going (something along those lines).  I wished in that moment as she was running back towards the finish line that we were running together so that I could be around someone I knew.  I needed someone to distract me from my soreness.  But, she was ahead of me and she was running her own race so I had to find a way to get through it myself.

Because my handheld was empty, I switched to chugging Gatorade at every water stop.  Gatorade never tasted so good.  I was spilling it all over myself because I can’t run and drink from a paper cup simultaneously and I worried that it would make me colder.  To my knowledge, it didn’t really make me colder.

Finally I reached the turn around point in Manayunk.  My legs were still cramped.  My body was exhausted.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to scream at the wind for making these miles miserable.  I started calculating how much time I have versus the miles I had left to run to see if I was still within PR zone.  Luckily, I was.  As long as I didn’t slow down to 12-13 minute mile pace, I would make it.  I told myself that’s completely possible.

There were hills in Manayunk.  There were people handing out beer outside of Manayunk.  There were runners cramping up on the side of the course in Manayunk.  There was wind in Manayunk.  I don’t understand how one little town throughout this course could suck so much energy out of me….but it did.

With 4 miles to go, I heard my dad and Josh cheering me on.  I was mentally distraught at this point.  I threw my hands up in the air after hearing them and covered my eyes trying to fight back tears.  I was getting myself all worked up and I wasn’t breathing properly.  I needed to compose myself.  I had about 45 minutes to run these last 4 miles and still PR.  I was racing the clock.  I couldn’t break down and cry right here 4 miles away from being done, from being wrapped in a warm heat blanket, or from finding my family and wonderful boyfriend and going home.  It’s only 4 more miles.

I switched to playing a little game in my head that Josh used to motivate me with during speed workouts at the local park.  He would pick someone anywhere from 200 meters to 1/4 mile away from me and tell me to go catch them.  I started doing that to keep my mind distracted from the pain in my legs but only a few people were getting closer to me – everyone else seemed to be getting farther away.

The finish line seemed close but not close enough with only 1.2 miles to go.  I told myself that’s only like 10-11 minutes more of running (because my pace was pretty slow at this point).  Finally, I could see the starting line.  My ears were attentive in attempt to hear one of my three supporters cheering for me.  I didn’t hear any of them but figured I’d just somehow missed hearing them with the thousands of other people in the crowd cheering too.



I crossed the finish line and every muscle in my body hurt.  My watch read 3:45.  I knew I had PR’d and I was extremely happy on the inside despite probably looking unhappy to all the race volunteers.  My hands were numb.  A running acquaintance of mine wrapped the heat blanket around me.  When she asked me how I was, I said “I think I’m dead”.  Those are the only 4 words I could fathom saying at that point.

After receiving my finisher’s medal, I walked to the end of the finishing chute.  I grabbed a few snacks and a water bottle.  I was done.  I was done running.  My legs didn’t have to run anymore.  I could rest.  But first, I needed to find my family.

Last year I couldn’t find them so this year we had planned to meet up in the family meet-up area at letter “F” for my last name.  There was no family meet-up area this year.  I was delusional and completely out of it so my best reasoning was to stand in one spot until one of them saw me.  So I waited 5 minutes and I couldn’t see them anywhere in the crowd.  I was shivering uncontrollably.  I took it upon myself to ask to borrow a stranger’s cell phone to call my mom.  I told my mom where I was and she eventually found me but the police officer wouldn’t let her through to help me.  I hobbled over to my mom, past the stubborn police officer, and immediately questioned where dad and Josh were.  My mom said they didn’t get through security in time to see the finish so we still needed to find them.

We even20161120_111145tually all found each other and my dad and Josh congratulated me on a great race.  I was tired but still happy I ran faster than last year.  After Josh and my family helped me put on warm layers, my mom took a picture of my with my medal. I tried to look happier than last year because last year’s picture I looked grumpy.

We started the long, slow, cold walk back to my dad’s truck.  I couldn’t stop shivering and stepping off of curbs hurt every muscle in my body.  It seemed like the walk took 30 minutes.  But I got to tell Josh a little bit about my race which I was happy about.

After returning home and refueling with pizza, I was able to reflect some more about my 2nd official marathon.  Despite wanting to improve my time by more than just 1 minute and 17 seconds, considering the windy conditions I am very content with my improvement.  Three stressful months of training for 1 minute and 17 seconds of improvement.  It’s an unbalanced outcome but it’s an outcome I can be happy with nonetheless.

I don’t plan on running the Philadelphia Marathon again anytime soon because next year and beyond I plan on primarily trail racing.  My time with the Philadelphia Marathon has ended and a new chapter of racing for me will begin in April 2017.   I obviously didn’t learn last year not to go out too fast because once again I paid for my own stupidity in the second half of the race.  My 3:45:07 will stand as my Philadelphia Marathon personal record for many years to come.

The wind didn’t blow my attempt at a personal record away from me; instead, it blew me right in the direction to the type of racing I want to do from here on out.

A Speed Workout High

A Speed Workout High

Ask mostly anyone that knows me as a runner and they’ll reassure you that I hate speed workouts.  Work out days are the days I’ve never looked forward to in all of my running life.  I’d rather run 12+ miles than run six 1/2 mile repeats at a fast pace.  Yesterday however has left me on a speed workout high.  I felt strong yesterday, I felt in control of my pace, and my legs didn’t feel sore.  After finishing the workout I felt confident for my race and happy that the workout went so well.

I told Josh on Tuesday that I needed to do a speed workout.  I needed to either do a 6 mile tempo run or a 6 mile progression run, either with a mile warm-up and a mile cool down.  I was leaning more towards the progression run and Josh seconded my choice.  He even told me that he loved doing progression runs at his local park.  So it was decided, I would be doing a 6 mile progression run.

Since Josh is recovering from his marathon in the Cat Skills, he would accompany me during the workout on his bike.  It was a brisk fall evening and I was worried he wouldn’t be warm enough through the next 8 miles.  Turns out, I should have also worried for myself not being warm enough.  I ran .75 miles to the park and reached the mile mark in 8:49.  That warm-up mile set my pace for the rest of the run – all my miles had to be faster than 8:49.

My first progression run mile was an 8:02.  It didn’t seem like an 8:02 and I was still having a full conversation with Josh at this point.  It didn’t even seem like I picked up the pace 47 seconds from my warm-up mile.  I had no choice but to pick it up once again into the 2nd progression mile.

I clocked the 2nd one in 7:49.  Once again, I never felt like I picked it up THAT much.  I was honestly only expecting to pick it up about 5 seconds faster per mile.  I was still talking to Josh every so often at this point as he told me a few stories from his work week.

3rd progression mile was in 7:40.  Another 9 second drop.  I still felt strong and I tried to limit myself to a 5 second drop for the next mile so that I could actually finish all 6 miles in some sort of progressive pace.  Josh’s hands were numb from the cold air coming off the river.  I wanted to run faster so we could get back into his warm house faster.  But 3 miles was still a long way to go.

4th mile:  7:29.  An 11 second drop.  I told myself I only had 2 more loops to do in the park. Only 2 more times that I would have to push the pace.  Only 2 more times until we could run home and get warm.  I wanted Josh to be warm.

5th mile:  7:16.  A 13 second drop.  Well, shoot.  This was the mile Josh told me to catch up the another girl that was running around the park.  I knew I could catch her so I focused on doing so, and I did.  That resulted in the 7:16.  This is also the mile I thought about the huge Reese’s peanut butter cookie I had bought us from my visit to Smithville earlier in the day.  That cookie would taste so good once I got done this workout.

One final mile.  Josh told me to push the pace hard.  It was only one more mile.  I told myself I could try my hardest to get a sub-7.  That would be INSANE.  Josh knew a sub-7 mile was within my reach.  He believed in me more than I believed in myself.  Knowing my luck, I had this feeling I would run a 7:01.  Close, but not close enough.  This loop Josh told me to catch up to a guy that was running around the park.  This made me mad because I was tired.  He seemed so far away.  But I caught him.  I went by him with my strained breathing and he probably thought I was having an asthma attacked.  I forced out a “hello” and a smile.  Josh told me once we crossed the park’s driveway that I had to pick it up.  Only .25 miles to go.  He told me that I have a marathon to PR.  He was right so I had no choice but to listen to him.  My watch beeped to tell me the mile was complete.

6:55.  My watch flashed a 6:55 up on the screen.  I yelled out “DONE!”, threw my hands up in the air, and laughed.  A 6:55.  How did I manage a sub-7 mile, 7 miles in to my 8 mile run after clocking an 8:02, 7:49, 7:40, 7:29, AND a 7:16?  I couldn’t stop laughing.  A mix of happiness, relief, shock, love, exhaustion, and strength flooded down on me.

And then I realized that my arms were completely numb from my fingertips all the way up past my wrists.  My fingers could barely push the buttons on my Garmin Forerunner.  My hands and wrists hurt more than my legs.  Josh and I were both excited but freezing.  We needed to make our way a mile back home. He was shivering, I was shivering, we needed warmth.

I finished my mile cool down in absolute ecstasy.  For most of my cool down I was still in absolute shock that I had finished with a 6:55.  For some people, a 6:55 isn’t a big deal.  That might be their norm.  Speed is relative.  I haven’t ran a sub-7 mile since 4th of July when I ran a 6:45 as the 1st mile of a 4 mile race. Some people run 6:55 miles during marathons.  Some people run faster than 6:55 miles during marathons. But for me, I push myself to get to a 6:55 and I couldn’t be happier with achieving that.

That 6:55 mile left me feeling strong, confident, and more ready than ever to take on this Philadelphia Marathon in 23 days.  Although I don’t plan on running anywhere close to 6:55 pace, knowing I can progressively push my body even when it’s tired or cold is powerful in itself.  I’m still on a high from yesterday’s workout.  The workout showed me that hard work pays off, sometimes you just have to be patient.

You might not be able to run a 6:55 at first, but over time as more and more miles are ran, you might just progressively reach that 6:55 – even if it takes many miles into your workout.

A rough start…

A rough start…

I started officially training for my marathon 17 days ago.  I haven’t felt like I’ve been training for a marathon.  To be honest, I haven’t even felt like I’m training for anything.  My runs have been sub-par, I have little to no motivation to go out and train for this marathon, and my left foot has had nagging pain for 14 of the 17 days I’ve started my training.  To anybody who understands running injuries or the psychology behind running, you might think I’m struggling with burnout.  I don’t feel physically or mentally burnt out because I haven’t pushed my body since my ultra in May and I’ve eased back into “serious runner training”.  I’m hoping that by writing this blog post and talking with close friends about my current circumstance that I will put things into perspective so that I can refocus on my ultimate goal.

The 1st three days of training:  I felt strong.  I was excited.  I was highly focused on my goal of PR’ing at the marathon in November.  I shared with social media that I was ready to get back in the swing of training to complete the 26.2 mile course for the second consecutive year.

The pain in my left heel:  The pain became evident of the 4th day of training.  I tried to ignore it.  I wanted to ignore it.  The pain wasn’t because I was amping up my mileage too fast (the first 3 days of training even included an active rest day). The pain appeared out of nowhere.  I ran through the pain and I hid the pain because I didn’t want to over-exaggerate and make people worry.  Maybe it would disappear in a day or two. Wrong.  Two or three more days went by and the pain was still lingering.  First, I fessed up to my boyfriend that my heel was hurting.  He told me how to handle it and to take a rest day.  I took a rest day and then finished the week off with an easy 3 mile run to test the heel out.  I skipped my long run for the week.  I already felt behind in my training. Yesterday I tested my luck by doing a speed workout and today I did an easy 6 mile recovery.  Although I’m still able to run and usually ignore the pain, it’s a constant lingering thought in my head as I try to determine what caused it and how to fix it.  I stretch the muscles in my foot daily and I try to ice it every day to help heal it.  I want to be able to train strong.  I want the pain gone.

Lack of motivation:  Today I had no motivation to run.  I knew I needed to run, I just felt like I didn’t have the energy to get out on the nice smooth trail.  Monday I had no motivation to run.  Every time I remind myself how great it will feel if I PR, I feel a twinge of motivation lurking somewhere in my heart.  Luckily, my boyfriend willingly holds me accountable for my runs and even came to run some mid-week miles with me today (usually we just have way too much going on to run together on weekdays) just so I would get out and train (plus it’s always easier to run with someone than alone).  I hope that I can find some motivation soon because I want nothing more than to feel excited about my training and to have something to look forward to on a daily basis.

Cross-training:  With my foot in pain, I’ve bumped up my road cycling miles significantly.  Last week alone I rode 65.5 miles over the course of 3 separate days.  I’ve come to enjoy cross-training a lot these past few months.  Now, I’ve been enjoying cross-training because (since I have no motivation to run) I don’t have to run.  I enjoy heading out on my bike for some active rest day miles.  I’m hoping that these active rests days will reap benefits for my cardiorespiratory system so that my running ability can improve!

Nutrition:  Last year at this time, I felt healthier.  I felt like I was eating healthier.  I felt like everything I put in my body was fueling my body the way it needed to be fueled.  Although I still eat extremely healthy, I still feel like I could do way better.  I’m doing my best now to cut out unnecessary sweets and processed foods.  I’m not interested in indulgences like cookies or cakes.  My body just craves fruits and veggies.  I just want to be healthier, look healthier, and feel healthier.

Everyday life stress:  In the past month I’ve transitioned to a new job.  I feel like I’ve had little to no downtime.  I’ve been spending most of my free time either studying for my health coach certification, running, eating, or sleeping.  I am stressed about paying off my student loans.  I’m stressed about continuing to make a smooth transition to my new job.  I’m stressed about getting enough sleep.  I’m stressed about things that shouldn’t even be worth stressing about. But that’s my personality and always has been.  I stress over silly, petty things and when I think back in retrospect none of it was worth stressing over.  Worry less, smile more – I wish I could just drill that into my head.

Looking ahead…

I have my half-marathon race in one month and 8 days.  I would like to go in to this race and run a 1/2-marathon PR.  I want to continue to get in speed workouts and long runs in preparation for both my 1/2-marathon and marathon.  I want to feel strong.  I want to be confident.

I want to train like I want a PR.  I want to train and feel the changes in my physical and mental strength.  I want to enjoy the process as much as the destination on race day!!

Thoughts during a 16 mile training run:

Thoughts during a 16 mile training run:

Yesterday I had my longest marathon training run since starting training way back in September.  I had a 12-15 mile run scheduled for the day but I ended up over-estimating my figure-8ish loop so it ended up being 16 miles instead.   And I don’t regret that extra mile whatsoever.  I also told myself when I first started running that I would only look at my watch every 3 miles.  This actually was the best idea I had for this long run because I ended up running by feel of the run rather than pace.  And it went by sooooo much faster because I just focused on waiting for every 3rd beep to look at my watch.  Let me share some thoughts I can remember during this run:

mile 1 (9:21) – since I somehow lost my gloves somewhere between leaving my apartment and driving to my starting point, I started my run with freezing cold hands due to the fact that it was about 35 degrees out when I started.  All I kept thinking is “ohmygosh I can’t feel my hands…this is going to a horrible run because my hands are going to go numb”.

mile 2 (8:43) – “ok, try covering your hands with your sleeves……nope that’s not working….I still can’t feel my fingers”

mile 3 (1st time I looked at my watch – 8:30) – “hey, look other runners! At least I’m not the only crazy one out here”…and “hmmm 8:30 mile split….maybe I should slow down…after all, I have like 12 miles to go”

mile 4 (8:15) – “I’m running through the empty fairgrounds parking lot woohoooo!  Oh look they’re having a dog show….that’s cool…I miss Hope and Gwin”

mile 5 (8:23) – “don’t get hit by a car….you’re almost to the trail and then you won’t have any cars to worry about for a very long time”

mile 6 (2nd time looking at my watch – 8:23) – “hey look more runners!…I wonder how long they’ve been running…I wonder what they’re training for!….and hmmm still maintaining a solid pace….I feel great!”

mile 7 (8:30) – “I can’t believe I’m already at mile 7…it feels like its only been like 30 minutes!…this is great!”

mile 8 (8:35) – “ok, time to make some calculations….I’m now just 4 miles from my car, but I need to run out farther so I can get back to my car at 15 miles….so I’ll run to 10 miles then turn around….no, 10.5 miles….no wait, 11 miles then I’ll turn around…no, because then I’ll be at 16 miles….just turn around at 10..that’s an easy number to remember.”

mile 9 (3rd time I looked at my watch – 8:50) – “ok, that was a slower mile…there was a big hill….but on my way back I get to run down that hill…just focus on getting to 10 miles then you can turn around….stay focused”

mile 9.5 – “ok, run faster because those dogs just started running toward you…I hope they go inside when I have to come back past their house…or I’ll just pepperspray them with my pepperspray…but then their owners might track me down and yell at me for pepperspraying their dogs…I don’t want to be mean to the dogs….don’t worry about it now…keep running”

mile 10 (8:26) – “you can turn around now….this is where you tripped on the sidewalk last week….focus on your feet…look at the sidewalk…don’t fall….be in control of your legs”

mile 11 (8:46) – “the fire station alarms are going off…I hope there’s not a bad fire…what if the firetrucks come down this road?…I hope they don’t run me over….you’re almost to an awesome downhill…just get up this gradual hill”


mile 13 (8:34) – “ok, back on the trail….don’t trip on any rocks or roots or all these leaves…pick up your feet….oh, I can actually feel my hands now…they’re not cold now….go figure.”

mile 14 (8:30) – “a guy with a dog….I need to make sure he hears me coming up behind him so he can control his dog…*cough*…ok, he knows I’m here now….”

mile 15 (5th time checking my watch – 8:29) – “wow, this is gonna be a great average pace for this run….I need to avoid going up that hill…the only way to avoid it is to extend the run….oh well, what’s an extra mile at this point….just gotta cross this road….why are there so many cars right now?…my legs are not gonna wanna move when I have to run across the road”

mile 16 (8:34) – “ok, finish strong….conquer these gradual hills…don’t trip on the sidewalk now…I probably look like a crazy person right now….that old couple is probably amused with the music coming from my iPod….almost done…just wait for the beep telling you to stop”

and then my watch beeped and I stopped running….2 hours 17 minutes later…..average pace: 8:34.


You are a Long-Distance Runner

You are a Long-Distance Runner

You’ve probably learned to push through the pain when your legs hurt.  You’ve learned to ignore the voices in your head telling you to quit.  You keep moving forward beyond mile 6, 7, and 8 and don’t think twice about runs that exceed 10 miles.

You want to run in a 5k?  Go ahead, but you’ll probably do a 3 mile warm-up, race the 5k, and then finish the race off with a 3+ mile cool down.

Because you are a long-distance runner, you know how to handle stress. You see stress as something that will always be there.  You’ve learned to embrace it rather than complain about it.  You can’t change something that you don’t have control over. It’s just like in a long run when you hit mile 8, or 9, or maybe even mile 18, and you feel tired, defeated, and thirsty and you still have 4 or 5 or 6 more miles to go before you can even consider sitting down. You can’t just stop yourself mid-run because your body is stressed.  You don’t have control over your fatigue but you need to keep going to get back to your home so you embrace it and become a stronger runner because you didn’t quit.

You are a long-distance runner because you’ve surrounded yourself with other long-distance runners.  You have friends that have goals just like yours.  You probably even have friends that have bigger goals than yours – farther race distances than you can ever imagine.  But because you’ve surrounded yourself with go-getters, over-ambitious people, and a lot of positive vibes, you’ve become a better person yourself.  You’ve become a better runner.  You’ve learned that once you achieve one goal you have to set another one that will test your limits even further.  Why stop at normal or average when you can run faster or farther?  And even if you fail, you’ll be surrounded by people that have also probably once failed.  They’ll pick you up, brush the dirt of your knees, and tell you to keep going until you reach that goal you so ambitiously set.

You are a long-distance runner because you learned to ignore fatigue.  Naps? You’re not going to get anything done if you nap all day.  Yes, sleep is a very important part of the recovery process but you probably don’t allot 2 hours out of your day to nap.  You’ll just go to bed earlier if you’re tired. And most likely you have to wake up when the sun does anyways to get in a morning run before half the world has even thought about pushing that snooze button on their alarm clock.  Plus, you can’t take a nap mid-run.  That’s counterproductive. Maybe you feel tired on your run. Maybe you think about how nice it would be to lay in bed all day.  But that’s not how you’ve been trained to think. You can’t stop on the side of the road or in the middle of the woods to sleep.  So you ignore the fatigue and push through the exhaustion.  No matter how many miles you still have to run or the huge hill that you still have to conquer, you can’t let fatigue get to you.  So you keep going.

As a runner, you probably try to make conscious decisions about what you’re fueling your body with.  You’re not going to eat ice cream before you run.  And you’re not going to immediately eat a tub of ice cream even AFTER you run.  You probably make food choices that you know will help you achieve your ultimate goal.  This may mean sacrificing a few of your favorite snacks.  But if it doesn’t fuel you right, you’re probably not going to eat it.  As a long-distance runner you make food choices that will get you closer to your goal NOT foods that will set you back, because there’s no better feeling than celebrating a good race with some brownies after a long few months of training and sacrifice.

So you’re a long-distance runner because you love to run, you love spending time with other long-distance runners, and you love that feeling of accomplishment.  Don’t let others take that love away from you.  Surround yourself with like-minded people that will encourage you when you’re feeling down.  Meet new runners, be friends with other runners, and maybe even marry a runner.  Whichever you choose, choose because you love to run.  You are a long distance runner finding life in the most challenging and stressful times. You find yourself mid-stride and every footstep thereafter.

I am a long-distance runner.

Marathon Training Update

Marathon Training Update

I’m not sure what week of marathon training I’m on now (these past few weeks have been a whirlwind so I’ve lost track) but this past week is definitely a blog-able week of training.

Last Sunday, since I went home for the weekend, I got to go trail running in Delaware with my dad and his two running friends (a serious ultrarunner and an aspiring ultrarunner). Considering I was the only female, my speed on the trails was much slower than theirs – especially on the uphills. There were multiple times that they left me in the dust on the uphills despite my determination to keep up with them. But I didn’t let that get me down. I just went my own speed and caught up to them on the downhills.  And you’re probably wondering where these hills are in Delaware.  Trust me, considering we ran 1400 feet of elevation gain/lost, there were hills.  Almost 2 hours into or run we found ourselves in the midst of a cross country race. We had to outrun the middle schooler headed in the same direction as us which actually ended up being harder than we thought (probably because we were nearly 2 hours into our run and he was only 10 minutes into his race).  We found a side-trail and escaped being caught by the neon-orange hatted child chasing us down.

We finished our run in a little over 2 hours.  My GPS watch read 11.7 miles.  If you do the math you’re probably thinking, “wow, they were running really slow”. This is what happens when you run on challenging trails.  Every step is a pre-contemplated process in order to successful navigate roots, branches, and rocks to prevent ankle rolls.  And plus, long runs are supposed to be slower – especially when you add in elevation changes.  This was a great run spent with great company.  And despite being the only female on this run and being guided by extremely athletic male runners, I would definitely go on a trail run with them again in the future!

I switched my Monday and Tuesday run so that I could recover a little from Sunday’s long run.  I ran 5 miles Monday and 7.3 miles on Tuesday.  The upper part of my ankle hurt these days but I figured it was because my ankles weren’t accustomed to the challenges of the trail since 85% of my runs at school are on pavement.

I also switched my Wednesday and Saturday runs.  Wednesdays are usually work out days but I was doing a 5k on Saturday and I knew that that would be my workout for the week.  And since Saturdays are usually my long run day, I opted to do a mid-week long run instead of a workout.  This day I ran 10 miles. This is also the day I became determined to find a local running club to run with and find some fellow runners to do long runs with for the rest of my marathon training.  My long run averaged just under my goal marathon race pace which I was pleased with.  I just really needed to find some running buddies.

Thursday and Friday were easy runs because of the high mileage earlier in the week and to prepare for Saturday’s race.  Thursday I ran an easy 4.3 and Friday I ran an easy (but torturous) 4 miles.  Friday’s run was marked with unpleasant attitude toward the hills I run on all the time.  I miss being able to run consistent mile splits.  The rolling hills up here make running a consistent pace impossible and that got to me.  I can’t wait to go home and run on the nice trail that runs parallel to my backyard.  I can’t wait to go home and have running buddies all the time.  I miss running with my dad and my dog.  I miss running with Angela and gossiping about life to distract us from the miles.  I miss RRCW.  I just felt mentally defeated after a week of runs and various sorenesses and pains.  I needed to regain focus so I could do well in my 5k on Saturday.

20151010_090314And then it was Saturday.  I woke up, had my typical peanut butter on toast for breakfast, and drove the 20 minutes to the race.  The race was at a well-known amusement park near my college so I knew exactly where I had to go for the race.  This took some stress away because I was familiar with the amusement park.  I picked up my bib and complimentary t-shirt and did a 2.5 mile warm-up.  I had packed my arm sleeves just in case it was cold but after my warm-up I knew I would be just fine with my spandex shorts and the tshirt I packed to run in.  This was also the 1st race I was running since my dad opened his business.  I felt like a sponsored athlete because I was running to represent his business! (see picture)

The race was 100% on the road.  It started with a slight uphill into a short but steep downhill.  90% of the first mile was uphill but I managed to run a 7:01.  I tried settling in with the runners around me.  On the downhill I surged ahead to use gravity to my advantage.  The majority of the 2nd mile was downhill but this mile was slower (7:21).  The third mile started with a 1/2 mile significant uphill that made me realize how tired I was.  I tried not letting it defeat me but I think it did.  As I reached the top of the hill I felt like I could’ve walked faster.  With a half mile left, a man on the side of the road directing runners where to go told me it was all downhill to the finish.  I remember doubting what he said to me because I was expecting at least 1 more rolling hill.  But he was right – the last 1/2 mile was completely downhill.  I ran my 3rd mile the slowest thanks to that annoying uphill.

20151010_111921I crossed the finish line in 22:49.  One of my goals was to average under 7:30 pace.  I averaged 7:19 pace.  I managed to get a 1st in my age group (20-24) award and was rewarded a palm-sized medal.  Because I ran a time I was rather unimpressed by, I opted to run a 4.3 mile cool down.  I probably could’ve ran further because I felt fine during my cool down but I didn’t want to go too overboard.  I finished the day with a total mileage of 10.1 miles and that made me extremely happy!

After spreading the word of my race results to family and Angela, I was reassured that my time was okay considering I’m training for a marathon which is 8 times the distance of a 5k (and yes, I did the math to figure that out). This made me feel better since I was so down about my race.  I also realized much later in the day that Saturday was my third long run of the week.  My Sunday-Saturday mileage was 52 miles….I HAVEN’T RAN A 50+ WEEK SINCE SUMMER 2014!  So making this discovery made me a thousand times happier because I love love LOOOOVE running far. And maybe the reason I ran an unimpressive 5k is because I had already put in 45 miles leading up to that race.  I’m just super excited that I had a great weekly mileage!

After the race I drove to a nearby running store to ask about local running clubs. Although the woman working in the store wasn’t aware of any running clubs in the area, she reassured me that the running store was trying to start to organize group runs.  This made me excited because I reallllllly need people to run with on a consistent basis.  She was also extremely friendly and we had a nice conversation about running and running stores.  It was an uplifting visit!

Today I swam to cross-train since Sundays are typically my rest day.  Despite feeling mentally defeated during the week, I pushed through and managed a week of high miles.  This week’s goals are to make healthier food choices, stay focused on the long-term goal, and to embrace any challenges that come my way.  Although these are all very broad goals, my main focus of the week is just to get through my 3 midterms and exam.  It’s going to be a rough week but I’ve been able to use running as a stress-reliever for the first half of the semester and this week will be no different.

39 days until marathon day!!!

Marathon Training: Week 3 and 4

Marathon Training: Week 3 and 4

Week 3:

applesThis is the week where I actually felt like I had adjusted to the rolling hills around here.  My lungs and my legs both felt stronger.  I completed a workout and re-discovered how mentally challenging it’s going to be running a slower-than-usual pace for marathon day.  I can’t go out too fast because the race isn’t just a 5k.  The marathon needs to be 26.2 miles of consistency.  Going out too hard in the beginning of the race will just make the end of the race that much more challenging.  After a mentally grueling workout because I found myself not maintaining the pace I was supposed to be maintaining for the workout, (because it was too slow for a workout and I couldn’t get in the groove of that pace for a 5 mile tempo), my dad suggested up-ing the pace for week 4’s workout.  This week I also completed a 9 mile run.  The last two miles were completely uphill which made miles 8 and 9 rough.  But hey, my legs will be trained to ignore the tiredness come marathon day.  This is the week I also made an apple and cinnamon quinoa recovery mini meal :]

Week 4:

This was one of the most stressful weeks of my life because of internship drama but I got it all straightened out so it’s okay now.  My dad changed my target workout pace which made for a much better Wednesday Workout day.  I ran super early Thursday because I had waaaay too much to do throughout the day.  This run was superrrrrrrr slow.  I woke up Friday feeling like I had a cold, so I cut my run way shorter than planned.  I’m trying to listen to my body more these days so I don’t overwork myself too much before race day.  I took Saturday as a rest day and skipped my long run for the weekend.  Although this is a bummer, I want to feel better because there’s a lot of great things to look forward to this week – the fair, friends, the Pope, and so so sooo much more :]

My Believe journal also forced me to re-evaluate my priorities.  Here’s the list of reminders I came up with:

  • Focus on long-term goals but set short term goals that help you get there.
  • Be willing to ask for advice, help, guidance, and support.  You are not alone!
  • Don’t define your limits – you can do anything you set your mind to.
  • Sleep enough.  Drink enough.  Eat enough.
  • Enjoy the process
Marathon Training – Week 1 & Half of Week 2

Marathon Training – Week 1 & Half of Week 2

The training plan for my first marathon started just a mere 9 days ago and I’m already loving everything about it. Granted, I’m just starting to rebuild a solid conditioning base but I’m really enjoying all the training runs thus far. Due to my class schedule and the heat (at least this week with temperatures averaging in the high-80s), I’ve been running very early in the morning before the sun has even crested over the moutanintops.  This morning I was out the door by 6 AM to run an easy 5 miles.  Since I’m back at school, the majority of my runs include rolling hills. This makes maintaining a consistent pace rather challenging.  I am braking on the steep downhills and merely chugging along on the long uphills.  If I decide to run in town, the entire first mile is completely downhill; therefore, the entire last mile is completely uphill.  This makes warming-up my muscles and cooling down to bring my heart rate down a struggle, but I’m adapting.  Training here is actually extremely beneficial because transitioning to flat makes running seem a thousand times easier.  I trained for the Broad St 10 miler on these hills and my finishing time (a HUGE 7-minute PR) was the result of training on such challenging “terrain”.  As much as I enjoy running on flat, I know that my training is augmented ten-fold because of the hills.  I couldn’t ask for better training conditions.  I know that the marathon will be a challenge in a whole different way so a little hill challenge throughout the training months is just mentally and physically preparing me for race day.

marathon training

I now think of every run as a blessing because I get to wake up on a brand new day, start it with the one consistent thing in my life that I can depend on, and reflect on the training with my dad and other running friends.  I am grateful for the support of family members and other friends who are also training for their 1st marathon.  The running community is an extensive network of people who understand the ups and downs of running and I couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of it.

Tomorrow morning will be my second workout day of my training schedule (a quick and easy 3 mile tempo with a mile warm-up and mile cool-down).  Cheers to many more training runs and more blog posts about it leading up to race! Happy running, my friends!