Dirty German 50k Race Recap

Dirty German 50k Race Recap

This past Sunday, May 15th, I finished my first ever ultramarathon.  I had signed up for the Dirty German 50k way back in the beginning of January because I knew I wanted to make the transition to ultrarunning.  I was itching for a longer race since I was officially fully recovered from my marathon debut back in November and I needed something to train for.  I had completed another Uberendurance race a few years back (the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut 1/2 Marathon) so I knew how well organized their races were.  I chose the Dirty German 50k because it was a trail ultra and I knew I wouldn’t want to do an ultra on the road.  It was also described to be “easy by trail running standards”.  In the description it said it would be a great race for 1st time ultrarunners.  This race was basically screaming at me to sign up.  So there I was on my computer on January 2nd signing up for this 50k.

received_10207427398541051Fast forward a few months and there I was on a cool May morning in Pennypack Park standing on the starting line surrounded by other racers.  I was wearing my Altra Lonepeaks, a neon SparklySoul, and my UltimateDirection Ultra Vesta pack.  I was accompanied by my boyfriend and training partner, Josh, who also had committed to running his first ultra on that cool May morning with me.  We had done 85% of all our long runs for the past few months together and we both had the same race goals so we decided to race it together.  Our goal was to run under 6 hours and as close to 5 hours as possible.  His speed and confidence running hills and trails mixed with my everlasting endurance and experience with longer distances made us a perfect team to race this ultra together.  So there we were together standing amongst nearly 200 other racers with an accordion playing German music before we were set off to run 31 miles.

I remember the first half mile to be rather crowded due to some congestion on the trail but I never felt like I was boxed in or stuck behind anyone.  There was always a way around runners if I needed to get around.  My anxiety about the start of the race was soon diminished as I settled in behind Josh and powered through some of the hills at the beginning of the race to get around people.

For the first 4-5 miles we were running with a few other racers as we settled into a pace that we knew we could sustain for the entire race.  We had set out to average about 10 minute pace but my watch kept recording splits in the 9 minute range.  I felt comfortable though and Josh didn’t feel like he was overexerting either so we kept the pace.

I passed a few women while hopping from stone to stone across the stream which allowed me to run right beside Josh now.  At some point in the race we also came across a dog owner trying to re-capture her golden retriever puppy who was just too excited to see all the runners.  Josh and a few other runners stopped to helped her but I (selfishly?) kept running.

There were also some sections of the course that were on pavement due to construction on one of the bridges we were supposed to originally cross.  Josh and I were pretty much alone at this point and we were both in very high spirits.  I was happy we were doing this race together and at this point it just felt like any normal Sunday long run we go on together.

Eventually a woman from NYC named Mary (shoutout to Mary!) who had raced this course before caught up to us.  She gave us a few pointers and tips about ultrarunning and Josh told her all about his race up at Hyner a few weeks ago.  I just listened in on the conversation and laughed at her clever race tips.  It distracted me for at least one mile and we got to meet a very nice person (hope you did well in your race, Mary!  It was nice meeting you!)

The miles were passing by quickly and I was barely paying attention to the mile splits we were running.  We stopped at an aide station I recognized that was near where we had started the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut 1/2 marathon.  I picked up an orange Gatorade and Josh asked for some ibuprofen which they graciously gave to him.  We continued on our way.  I ate some of my tortilla with peanut butter and raisins in it and Josh ate his Stingers.  Every so often we would pop a Shotblok in our mouth to replenish some electrolytes.  We were feeling good.

At every aide station after that we both would stop and grab a cup of Gatorade to maintain our electrolyte levels and to change it up from the water we were drinking from our packs (Josh has a Gregory which he loves and I have an UltimateDirection with I love).  Soon were heading back towards the finish line which would mark 25k complete.

As we were running up a hill, we heard a cowbell.  Josh made some snide comment about the cowbell and I predicted that it was probably my parents.  Surprise!  There were my parents standing at the top of the hill.  Josh surged up the hill and left me to climb up it myself (disclaimer: he’s a very strong hill climber so I’m used to it).  The next 2 or so miles we didn’t run together but I could still see him ahead of me.  I knew I would eventually catch him once the rolling hills stopped.  Some 25k racers who had started 30 minutes behind us began to pass me  – they were going sooo fast!  Regardless, before the completion of our 1st loop, I had caught back up to Josh and we were running side by side again.

Before race day, Josh had predicted that we would run a 5:15.  Through simple math, this would require our 25k split to be about 2:37.  We came through the 25k split in 2:23.  After some quick math we decided a sub-5 finish was completely attainable even if we ended up slowing down (which we knew was going to be inevitable).  Josh made us a new goal which would be to finish in under 5 hours.

received_10207427468102790So here were are back out on the course for the 2nd loop.  At this point we were pretty much alone except for a racer about 100m in front of us and whomever was sneaking up behind us.  We started passing 25k runners and 50k runners in the opposite direction as they were still working on their 1st loop.  A few 50 milers also passed us in the opposite direction, some of which were going much faster than we were.  I was amazed by how fast they were going for a 50 mile race!

We just kept running, kept drinking, kept eating, kept moving forward side by side.  At aide stations we took no more than 15 seconds to grab what we needed and continue to move closer to the finish line.  We had a deadline now.  One of the other racers called us a “pacing powerhouse” because we were running such a consistent pace.  This gave us the confidence we needed to continue moving forward at the pace we were holding.  We don’t know your name but we appreciate your compliment A LOT.

Along one of the paved sections I was feeling sluggish but just happened to look down at one of my mile splits and see 8:17.  At this point we were already 25 miles in to the race  – why did I just run an 8:17 mile in a 50k?  That was never a split I intended on running and I definitely didn’t feel like I was running that fast.  I decided to just go with the flow and keep running.

We also started running with a woman who was in the 50 mile race who was keeping an impressive pace (I think she was actually running faster than we were at some points).  She was extremely friendly and it once again distracted me from any soreness or fatigue I was feeling.  I don’t know your name but I hope you also did well in your race!

received_10207427470022838Once we were back on trails our legs didn’t hurt as bad from the pounding on the road.  By this point 95% of the paved part of the course was done.  We just had to finish the last 4-5 miles of trail and we would be home free.  We took one last cup of Gatorade at the aid station, saw one of our Instagram followers, saw my parents, and started running up another hill.  I knew at this point that we would be under 5 hours if we just kept pushing.  We did end up powerhiking some of the last few hills and we bombed the downhills as much as we could (well, at least it felt like we were bombing the downhills).  I just kept repeating over and over again that we were so close to being done.  Josh probably thought I’d never shut up about being close to the end.  So. Close.

received_10207427468822808The last few miles are a series of rolling hills but we just kept pushing.  We exited the woods with a little less than 4 minutes to get to the finish line before the clock struck 5 hours.  I knew we had it.  I knew we would run under 5 hours.  We ran towards the finishing stretch, made the last turn into the grassy field and made our way towards the finish line.  We crossed the finish line in 4:58:04.  My Garmin Forerunner 230 recorded we averaged about 9:40 pace – not too shabby!!  My legs hurt but I was happy.  We had totally crushed our original goal of being under 6 hours and Josh’s prediction of us running 5:15.  We had ran our sub-5 like the new goal we had agreed upon mid-race and we had finished our first ever ultra.

At the finish line two patient gentlemen ripped off our bib tags.  The one gentlemen also asked me my age and I was perplexed by this question.  I answered with a fatigued “22” and before I could process what was going on he handed me a box and congratulated me on being the 3rd female in the 20-29 age group.  Well, this was a shock!  Josh and I were handed a hat and a medal that also functioned as a bottle opener (pretty awesome medal if you ask me!).

We staggered further through the finishing chute, exchanged a sweaty hug, and reflected briefly on actually completing an ultra.  Shortly after, my parents found us and congratulated us on a job well done.  At this point all I wanted to do was sit down.  We staggered over to a bench and I slowly lowered myself onto the bench.  We took a post-race picture to further document our accomplishment.

received_10207427421301620I soon started shivering because the air was still a bit cool.  I changed into a long sleeve shirt and we all agreed to start walking back to the cars.  This is where the fatigue and soreness finally hit me.  I could barely pick me feet more than 1 inch off the ground and I had a half mile walk back to the car…uphill.  It probably took me close to 20 minutes to walk that half mile.  Runners who were starting their 3rd lap of the 50 miler probably thought I was being overdramatic or something.  I’m sure I looked ridiculous and because I was staggering I probably even looked like I was somewhat drunk.

Later that night Josh and I indulged in some wine (me) and beer (Josh) and pizza – the perfect way to recover from an ultra!  We reflected on the race and all the wonderful people we met along the way.  Surprisingly neither of us ever felt like we “hit the wall” during the race.  I think this is because we ran together the whole time which allowed ourselves to be distracted by any fatigue or pain we may have had been feeling.  Unlike my marathon last November when I still wore Asics, my feet never truly hurt and my toes never started to bleed all thanks to my Altra LonePeaks and their wide toe-box feature. (I am completely obsessed with Altras!)  Throughout the race, Josh and I also paid close attention to how much and how frequently we were eating and drinking.  I believe that our training was perfect for this race which gave us a great advantage with confidence out of the hilly and trail sections.

Just as this race was described, it’s a great 50k to start with for the 1st time ultrarunner.  The course was extremely well marked and not very technical.  Because of these qualities, I would recommend this race to anybody who is just entering the ultra world.  Uberendurnace races are always very well-organized and they always have great prizes, food, and music (i.e. the accordion player!)

We are both extremely happy and pleased with our ultra debut.  I am beyond excited that I got to accomplish one of my goals for this year.  I’m lucky enough to have done it with such an amazing guy – without him I definitely wouldn’t have done as well as I did.  Cheers to many more ultras in my future!  I can’t wait to do another one!

Note-Worthy Runs of April 2016

Note-Worthy Runs of April 2016

April has been one of the most hectic, stressful, most beautiful, wonderful, and amazing months of the year.  April for me has brought high mileage leading up to my 1st ultra in the beginning of May, new adventures with friends, and new beginnings as my internship concluded.  In one word, April has been crazy.

Through all the chaos though, April has made me a stronger runner and a more mindful individual.  I’ve come to appreciate the people who make me who I am today and who I want to continue to spend time with in the future.  These are the people that understand my stressors, who can relate to my own little mind games, and who can push me to become the best possible person I can be.  And I am forever grateful for these people.

These note-worthy runs are runs that has left an imprint on my mind and will come creeping into my mind during the rough parts of my upcoming ultras.  I will have to remind myself of these runs to fight through the pain in order to get one step closer to that finish line:

April 1st – This was a night run that I did with Angela.  We had gotten back from a long second day representing SparklySoul at the Hot Chocolate Philly 15k expo.  Meteorologists had warned people of potential thunderstorms but we needed to get a run in. So we started on our run at around 8:30 PM with thunder booming in the distance.  We wanted to run at least 5 miles but ended up only doing 3 at tempo pace because the storm was moving faster than we were.  Although we ran negative splits during this run, we were literally sprinting around Angela’s block at sub-7:30 pace trying to avoid bolts of lightening.  In a nutshell, this was a fun and comical start to April.

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White Clay

April 3rd – This was my first run ever at a place in Delaware called White Clay.  I was accompanied by my best trail running buddy, Josh, who runs this trail system at least twice a week.  He knew the trails inside and out, and could probably run the trails with his eyes closed.  Sundays are typically our long run days so we aimed to do at least 16 miles.  This day was also extremely windy with wind gusts approaching 50 MPH (another comical start to April, right?).  We ended up doing 18 miles, averaging 10:15 pace.  Considering the rolling hills, the weather conditions, and my 1st time ever running on these trails, I was quite pleased.  It was a great run with great company!

 

April 10th – Josh and I went back to White Clay and the weather was much better than the week before!  I started liking White Clay more and more this second time because the trails are slow, rolling hills instead of the steep inclines like Brandywine.  We ran 16 miles, averaging 10:09 pace.  This day we also planned to meet up with my parents and mountain bike at Brandywine.  I’m not nearly as strong on two wheels as I am on two feet, but I was rather impressed by how I managed to pedal up the steep sections and maneuver the downhills.  Our group mountain bike ride ended up being 12 miles.  Josh and I had ran 16 miles, then biked 12, so we rewarded ourselves with a pizza.  This was an awesome day!

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Single track

April 13th – Every week in April I’ve tried to incorporate at least one longer run.  Today’s run was an easy 10 miles.  I was feeling anxious to run fast and had every intention of making this 10 mile run a progression run.  But due to the warmer temps, my four-legged running buddy, Gwin, couldn’t maintain a fast pace for the first 6.2 miles.  After I dropped her off, I set a new goal to run at least one of the next 4 miles under 8 minutes.  Turns out, all four miles were sub-8 (7:50, 7:33, 7:33, 7:38).  This run left me feeling more confident than ever.  I was so shocked to see consecutive 7:33s on my watch – especially for miles 8 and 9.  I was hitting my stride and my ultra was in a little over a month!

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with Gwin

April 15th – A few weeks before, I had signed up for a 1-mile fun race hosted by a nearby running club I am a part of. The mile race was on the track with a laid-back group of runners.  I was nervous though because I hadn’t ran a race since my marathon in November and I didn’t particularly like running fast (especially an all out sprint for one mile).  I was nervous all day but luckily when I got to the race, Angela calmed my nerves during our warm-up and I was surrounded by people I knew and felt comfortable around.  My parents, granny, and Josh were the only 4 spectators and everyone else there was in the race.  I ended up running a 6:24 which I am extremely happy with.  I was the 2nd overall female (Angela won! – read about it here!) and 6th place overall.  Considering I haven’t ran a race in 6 months, haven’t done any speed workouts in about 7 months, and have been training specifically for this ultra, I was more than thrilled by my time.  It hurt but it was a lot of fun and I’m glad that I did it!

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One mile

April 17th – Another long run Sunday with Josh!  We opted to go to Batsto in the Pine Barrens for a nice soft and flat 20 mile run.  I felt awesome during this run and ended up pushing the pace for the 2nd half of the run.  We averaged 9:40 pace which I am more than pleased with.  This was an absolutely beautiful and warm day!  Another great run with great company!  I was loving everything about ultra training on this day!

April 21st – This was yet another 20 mile run because Hyner weekend was coming up and I had to re-organize my normal weekly training schedule.  I opted to do my long run on a Thursday.  I ran consistent 9 minute miles for the first 11.6 miles and then Angela tagged along for the last 8.4 miles in which we started averaging closer to 8:45 pace.  This was an awesome training run that left me feeling extremely confident in my training thus far.  I was excited to be accompanied by Angela for the last 8 miles – she kept my focus away from any fatigue I may have been feeling which I greatly appreciated.  20 miles, averaging 9:00/mile.

April 23rd – aka #Hyner weekend.  I travelled up to Hyner, PA to cheer on my dad and some fellow trail friends during their respective 25k or 50ks.  I was told to go to the top of Hyner View to cheer everyone on which included traversing up the infamous Humble Hill.  I left the starting area at 7 AM, one hour before starting time, in order to give myself time to get to the top which was 3.5 miles up a mountain.  Turns out, I needed that full hour to get to the top.  It took me 57 minutes to get to the top.  My elevation gain read a little over 1500 feet.  This race was going to be no joke for these guys and I felt lucky that I wasn’t torturing myself on the course that day.  I waited at the top to see all the guys come through with my cowbell in hand!  I traversed down another trail called Huff’s Run Trail to get back to the bottom of the mountain – another 3.5 miles with 1500 feet of descent again.  I liked the descent way better than I liked ascending.  I tacked on another 2.5 miles at the end of my run to reach my goal mileage for the day of 20 miles.  The rest of my day was spent cheering on Josh, Aaron, Chad, and my dad as they finished their races.  Our night was spent celebrating with some drinks, good food, and a bonfire.  And we ended the night stargazing into the crystal clear sky surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges.  This was just an all-around great day – I love spending time with trail runners!

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Hyner View

Although there is still a week left in April, I felt due for a blog post updating on my ultra training.  This blog post has allowed me to reflect on the great runs of April that have left me feeling stronger and more confident on the trails.  I’m happy with how my training has been going and I am looking forward to one last week of quality training before I start tapering for my ultra!

15 Things I learned in 2015 (part 2 of 3)

15 Things I learned in 2015 (part 2 of 3)

If you missed Part 1 check it out here!

#6:  Your limits don’t actually exist:  This year alone I ran a 10 minute PR at the Broad Street 10 Miler in May, I hiked/ran the length of New Jersey’s part of the Appalachian Trail in three days (that’s 73 miles in three days), and I finished my first marathon in under my goal time of four hours.  With the exception of being running related, what do all of these things have in common?  Simply put, I pushed past the limits that existed in my mind and reached several goals I set this year.  While hiking/running the Appalachian Trail carrying 20 pounds of supplies on our backs, I had to push myself further than I ever had before.  The first day left me feeling mentally degraded and every muscle in my body hurt.  I hadn’t gone more than four miles ever before with 20 pounds of weight weighing down on my shoulders.  And here I was, somewhere in northern New Jersey in the great outdoors, moving forward for 12+ hours a day with only one goal in mind – get to that New Jersey-Pennsylvania state line.  My dad and I did indeed finish the trek in three days like we had planned but my limits were definitely tested during those three days.  Limits are boundaries you set in your mind.  Limits don’t exist in real life.  You can push yourself further than you can even imagine if you’re willing to ignore pain and ignore that whispering voice in your head telling you to stop.  Don’t let that whispering voice put a limit on what you can and cannot achieve in this world.  Your limits are endless.

#7:  Distance apart is just a number:  This past summer I was fortunate enough to travel to California for the first time ever to spend time with family members.  In my memory, I had never met my Aunt Mary.  The last time we were together was when I was christened as a baby and I definitely don’t have any recollection of that.  So my brother and I headed west for our first trip to the west coast.  We stayed with our cousin who gave us an amazing tour of southern California for the days we spent with her.  I am forever grateful for the time I spent in California with my family.  Since we live on opposite coasts we only get to see my cousins maybe once per year, if that.  My Aunt Mary can no longer fly so I am extremely happy that I got to visit her and listen to her stories about our family.  In the past year or so I’ve come to truly believe in the fact that distance makes the heart grow fonder.  I know this may sound cliche to some people, but I assure you that distance is just a number between two or more people.  Someone you love might live 3,000 miles away in a completely different time zone.  Maybe someone you love only lives 1,000 miles away on the same coast.  Maybe someone you love lives 100 miles away in the same state. Whatever the distance, it’s just a number.  Miles apart shouldn’t put a limit on how much you love someone.  Even though you may only see someone a few times a year, or maybe even once every 5 years, you can still love them.  As I grow up I have become more and more aware of the fact that you don’t have to spend every moment of every day with someone to love them.  I love my Aunt Mary who I have only met two or three times in the past 21 years of my life, but I love her because she loves me just the same.  Don’t let distance or time apart keep you from being close with someone.  It’s just a number, not a space.

#8:  Be happy for others:  It’s easy to fall into the feeling of being jealous of what someone else is doing.  I believe that social media fuels this issue because, as humans, we constantly feel the need to know what other people are doing. When we see what other people are doing we may become envious of their life. We may see pictures of someone on Facebook on an exotic vacation on some luxurious island.  We may see a tweet about someone expressing their love towards their significant other.  Maybe there’s even a filtered picture posted on Instagram of someone celebrating on a Saturday night with their closest friends. Whatever the case may be, I’ve come to the realization that when you see someone you love doing something they love you should be happy for them. Don’t start feeling sorry for yourself and resist FOMO (fear of missing out) as much as you can.  No human being on this planet shares the same life path.  Be happy for your best friend who is chasing after their dreams.  Be joyous for the friend who found out they just got offered a great job.  It’s okay to miss someone you love but don’t feel unhappy when you see them happy.  Share in their happiness, even if it means you have to sacrifice a little bit of time spent with them.

#9:  Don’t compare yourself to others (particularly in the running world):  As a runner, I’ve fallen in and out of the trap of comparing myself to other runners.  It’s easy to compare training schedules and the amount of miles you’re running.  You may compare yourself to other runners in attempt to evaluate your own personal fitness level.  As runners, we might tell ourselves, “well, she ran 50 miles this week and I only ran 40 so she’s obviously a better runner than me” or “he runs 7 minute pace all the time and I usually average 8 minute pace so I can’t keep up with him”.  As a runner who is immersed in the running community, sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in race results and posts about training.  There’s been numerous times this year that I’ve caught myself comparing myself to other runners.  I’ve sometimes questioned my own training routine because of this and second-guessed my ability to be a decent runner. But then one day I came to the realization that it doesn’t matter how similar or different my running routine is to other runners’ routines.  I am my own individual runner and what works for me throughout training might not work for other runners.  Likewise, what works for other runners might not work for me. There’s no reason to compare myself to others.  I am me.  I have my own special body type, my own unique feet, my own well-trained muscles, and my own strong beating heart.  I might not run 50 miles per week or be able to run four 1600m repeats at 6:30 pace – but I can run my far, my fast, and my race. When I run, the only person that I can compare myself to is me because every runner has their own unique journey that eventually leads to the same destination – the finish line.

#10:  Wanderlust hurts:  I am the kind of person that likes to go-go-go.  I don’t like sitting around for hours and wasting time but I’m constantly conflicted when it comes to traveling.  I want to go places, I want to explore the world, and I know that there’s so much to see on our planet.  More consistently in this year than any year in the past, I’ve been plagued by wanderlust.  I have never wanted to travel as badly as I do until this year.  I yearn for endless adventures but then reality crashes down on me.  I need money to travel and do fun things.  I need a job that pays well enough to go on these adventures but will also give me time off to explore for a week straight.  The picturesque places I see of mountains and lakes and open trails is calling out to me and I know deep in my heart that I can’t go to these places right now.  And that hurts.  Wanderlust seriously makes my heart ache.  When people ask me what I’m going to do with my life after I graduate undergrad I commonly answer with this sentence: “I have no idea, but maybe I’ll just go on a really long hike and never come back”.  I know this is unrealistic and maybe even me trying to avoid becoming an adult in the job world but I seriously just want to go explore.  I want to see beautiful places and meet super cool, cultured people that can share in my love for breathing in fresh air in the wilderness.  I probably sound like some crazy female bushmen or a weird tree-hugger right now but it’s the truth.  Maybe one day in the near future I’ll get to explore endlessly but for now wanderlust will stir in my heart as I await a new adventure.  After all, adventure awaits.

To be continued…

Marathon Reflections

Marathon Reflections

This past Sunday I ran my first ever marathon – the Philadelphia Marathon.  I finished in 3:46:24.  Of course I was ecstatic to finish under 4 hours, but I was more excited that I could officially call myself a marathoner.  I could now proudly display a 26.2 magnet on the back of my car and I could stop posting on social media about my marathon training (which people may or may not have been getting annoyed at..I’m not really sure).  So instead of posting about training for a marathon, I filled social media with posts, tweets, pictures, and videos about the marathon.  I’m sure the excitement will dissipate over time, but I still have plenty of people to tell about my 26.2 miles.  So here’s a blog post about it to share with the rest of the Internet world my marathon journey.

On Friday, I went to the expo to pick up my race bib, stop by the SparklySoul table and see Angela, pick up some free giveaways, and meet the elite marathoner, Bill Rogers.  After picking up my race bib, I was ready to race but the race wasn’t for another 36 hours!  So I distracted myself at my dad’s bike/running business by decorating it for Christmas and prepared my race outfit instead.  My weather app said the start of the race would be in the high 40s so I opted for a t-shirt and arm sleeves, three-quarter length spandex, gloves, and my “Run Philadelphia” SparklySoul.  I was ready to go!

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Race day outfit

Sunday my alarm went off at 3:39 AM – it was race day!  My parents, brother, mommom, and I planned to leave by 4:15 AM.  The security gates were scheduled to open at 5 AM so that gave us plenty of time to drive to Philadelphia, find parking, and walk to the security checkpoints.  My biggest fear leading up to the race was not getting to the start line in time so I opted to get there extra early to avoid any lines that might start forming for the security checkpoints.  We were at my corral by 5:15 AM so I sat on a curb nearby and tried to maintain my body heat in the chilly morning air.  I had 3 layers overtop of my race outfit that I planned on tossing to the side right before my corral started (which would be gathered later on by volunteers to donate to homeless shelters).  During the 2 hours leading up to the race time, I used the port-a-potties three times, saw people from the local running club I’m a part of, and patiently waited in my corral with an older woman I knew from local races who was also in my corral.

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Waiting in the green corral

I knew that Angela was in the corral in front of me and that a running friend was in the same corral as me but because of the immense amount of people in each corral, I didn’t get to see either of my fellow running friends prior to the start of the race.  Apparently there was a delay due to a car accident on the course so the race started 5-10 minutes late.  I completely lost track of time once I was standing in the corral though and I have no idea what time the race actually started. I tossed my clothes to the side and found myself 3 rows back from the front of my corral.

Angela’s corral was sent off and next thing I knew my corral was waiting for the airhorn to signal the start of our race.  I vividly remember a huge gust of wind that rushed through the crowd which caused a billowing sigh of surprise to echo throughout the racers.  The airhorn sounded when nine minutes showed up on the clock.  This basically meant that the elite runners were almost already two miles into the race.  I settled into a pace nicely with a comfortable amount of space in front of, to my sides, and behind me.  Nobody was tripping over each other’s feet which I was relieved about.

Going into the race, I planned on looking at my watch every 3 miles to ensure I wasn’t running too fast or too slow.  At the one mile mark though I opted to check my mile split to make sure I wasn’t running too fast.  I ran my first mile in 7:26.  Way.  Too.  Fast.  I consciously told myself to slow down and settle into a more reasonable pace that I could sustain for the 25.2 miles that still laid ahead of me.

I saw my dad and my brother on their bikes at about the 3rd or 4th or 5th mile mark (I don’t actually remember what mile it was).  I saw a lot of men peeing off to the side of the race course.  Not just like one or two.  Like 10 people peeing at once.  I have never seen something like that ever in my life and, honestly, I never want to see something like that ever again.

I remember seeing a sign that said “four mile frenzy” and then later down the road seeing a sign that said “Run like you’re in the Hunger Games” and it even had the Mockingjay symbol drawn on the side.  This made me happy.

I remember passing a house that I assumed was a frat house because there was a bunch of loud and obnoxious college students drinking and yelling up on the porch.  It wasn’t even 8 AM at this point in the race.  Talk about day drinking.

I remember running down a crowded street in center city and feeling energized by the crowd.  The billowing of the cheers and the music made me run faster and I was still feeling the adrenaline of just being in the race itself.  I probably should’ve slowed down but my pace felt comfortable.  I didn’t feel like I was breathing heavy and my legs felt fine.

I remember seeing a visually impaired runner who was running with his guide. His guide was telling him what was directly ahead of him on the course.  I was intrigued by this.  I also remember seeing an athlete in a wheel chair.  I made sure to encourage him when I passed by with a simple “great job, keep it up”. This inspired me.

I also remember someone say how she always hit a wall as she passed the zoo. I wasn’t even aware that the course ran near the zoo.  This was exciting.  Next thing I knew we were crossing a very steep but quick bridge and there were spectators banging on huge drums.  This made me smile and gave me another burst of energy.

Then there was a hill.  The hill didn’t look too long at first but then it kept winding upwards.  I told myself that every uphill has a downhill so I would be rewarded at the top with a downhill.  There wasn’t a downhill at the top though.  Instead, the course leveled off, made 2 quick right turns, and passed another band playing guitars and a drum set.  I also remember hearing what I thought was a radio show host talking about runners passing by but I don’t have a clear memory of this.

The course also went around a random circle too.  I remember thinking “how silly we must look going around this circle right now”.  There’s a lot of random thoughts that go through your head during a race – especially during long races when you have hours to think.

Then the course went down a steep downhill.  Finally the downhill I was waiting to be rewarded with.  It was a long one and I remember hoping that my quads weren’t being destroyed by the forces being exerted on my feet and legs (thanks, kinesiology class, for instilling this fear in me).  Then we were on the outskirts of Fairmount Park and headed back towards the Ben Franklin Parkway. I saw a runner I recognized from local running races and focused on catching up to him.  I caught up to him and passed him.  Also, across the river I could see marathoners who were probably already 2 miles ahead of me.  I was impressed by the fact that these runners were already at that point on the course but I just kept running forward.  This all happened right before the half-marathon turn off. I made sure I stayed to the left so that I didn’t accidentally go the wrong way. Once again I was re-energized by the crowd who were cheering on the half-marathoners who were almost done the race.  How nice it must be to be almost done.  I was only half-way done: 13.1 miles to go.

I was waiting for the 13.1 mile marker to see my half-way split.  I think I remember seeing 1:45.  My watch was also 0.3 miles off from every mile marker they had on the course.  Even for the first mile marker, my watch beeped waaaaay before I passed the mile marker.  This upset me continuously throughout the race but I just kept running.

At the half-way point I had looked down at my right shoe and noticed blood seeping through my shoe fabric.  My toe was bleeding.  Did I lose a toenail?  I thought I lost a toenail.  I yelled over to my dad that my toe was bleeding.  He told me I had plenty of blood to spare and to keep running.  So I did.  But then my left ankle started to cramp up.  Pain radiated down my foot.  I started to run with a slight hobble.  It hurt.  I figured the pain would disappear if I kept running. So I kept running.

First, the wheelchair marathoners started to pass in the opposite direction. They were headed back towards the finish line.  Then the elite runners started passing in the opposite direction.  Dang, they were fast.  I kept looking for the lead woman.  She eventually passed by and the runners around me shouted over to her.  It was an awesome moment to see the leaders.  I had only ever seen lead marathoners on TV.  And here they were in person!  One word recap for this moment as the running nerd that I am: AWESOME!

I passed the medical tent with a medic who was holding up a thumbs up and a thumbs down.  I didn’t need a medic and nobody around me needed a medic so we kept going.  I started to look for Angela at this point because I needed some mid-race motivation.  A familiar face would surely make me happier.  We turned onto a bridge and ran down a hill that I knew we would have to run back up soon.  There were a lot of negative thoughts in my head at this moment.  I wasn’t having fun anymore.  Every step seemed like a nuisance.  The course made an extremely sharp turn that killed my momentum, screwed up my stride, and made my feet and legs hurt.  We started running back up the hill and back over the bridge.  I was hoping that Angela hadn’t already gone back past this part of the course.  I really needed to see a familiar face.

We weren’t even in Manayunk yet.  How much further until the turn-around-point?  It felt like an eternity.  The course took a weird turn.  I was hoping that I would still see Angela.  We were almost in Manayunk.  Finally I saw Angela! FINALLY!  I think I said “Go, Angela!” (I don’t really remember to make the direct quote) and she replied with a quick “heyyy!”  And we kept running.

I knew that two of my parents’ friends were waiting in Manayunk to cheer me on. I was hoping to see them soon too.  Then I heard their excited cheers.  I wished I was running faster but my legs weren’t moving.  My left ankle was cramping up again and I thought I kept feeling my toenail in my shoe.  I was running weirdly again.  I hadn’t looked at my watch since mile 18 and I didn’t want to check it again until the race was over.  I knew I would be disappointed in my slower pace so I refused to look at my watch when it beeped.  I also had ran out of water in my hand-held water bottle at this point so I could no longer eat the Shot Bloks I had been eating throughout the race.  I needed water to wash them down.  So I switched over to taking Gatorade at the hydration stations.  Yellow Gatorade, which I usually refuse to drink on any normal day, never tasted so good during this race.  I drank every last drop in every cup I grabbed.

Finally we were running back towards the art museum.  Only 5ish more miles to. I told myself that 5 miles was basically nothing.  I ran 5 miles for an easy run during training.  Five.  More.  Miles.  And let me tell you:  those 5 miles were the longest 5 miles of my life.  My feet weren’t moving.  My legs were heavy.  I was pretty sure I lost a toenail.  I was tired.  No…I was exhausted.

At miles 20 and 23 there were people handing out cups of beer.  It smelled like beer.  I hate the smell of beer.

finish
finishing stretch

The finish line seemed like an eternity away.  Where the heck was the art museum?  Where the heck were the crowds?  The only thing I wanted was to sit down and to get the emergency blanket that someone would wrap around me at the finish line.  I completely forgot that I would get a medal.  I just wanted that blanket.  I wanted to be warm.

Then I heard my parents yelling and I finally saw the finish line.  My feet definitely weren’t lifting off the ground. Every muscle in my legs were telling me to stop and walk.  I just wanted to be done.

Then I saw the mayor of Philadelphia with his hand outstretched for a high five.  I think I tried high-fiving him but I ended up hitting some guy that was sprinting towards the finish line.  My feet stopped once I crossed that finish line.  I’m not sure how my legs didn’t crumble from underneath me.  It surely felt like they didn’t want to hold me up anymore.

I was given a medal from a kind volunteer.  I also heard someone yell my name and turned to see that it was a runner I knew from the running club I am a member of.  I tried my best to muster up energy to acknowledge her excitement and I don’t really remember how I responded.  I was definitely delusional at this point.  That’s when I remembered I didn’t turn off my watch.  So I stopped my watch and saved my run.  The race was over.

Another kind volunteer wrapped that emergency blanket around me.  It was so warm.  I just wanted to sit down and huddle underneath this blanket.  But I had to walk through the end of the finish line chute.  There was food – I grabbed 3 packets of peanut butter, a random bag of chips, and an apple juice.  This is all I could muster up the energy to grab.  The finishing chute was at least a half mile long.  And even if it wasn’t a half mile, it felt like it.  I passed like 10 UPS trucks that had runners’ gear bags in them.  I just kept walking at a turtle’s pace.  Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.

marathon finishI had no idea how I was going to find my family.  We didn’t make any plans to meet up anywhere.  I just needed to sit.  Finally I got to the end of the chute.  I kept walking delusionally.  I had no idea where to go. I dropped my food that I had grabbed to the ground and resisted sitting down.  My family would never find me if I sat.  Luckily I saw my mom within 2 minutes and tried calling over to her.  She eventually heard me – thank goodness because there was no way I could go chasing after her.  She came over and helped me sit down.  I was shivering, I was exhausted, and I wanted to sit forever.  My dad then found us but stood on the opposite side of the guardrail.  My parents forced me to put on a pull-over running sweatshirt.  I just wanted to sit forever but I was shivering.  Within 4 minutes they told me to stand up so we could go back to our car.  A woman who was passing by helped my mom lift me up.  My mom took a picture of me with my medal, emergency blanket, and sign that she made.  I tried smiling and I thought I was smiling but the picture looks like I’m miserable.  You can decide.

Luckily the car was only one block away from where we were.  I hobbled slowly towards the car.  It probably took me 10 minutes to walk a quarter mile.  But then I got in the car and it was warm because the heat was blasting.  I didn’t complain.  I tried to eat some peanut butter crackers but I wasn’t even hungry.

When I got home I just wanted to take a hot shower.  I finally took my shoes and socks off.  I expected to only have 9 toenails.  Luckily, and thankfully, I still had all 10.  My toes just rubbed against each other which had caused them to bleed.  I got in the shower.  It was so warm.

My stomach started to hurt.  I didn’t want food.  I also didn’t want to throw up.  I ate 4 Ritz crackers and drank some hot chocolate.  I wanted to sleep.  So I curled up in bed and tried answering the 15 texts that were on my phone from various friends and family members who had tracked my race.  Then I fell asleep for 2.5 hours.  I woke up and still felt tired and I had a horrible headache.  I diagnosed myself with dehydration.  Luckily, my mommom had given my a bottle of chocolate milk 2 days before my race so I drank the entire thing to refuel and rehydrate.  I then forced myself to drink water.  I watched TV and started to fall asleep again.  Then my mom made pancakes.  I still wasn’t hungry.  I ate 3 pancakes.  I watched more TV and posted the half-smiling picture of myself on Facebook.  Then I talked to John for an hour to tell him all about my day.  I had planned on going to bed by 9 but we ended up talking until almost 10.  Then I went to bed.

Looking back on this race, it doesn’t seem like I even ran for a continuous 3 hours, 46 minutes, and 24 seconds.  It doesn’t seem like I ran 26.2 miles.  It just seems like a bunch of back-to-back-to-back 5ks.  It’s still hard for me to grasp that I am indeed a marathoner now.  Maybe I’m in shock or maybe I’m delusional.  Whatever it may be, on the results sheet, I am a marathoner.

The overwhelming amount of support from friends and family, near and far, has made me extremely grateful for the life I am living.  I honestly believe that without all the support, I would’ve gone insane.  During the race I knew that by getting to certain miles a text would be sent to people who were tracking me.  I wanted to make them proud.  There were some people that tracked me and I didn’t even know it.  So thank you, friends.  Thank you, family.  You’re the best!

So here I am 3 days later.  The pain in my quads is manageable.  I ran 2 miles today.  This is a continued process of recovering.  Will I do a marathon in the future?  The answer:  HECK YES.  I will sign up for another one when my body forgets the pain that it’s been through.  But for now, I will continue to be proud that I am a marathoner.  I will continue to be proud that I am a runner.

Yes, you can learn a lot about yourself in 26.2 miles.  But you can learn a lot more about yourself when you test your limits.  Never put a limit on how fast, how far, or how long you can run for.  I promise you, you can go the distance when you believe.

 

 

 

 

4th of July Weekend

4th of July Weekend

This weekend in particular seems to be worthy of its own blog post for many different reasons.  I spent the weekend surrounded by plenty of friends, runners, and family members which always makes me so happy because these are three things I value in my life the most.  I guess I should start from the beginning.

I’ll start the weekend at Thursday because this day was a particularly good day in my opinion.  I would like to thank my best friend, Brianna, for being my go-to girl for life chats and gossip.  She may not realize how important her friendship means to me even though we acknowledge its importance regularly.  Without her I would go insane.  We make sense of each other’s highs and lows.  After a stressful week between losing electric for a few days, preparing for my brother’s graduation party, and balancing work, running, and a social life, I was in much need of a few hours with her.  So thanks for making me realize that life will be okay because our chat refreshed me for the weekend ahead.  I LOVE YOU! ❤

RRCW
Me and a few other new members of the running club :]

On Thursday I also became an official member of a local running club which I am extremely grateful for.  All the people are so friendly and it makes me love the running community even more than I ever thought I could.  Everyone is just so supportive of each other.  Runners have a way of bonding with each other no matter the age, gender, or speed.  We’re all runners.  We understand each other and that’s what makes the running community so perfect.  Through this club I know that my love for running and the running community will continue to grow beyond what it’s already been so far.

On Friday (as it is our tradition), my dad and I went to pick up our race bibs for our traditional 4th of July race.  We did our pre-race run, had pasta for dinner, and set out our racing shoes and race-day outfits.  Before falling asleep I remember going over every mile of the race in my head to visualize the race course and mentally prepare for the race.  I felt ready and I knew I was ready.

Saturday morning I woke up a little before 7 oclock, ate my usual pre-race meal (toast with peanut butter and banana) and put on my “galaxy” spandex and a purple shirt (I would later change into a blue-ish tank top for the race).  We got to the race and met up with a few friends and did a 2 mile warm–up.  During this 2-mile warm-up we also found a few other friends we knew which was exciting!

starting line
Runner friends. Runner family.

The race started at 8:45 so we got to the starting line around 8:35 and claimed our spot.  This year I decided to sneak a little closer to the front so I wouldn’t have to weave through baby strollers or kids that had sprinted the first 100m of the race.  I stood about 5 rows back and could see my dad and former coach in the very front of the running field.  A four mile race was ahead of us with uphills, downhills, sprinklers, and plenty of local spectators.  And then the race official counted down “3-2-1-GO!”

The field of runners took off.  I settled in with my friend, Catherine, who also decided she was going to pace me during the race. (THANK YOU, CATHERINE, FOR BEING THE BEST RACE PACER EVER! – I LOVE YOU!)  Since the first mile is mostly flat (and maybe even slightly downhill) we went out a tad bit faster than we probably should have.  We crossed the mile marker at 6:29 and a huge hill was waiting for us a half-mile down the road.  We both knew the first mile was extremely fast but we didn’t say anything to each other.  In our heads, we just pretended we didn’t even see 6:29.

Then the hill came. This isn’t some miniature hill that only takes a total of 6 second to climb.  This is a quarter-mile hill to nowhere.  Luckily, thanks to former cross country speed workouts I was used to this hill.  This is the hill we did 800m repeats on.  This is where we all became stronger hill runners.  So I felt mentally prepared for this hill and knew that at the top I would have a 200m downhill to recover.  At the top, I took a deep breath and used the downhill to catch my breath.

Mile 2 we ran a 7:05.  This is proof that we went out too hard.  But I knew that if I could hold this pace I would still PR by a lot.  Mile 2 to mile 3 is also a slight uphill.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, this is the hill I always forget about because the only hill I “worry” about is the big hill.  This is where I really started feeling that 6:29 first mile.  I complained every so often to Catherine that I felt horrible.  But she got me to the top of the hill and got me refocused to finish the race strong.

Mile 3 was even slower than mile 2.  7:35.  Well, shoot.  I made some noise of recognition that I was dissatisfied with a 7:35 mile split.  But we had a mile to go.  A mile left to break my time from two years ago.  A mile of people lined up along the race course to cheer on runners they knew and runners they didn’t know.  And that’s what got me to the finish line.  That finally turns onto Broadway sends a rush of adrenaline.  Yes, there’s still three-quarters of a mile left when you make that final turn but you also know that the finish line is closer than it was 2 miles ago.  So Catherine and I picked it up a bit.  And then maybe some more – I don’t really remember.  We crossed over the railroad tracks which is when you have a direct view of the finish line 200m in front of you.  The end was near!

Something in my head, or in my legs, or maybe even in my heart told me to give it all I got.  To sprint.  To push beyond what I thought were my limits.  But limits don’t really exist.  Because I told myself that I wasn’t going to let the guy beside me beat me.  And he was telling himself that he wasn’t going to let me beat him.  So we sprinted.  And I pushed beyond the limits that I thought were in my head.  And I out-sprinted him.  And THANK GOODNESS I sprinted.  Because by out-sprinting that guy by miliseconds, I achieved my goal of being in the top 70.  I finished exactly 70th.

outspring
The finishing stretch!

I don’t remember seeing the finishing clock.  I forgot to stop my watch.  I was just excited I out-sprinted someone for once in my life.  I was handed a water bottle which I think I took rather drunkenly because I couldn’t catch my breath.  I finally looked at my watch and saw 28:12.  That’s a PR!  I thanked Catherine for pacing me and being awesome as usual. Teammates look out for each other and I wouldn’t have ran so well if she wasn’t by my side the whole time pushing me beyond the limits in my head.

yay running
Post-race happiness with Angela :]

I found my mom and mommom who had been anxiously waiting at the finish line.  And we cheered in all the runners we knew.  Even my five-year old “cousin” finished.  And he was smiling the whole time!  Overall, the race was an awesome experience.  My official time (since I had forgotten to stop my watch) was 28:08 which is officially a minute and 27 seconds faster than my previous best time.  This is a goal I had control over because this goal depended on my ability to push myself beyond what I thought was possible.  And I was able to do just that by focusing on the goal and believing in my strength.  Two of my other goals were to improve my 12th overall female placing from last year and be in the top 70.  Both of these goals were completely out of my control because there was no possible way for me to count 69 people ahead of me or how many females were ahead of me.  But I knew that if I ran a PR, I would have a chance of achieving both these goals.  I finished as the 7th overall female and 70th overall (out of 831 finishers).  Therefore, I achieved all my goals which is the best feeling in the world!

I ran another 2 mile cool down discussing the race and life with Angela.  This was a perfect way to end the morning and celebrate our running success for the day!  That night we had family and friends over for our traditional 4th of July BBQ. So too much food.  Lots of fun.  And some illegal fireworks.

Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays and every year brings something new.  Whether it’s new friends, old friends, family inside jokes, or just plain ‘ol new memories this weekend always makes me appreciate everything that I have in my life.  I’m extremely grateful for all my friends for always being there for me.  I love the running community that I am a part of and will continue to be a part of as it continues to expand.  I love my family more than anything and without them I wouldn’t be the person I am today.  And I have a love for this country and my freedom to make all these memories.

I hope everyone had a safe and memorable 4th of July weekend!  Until next year, folks!

Throwback Thursday – Traditional 4th of July Race

Throwback Thursday – Traditional 4th of July Race

Since 4th of July is a mere two days away, I decided I should make a post about the traditional 4 mile 4th of July race that I have raced a total of six times.  My dad has been running this race since it started 34 years ago.  He has ran every race except for a few due to either extreme heat (the race went on but he opted to not race) and crazy summer storms. My uncle on the other hand, has indeed ran every race since it started – I think that’s quite an accomplishment and I applaud him for it!  I actually raced in this local premier running race in 1997 (if not before then) – when I was a mere 3 years old.  No, I didn’t run.  My dad pushed me in the running stroller.  And we have pictures to prove it! (see below)

This isn’t a walk-in-the-park 4 mile race.  Mile 2 is basically one giant hill.  And if you go out too hard on the first mile, this hill will destroy every ounce of energy you have in the tank.  And mile 3 is just a continuous gradual incline.  I always picture mile 3 as relatively flat because I usually only mentally prepare myself for mile 2’s huge hill.  But every year, (it never fails), I get to mile 3 and instantly remember that, yes, this straight road is a gradual incline to the next turn.  What’s great about this race is that local residents set up sprinklers and water tables for us runners to cool off with. And 4th of July never fails to be a scorcher so I’m always running through the sprinklers to cool off and dumping cups of water on my head to refocus.  I believe these little qualities make this race special and that’s why I look forward to it every year.

I also love this race because a lot of family and friends also participate in it.  Every year the amount of people I know in this race continues to grow.  It also has become somewhat of a social event because of this.  I absolutely love 4th of July morning because of this race and it gives me something to look forward to to start my day off right!

I found all my previous finishing times and places which have shown significant improvement since I started running this race in 2008.  Let’s take a walk run down memory lane.

2008 – time: 41:24, 178th overall female, 510th overall runner (10:21/mile pace) (yes, I was as slow as a turtle back in the day)

2009 – time: 35:24, 86th overall female, 348th overall runner (average 8:51/mile pace) (that was a 6 minute PR!)

pitman 2009
2009 – my neighbor (Brooke), my brother (Michael) and I at the starting line…I think we planned to all match

2010 – I didn’t race this year because the race was moved to July 5th and I had to complete my Behind-the-Wheel driving lessons to get my permit on the same day…I was disappointed!

2011 – time: 32:30, 39th overall female, 204th overall runner (average 8:07/mile pace) (2 minute, 54 second PR)

pitman 2011
2011- Post-race picture of me, my brother, my dad, my uncle (his 30th straight year running the race) and my aunt.

2012 – time: 30:07, 14th overall female, 103rd overall runner (average 7:31/mile pace) (2 minute and 23 second PR) (side story: this is the year that I almost threw-up my breakfast in the finishing corral…oops)

2013 – time: 29:35, 13th overall female, 97th overall runner (average 7:23/mile pace) (32 second PR)

(side story: this is the year that I almost passed out after the race; I think I was on the verge of heat exhaustion because I was shaky, light-headed, and I felt cold even though it was 90 degrees out…thanks to Angela’s mom (who also happens to be a nurse) I was properly taken care of and I am forever grateful for that!…I ended up throwing up about 45 minutes after I finished the race…but racing hard was sooo worth the aftermath!)

pitman 2013
2013 – starting line picture of my coach (Angela), me, and my lovely teammate (Catherine)..surrounded by greatness!

2014 – the course was slightly altered due to construction so the race ended up being 4.3 miles instead of 4 miles.

time: 30:42, 12th overall female, 83rd overall runner (average 7:08/mile pace) (mathematically speaking, if the course was the accurate 4 mile course I had ran so many time before, I would’ve ran a 28:33 and PR’d by 1 minute and 2 seconds…BUT the course was different so it doesn’t count!)

pitman 2014
2014 pre-race picture with my dad on the left and a finish line picture of us in 1997 on the right

So in conclusion, if you couldn’t keep up with all my number-crunching, I finished my first 4 mile 4th of July race in 2008 in 41:24.  Two years ago, in 2013, I finished the same course in 29:35.  That’s an 11 minute and 49 second difference. That shows that hard work truly does pay off and I encourage everyone to believe in their abilities to be faster, to work towards that PR, and have lots of fun along the way!

This year, I haven’t done much except for endurance runs so I’m not expecting a huge PR but I do hope to run faster than the 29:35 I ran 2 years ago.  The course is back to it’s traditional route so it will be a fair playing field for an attempt at a PR.  A few days ago on a training run, my dad and I ran our 3rd mile in 6:54 so I’m confident that I have some kind of speed left in me.  I also hope to improve my 12th overall female finish from last year. It would be awesome to be in the top 70 of the race.

I’m confident in my ability to push harder, longer, and faster this year.

I’m focused on the race & I know what the course has to offer.

And I can’t wait to see old and new friends at the race participating in yet another traditional 4th of July race!

Happy 4th of July, runners!  May you celebrate with a race, run, or some refreshing drinks and tasty food – or all of the above!

Learning to Love Your “Imperfect” Running Body

Learning to Love Your “Imperfect” Running Body

For the month of June, my Believe journal have been focused on body image – a topic all too familiar with many runners.  It has taken me the entire month to come up with the perfect way to present a blog post about this sensitive topic, and I honestly don’t believe that there is a perfect way to discuss it.  Why?  Because “perfect” doesn’t exist. Instead, we must all focus on accepting our “imperfect perfections”.  There is not a single person in this world that has the “ideal” body type we see on magazines, the “flawless” skin disguised by make-up, the beautifully chiseled muscles of our athletic idols, or the frizz-less hair of celebrities.  Instead, we are made up of many unique body traits that make us individuals – our uniquely shaped extremities, our natural skin, our free-flying hair style, and our uniquely developed muscles.  This is who we are.  This is who YOU are.

As runners, it has been instilled in our mind that the best runners are the thinnest, the ones with just the right amount of muscle, and the ones who still look flawless after a race.  But is that realistic?  If you haven’t been to a 5k in awhile, I ask you to sign up for one now.  Go to this race and look around.  Look at the person you’re standing next to at the starting line.  Then look at the fifth person behind you.  Do you all look the same?  Do you have the same hair?  The same amount of arm muscle?  The same shaped thighs and calves?  Most likely each one of you looks different.  And this is what we need to learn to accept – there is no “perfect” body type for running.  As long as those feet come off the ground, those legs are moving forward, and that heart of yours is beating, your body is perfect for running.

While brainstorming for this post, a particular video, titled “Size 26.2”, I watched a few months ago came into my mind. If you haven’t watched the video before, I encourage you to do so because this woman reminds you of why runners should appreciate their body.  I don’t think I’ve met a runner yet that hasn’t complained about some part of their running body.  The most common complaints are:

  • “My calf muscles are too big and I can’t find a pair of jeans that fit”
  • “I have thunderthighs”
  • “My arms have no muscle”
  • “I still don’t have six-pack abs”
  • “I have a pancake butt”
  • “My boobs are basically non-existent”
  • “My feet are absolutely disgusting”
  • “My hair is always so frizzy after I run”

The list goes on.  But as mentioned in the video, these are all complaints we should be proud of.  Without those calf muscles and thunderthighs, how would you reach the finish line?  Yeah, your arms may look like chopsticks, but how would you pump those arms during the final stretch of a race if they were bulky?  And honestly, six-pack abs rely heavily on diet, not just those ab-workouts you’ve been doing religiously.  That flat butt and those nearly-invisible boobs are just your method of aerodynamics.  Your feet look disgusting because they travel hundreds of miles per year – you can replace tires on your car, but you can’t replace your toes!  If your hair is flawless after a run, you must have some seriously strong hair product keeping those fly-aways from (yup, you guessed it) flying away.

As we critique our “imperfections”, we need to be reminded that without those “imperfections” we wouldn’t be runners.  And not every runner has the same body image “imperfections”.  Some runners have long legs.  Some are short and stocky.  Some have broader shoulders.  Some wear their hair in a ponytail.  Others prefer to keep their hair down. Some runners like to run in sports bras.  Some runners like to run without socks.  Jeez, some runners don’t even run with shoes!  So what are we even comparing ourselves to if every runner looks different?  How can we come up with this image of the “perfect runner” when every runner we pass by looks different?

Lastly, I’d like to comment on one other controversial topic among runners.  Eating.  I’ve met plenty of runners who say they run just so they can eat their dinner at night or drink some beer on the weekends.  They run to prevent weight gain. And this is where we get the common running quote of “I run so I can eat”.  But what if “eat” and “run” were swapped in that sentence?  I eat so I can run.  Read it again slowly:  I eat…so I can run.  I fuel my body so I can cover the mileage in my training plan.  I carbo-load so I have the energy to endure the run that lies before me.  I consume nutrients so I can finish a race with a new PR.  I eat so I can run.

So I ask you to answer this today:  What makes your body strong enough to run?

Respect your strength.

Embrace your imperfect perfections.

Be proud of your body.

Be proud of who you are.

Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are unique.  You are beautiful.  You are perfect.

And during your next race tell yourself that your legs are strong enough, fast enough, and powerful enough to bring you to that finish line.

Love your body – you only get one of them.