Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lessons in (Half) Marathons

I've run a half marathon or two... or five... or seventeen. As I've been pushing and working hard lately at maintaing training runs at race pace to ensure I'm racing my best and can achieve my goals, I've been thinking a lot about where I've come from when I first started running to where I'm at now.

Looking back at some old recaps, it's pretty mind-blowing to see how far I've come, from that first half all the way up until Fontana this past June. There's been a lot of miles, a lot of shoes, a lot of crying (that's not surprising), and a lot of things I've done that I never thought I would. I've posted before a list about things running teaches you in life, and after recapping so many of these races, it's amazing how many have come to fruition for real.

You can do anything you put your mind to.
I mean this, whole-heartedly, and it's truly not just about running. You want to ride a century? You want to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail? You want to see all 50 states before you're 30? Go for it, put your mind to it, and you'll do it.

I set out to run a half. I set a time goal (2:20), but really just wanted to see that I could do it. I trained for about three months, got angry at Nike+ because it sucked and its distances were far from accurate, but I did it. Callaway Gardens was a gorgeous half marathon and I'm so glad I chose to do it - a small race, but it made my first big race all that much more exciting! I did it - with 8 seconds to spare. I put my mind to it, I did it.
Half marathoner!
Stubborness can pay off (sometimes). 
I'm stubborn. I acknowledge that fact. When I ran ZOOMA (#2), I ate asphalt at Mile 4. Especially since this was only my second half, this was particularly hard on my confidence. I got up, shook it off, because that's what I would have done as a soccer player too, in a past life. I was bleeding, and the road rash on my knee stung every time I moved, but damnit, I was going to do this.

At Mile 10, the paramedic asked if I wanted to stop, and I said there was no way, but that I'd see him at the finish to get cleaned up, and sure enough, I did. I wasn't going to let some road rash and bloody fingers stop me from getting to the end. To this date, there really hasn't been anything that has stopped me, and for that, I am grateful.

Note: Don't always do as I do. Sometimes, there are medical needs and times your body will make you stop. Listen to your body, know your body, and if it's appropriate and necessary to stop, stop.
Half #2, Georgia race #7.
Anything with friends makes the adventure worth it.
Sub-lesson: helping others achieve their goals is just as great as achieving your own.

Heather signed up for Wine and Dine (#5) as her first half, nearly six months in advance. For me, it was third in a streak of what turned into four halfs in a span of just 9 weeks. Her goal: finish. My goal: a) have fun and b) get Heather across that final timing mat. Both goals were achieved, Heather made it. Despite it being my worst half marathon time ever, helping my friend get to the end and see her goal come to life was beyond worth it. I'd never felt that sore the next morning, but every time I go back and look at my first (and currently, only) Disney race, I get this stupid big smile and remember what it was all about.

The double kicker to this was meeting a long-time online blogger friend, Alicia. On multiple blogging platforms since 2002, it was high time I got to meet her and run with her at the same time. An amazing weekend getting to meet a longtime friend!

Since then, adventures with friends have taken me to DC, Vegas, Phoenix, and in plenty of other non-half running adventures. It's not always about you, but about everyone else you get to run with!
Alicia, me, Buzz, Heather.
Sometimes you just need to run. 
Run for the sake of running. After a particularly horrible race and experience at Rock 'n Roll Las Vegas (#11), I wanted to run Arizona (#13) freely. No time, no pressure, no out-of-reach goals for the lack of training I'd had under my belt at that point. And I ran.

PF Chang's sponsors a team of runners to run as the dragon - you beat them, you get a prize. I saw them at Mile 5, passed them at Mile 6, and never saw them again. I still don't know what the prize is, but the sheer goofiness of the endeavor, the kick-ass-ness of their support tent at Mile 9, and the overall crowd support of the entire race, made me remember why I love racing and running. It's supposed to be freeing, it's supposed to be enjoyable, and sometimes you just need to have a race to remind you of that. Side note: I wore a 2:15 pace band, just for kicks. Finish time, 2:13. Ecstatic.

Desert Double Down done! 
It's not always going to go as planned. 
Fact. And like all lessons, this is far from just about running. My goal, race magic #10, was the inaugural Nike Women's DC race. Fast, flat course and in the height of my training with the Athens Road Runners. I was ready. This race was mine.

I was knocking the run out of the park - splits perfect, timing perfect, all up until Mile 7 when my shoes rubbed so hard on my ankle I couldn't take anymore and stopped for 90 seconds at the first aid tent to get wrapped up. 93 seconds is what I missed my goal time by, all for a bandaid. I was crushed. I hobbled to first aid because I didn't want to face anyone yet, waited for my sister to come to me, and at least reveled in my prett new Tiffany's necklace. And cried. And it took a long time to get over it, re-focus, celebrate a monster PR, and find the energy and motivation to move forward and find a new goal race.
At least the blue box will always cheer you up. 
You are so much more capable than you think.
I think this is one of the best things I've gotten out of running - goals have been missed, goals have been made, but ultimately it really teaches you so much more about seeing what you're made of. When I won an entry to the Allstate Atlanta 13.1, I hadn't run a half in almost six months, since that ego-crushing ZOOMA race. I was just a week into marathon training and had scheduled another half for just two weeks after, so wanted to go easy at this one and see what I could handle.

I remember about about Mile 10, I passed the 2:15 group, amazed an in awe, and realized that that was what I was made of. I never saw them again, and went on to PR by just over 6 minutes. I ran solid at that race, walking only once at Mile 12, and ran to push myself to see what I could do. (And then I PRed again two weeks later). It's when you allow yourself to get there that you'll see what you're made of - usually more than you think.

There are so many more things I know I've gotten from this sport - and I'd probably take another five posts to tell you, but I think these are the biggest. Now almost 17 half marathons in, I know I'm tougher than I think, more capable than I realize, and more determined than ever.

What lessons have half marathons taught you?

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