I did it! This past Thanksgiving Day I was able to accomplish a goal I’ve had for a really long time. And I know some people might wonder why write a post about my experience when it really all it entitles is running… well, keep on reading because I promise is so much more than that!
I mentioned I’ve had this goal for a while, but how long exactly that is? Well, I signed up for my first half marathon about 6 years ago. Every year since then, I have “planned” to complete a half marathon and every year since, I’ve created excuses to push my goal to the next year. Hey, I am only human! I allowed too many excuses to prevent myself from preparing for it because it was easier to give up. Training for a long run, half or full marathon, takes a lot of time. I find myself short of time often and then I would prioritize other things. I am not saying it is okay to push your goals because we all get busy, but that is just how it turned out for me.
What I really want to share with you about are the actual challenges I faced preparing for the race and things that happened the day of. My hope is that there is at least one person out there who would benefit from reading this. One can always hope, right?!
Training Time. To prepare for my half I used the Nike Run Club app. The greatest thing for me about using this app is that you can get a personalized plan for your running goals. For my race I started training about 3 months prior to the race date so I had enough time to build endurance and get used to running. Oh yes, I kinda hated running until then. You want to give yourself enough time to train and in my case it was critical because the more time you allow before the race, the more time you have to spread those miles to prepare. I knew I had short periods of time for running so this worked out great. During your plan customization it will ask how many days you plan to run and it builds it around that. I enjoyed the different types of runs too. It is not just a run this long or this fast, but it helps you build speed and endurance, adds recovery runs and you can link it to the other Nike Training app so you can have a few workouts to get your body strong. I did a lot of my running on a treadmill which worked with the app by updating the settings to indoor, but it does mean you need to hold your phone while running as it works with the motion of your swings. That is a tad bit sucky but I have an arm strap to hold the phone and that worked great for long runs.
Gearing up. One of the reasons why I hated running and a great excuse to quit in the past is painful shin splints. Just walking fast to catch a BART train would cause pain, so most runs before this last training will be cut short or ended up on me walking. Running on the treadmill was usually okay but the moment I hit the concrete the pain would quickly appear. Luckily for me, I am surrounded by an amazing group of fitches who have even completed multiple Ragnar challenges. I shared my struggles on my fitness community and the gals give me a few recommendations that made the greatest difference. In fact, I completed my half without pain from my shins or knees. Sure my legs were tired, but I wasn’t in pain! Here are a few things that were extremely helpful during my training and race day:
- Right Shoes. Good support is critical to avoid shin splints. I decided it was time to invest in some of that “technology” we have available now and I got me some Nike Joyride Run Flyknit and they sure made a huge difference! Before I got them I was using some Adidas that weren’t meant for running. Once I started running with these shoes, my legs felt stronger. The right support makes all the difference!
- Shin Sleeves. One of my friends suggested compression sleeves to help with the shin splints. She said compression socks and icing would help a lot. So I ordered these compression calf sleeves and they sure helped. Shin splints were no longer an issue when running on concrete. The compression sleeves sure made a huge difference.
- Right Socks. During training, I had issues when running more than 3 miles with regular socks. I had some sport socks (or at least I consider them sport) but they would move and cause shoe abrasion. A good pair or running socks help with not just shoe abrasion, but manage moisture and provide impact protection. I ordered these running socks which worked out wonderfully!
- Comfy Clothes. You would think this was an easy just wear whatever but it is actually not. The weather is much cooler during Thanksgiving so I made sure to do all my long runs during training outdoors and early in the morning. It was usually pretty cold when I left the house but by mile 1.0 you had already warmed up significantly. I tested different combinations with my workout clothes to make sure I wasn’t too hot or too cold. For me shorts felt better than leggings, and long sleeves felt better. I usually wear a hat when I work out to keep all my hair outta the way but I knew I also needed a sweat band because as you know sweat on your eyes is just not pleasant at all. Comfy clothes I think is a very personal choice but you do want to make sure your running clothes are made with technical fabrics which are both sweat-wicking and breathable.
Race Time. Now here comes the part I really want to share with you because I think it made the whole difference. You should definitely train for as long as you can so you build up the endurance and strength your body will need to finish a half marathon or a marathon. That is most certainly key to success. But there is a much important thing that needs to happen before you start racking up those miles: you have to make the commitment for it. This is so much easier said than done and a lot of it is actually mental. What do I mean by that? Well, let me explain.
Our brain in its effort to keep us safe will not easily accept anything new. It needs to first get familiar with it, get used to it. You need to perform an action or behavior multiple times so it gets physically wired into your brain. Repeat something a bunch of times ’til you brain get used to it, right? Yes! But because of that safety zone I mentioned before, your brain will resist new actions or behavior and it will actually make you quit. So don’t think you are a quitter by nature, your brain is just trying to protect you from change that, at that initial point, is not sure if it will be good or bad for you. I do feel a lot better about quitting in the past with this fact, ha! And why do I bring this up now? Well, the day of the race my mind was playing tricks on me and had I not be mentally prepared for this, I would have quit then and there. Let me elaborate in this conversation with my brain.
I arrive early enough to get my bib and warm up. Walk to the start line and do some stretches. The horn goes off. I start jogging along other approx. 150+ runners. Many run past me. I am jogging at a comfortable steady pace around the lake following the course. The voice from my Nike Run app tells me I have reached 0.5 miles since starting the race. Good start. I see some people who took off running but by this point are already walking because maybe they push themselves too hard too soon. Not me, I can continue this pace much longer. I see people of all ages running past me. And it hits me…
- Me: Why am I doing this?
- Brain: Because you can! Your legs become stronger with every step. You can do this!
- Me: Of course, I can do this; I am a strong woman! … but just because I can do this, doesn’t mean I should do it, right? Like, what is the point?
- Brain: Because you’ve training for this! You racked up the miles, you built endurance, you worked on this for months and now is your time to shine!
- Me: Right! But I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. It is cold, and my car is right there, I can just go home and get in bed with my munchkies (we ran near the parking lot where I was parked). It will take me 3 hrs if I keep a decent pace. That’s a long time to be gone from home.
- Brain: You could do that and enjoy the day with your family but remember you are not doing this to prove anything to anyone. You are doing this to prove yourself just how strong you are! Remember how your body has already given you 3 healthy babies? You spent more than 3 hours in labor enduring a type of pain like no other. Sure it will be tiring to keep going for 3 hours or however long it takes you to finish but this will be a token of honor to your body which is strong and continues to become stronger by the second as you take care of it. And your babies and hubby will be proud of you, they got your back! So come on gorgeous thing, you can do this! Keep your vision in mind and keep on going!
- Me: Heck yes! I am doing this because I can, and I chose to rock it. Let’s go!
And so I did. My vision by the way was running through that finish line feeling strong and confident. I could see myself doing it and many times during training, I had to go back to that vision to push past mental blocks. That’s why vision boards work so wonderfully because when our brain can have a clear image of a goal, is no longer scary and it works on making it a reality.
So I completed my first half marathon! My goal was to do it under 3 hours and I think I did even better than this because I walked the last half mile after running into a coyote (not kidding at all!). I was so excited when the voice from the running app told me I had reached 12.75 miles, 2h 34 mins. I knew it could finish in 6 mins of jogging time. There was I going strong, trying to figure out how much longer, when from some bushes on my right said runs out a coyote. I stopped. I was about 10 feet away from the animal. It looks at me and I am looking forth and back hoping someone will soon make their way into that curve of the trail, but nothing. I was gonna run back because I had just ran past a photographer before the trail curves, but you are not supposed to turn your back on them. Thank goodness the coyote is not out to eat me. Stares at me for a few seconds and climbs up the mountain wall on my left. I know you need to make yourself appear bigger, so just in case it comes back down to eat me I run across that curve with my hands up in the air and yelling… yeah, I am not sure about that but if you need a visual I looked very much like Phoebe Buffay running except with my hands in the air. Coyotes are very common on that trail, so I was too scared to take my chances again of finding myself on another chunk of trail with no one around me but a coyote. I ran into a group of people walking as that curve of the trail took another twist and to be safe I walked behind them til I was back at the lake and I could see more people. Never a dull moment in life!
Okay it has been long enough but I sure hope this helps you if you are planning to add more running to your life or if you are having one of those brain holding you back conversations with yourself. We are capable of anything we set our mind to, don’t forget it!
Mama Bear Kim