I need a minute to complain. So hear me out for a lil bit – just humor me on this one. There is simply not enough time in the day to do all of the physical activities I love to do. There’s not even enough days in the week to plan out a schedule that allows me to feel fully fulfilled with the workouts I do have. It’s annoying. So I’m pouting right now.
Anyone who knows me or follows this blog knows that I love to run…they also know that I run in a good number of races on a regular basis. Which is why it may seem a little weird to hear me say the following:
Races, while fun, are NOT a requirement to enjoy running.
I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of new runners within the past couple of months, and I hear such excitement (and fear) in their voices as they talk about running in this race or that race. Can I do it? What if I’m not fast enough? Or even better…new runners that get caught up in the buzz surrounding a local big race that they too sign up – perhaps a little prematurely…perhaps without thinking about giving themselves enough time to properly train. It’s exciting to be “in the number,” trust me I understand the desire to join in the masses to run that race.
But first let’s just think about something…
Races happen every year…and there are always races happening at all times of year. So if you have to sit one out because you’re either injured, can’t afford to register/travel to the race, or because you simply are not prepared…it is OK to skip it. The world will not end. You will not lose your runner card. There are plenty of runners out there who don’t enter in races at all! Runners who run just because…ya know..they like to run.
As much as I love running and as much as I love talking to you guys about running, I love my health even more. And I would rather that you out there choose to be a smart, savvy, healthy runner than one of those runners who will jump the gun and push themselves too far too fast for the simple sake of a medal or bragging rights. I’m trying to be real with you guys here. Running is a great sport, and what I love about it most is that anyone can do it and it doesn’t take a whole lot to get started. Races can be great…and while I don’t race to compete, I enter them because it is a chance to be around a bunch of other runners at the same time…all doing what we love to do. But even if I never run another race again, I would venture to say that I will still be running those trails that I love so dearly.
For those of you who are relatively new to running or are even considering getting started, I say to you to take your time and try not to get caught up in the hype about racing. It’s cool to have a race in mind as a goal – say your first 5k, but I just warn you…it can be addictive and sometimes detrimental to your wallet and your psyche if you register in race after race after race. Imagine always being in a constant state of training…every time you lace up those shoes all you can think about is the next race you have coming up. I tell you, that can be a sure fire way to kill your love of the sport…at that point you are not running for fun, but running because you have to. I mean, even elite athletes have an off season – not every event needs to be a championship game/match.
So chill out. The races will be there. As the running community continues to grow, race directors and racing promotion companies are paying attention and thinking of all kinds of new and exciting races for us to participate in. It seems like every time I turn around there’s some new race popping up and I think that’s great. More chances for runners to get together and enjoy this sport we love so much. But also, in the same vein…I didn’t get into running for races, I got into running because I loved to run. My tip for those of you seeking to participate in a race or two is to pull together your wish list…choose a few races throughout the year that you would like to run and begin to put your race calendar together. Stick to that calendar! Other races might pop up that catch your eye, and that’s ok…add it to the next year’s race and keep your focus on the races you’ve identified for the current year. Initially I went into this year with an idea to participate in about 30 races…and after rethinking that decision I reduced it to about 13. None of them are hard and fast, for the most part I’m trying to remain flexible. If I miss one of the races or decide not to do it, hey that’s ok…because race entry fees can be costly!
Whatever you choose to do, just be smart about it and think it through. Don’t let peer pressure or the excitement of it all blind you into making some less than smart decisions when it comes to entering into races.
Moderation is key.
Oh what a year it has been! Let’s do a quick recap of the year, shall we?
In 2012, I…
- Ran 620.2 miles
- Spent 151 hrs 57 min 39 sec running/walking
- Burned 87,179 calories
- Had 135 recorded runs
- Ran in 11 races
- Completed my 1st Half Marathon…followed by 2 more Halfs AND my 1st Marathon
- Gained about 13 lbs (yea…I know, right? blah!)
- Hit the 100th post mark on the blog (woot!!)
This past year has seen me continue to grow as a runner and blogger, as I’ve surpassed what was done in 2011. My expectations for 2013 are to continue to grow the blog and to hit some, if not all of the goals below:
- Run in 30 races
- Complete 13 half marathons
- Become a Half Fanatic
- Hit the 800 mile/year mark
- Break out of my 13:30 – 14:00 min/mile average pace and into a 12:30 – 13:00 min/mile avg pace
- Lose about 50 lbs
- Rematch with the Marine Corp Marathon
- Complete at least one Run-a-thon. Presently I’ve been persuaded to do the Janathon with my buddy Once & Future Runner.
I’m looking forward to 2013 and all the changes it will surely bring. Here’s to a healthy and happy New Year for all of you!
I know it’s been a LONG time since my last post, but a lot has been going on – not particularly good stuff, but stuff nonetheless. Work has been crazy, I’ve been super stressed, and life all around has been leaving these lovely large boot marks in my back. Yea…it’s been like that. Between not getting enough sleep, getting next to no exercise, and putting all the yummy but yucky foods in my mouth I’ve managed to pack on the pounds.
Right now I have gained about 15 lbs in the past 2 weeks alone and I have zero doubt as to how it got to be this bad…
So, let’s talk about stress/emotional eating…it is only too easy to go to that favorite treat or fast food joint when the day has been tough or something is bothering you. In our minds, those few seconds of pleasure we get from indulging will somehow make the misery go away. The escapism doesn’t help though…it really does more harm than anything else. Take myself for example…I’ve been so busy/stressed from work that I have no energy to do the things I love to do…the things that coincidentally are healthy for me. Soooooo I’ve been spending most of my time at McDonald’s and Auntie Annes…like, way too much time there, and it is most assuredly showing. I am getting so few (if any) of the nutrients that my body needs to function, that on top of the stress and exhaustion from work, I’m not getting any kind of energy boost from the foods I’m eating.
Silly girl that I am.
It’s funny when you know better, yet you still behave in the same non-productive pattern. I know what’s been going on with me…I know why it’s been happening.
And I know how to reverse it.
That’s the lovely thing about changing our habits – it can really happen whenever we decide to take that first step. My first step has been to start a cleanse. I went to GNC today and got some cleansing (read: laxative) tea to get some of this crap out of my system (literally, lol – sorry). Bit by bit I’m going to have to forge some time for my exercise routine. I know I’m not going to be able to get out there and run 10 miles right of the back, but I figure I’ll take an easy 3 miles a few times a week to get my cardio back up to snuff. Then I’m going to have to get this eating thing back on track. Realistically speaking, that might prove a bit of a challenge…and by challenge I mean it will take more of my time and some advance planning, but it’s gotta be done because that’s how it should be anyway. When I get to the point where I can eat on the go and still make healthy choices…that will be a day of days. But for now? We plan. 🙂
My objective is simple enough: Get myself back into shape, and lose all this extra stress weight that I’ve put on.
Once I’m back to that baseline level, I’m going to just keep going towards I reach a new level and eventually my ultimate goal. I’ve been playing around when it comes to my consistency in working towards that goal. I think I’ve had enough of the back and forth, up and down. I’m giving myself until August 1st to hit my goal. I hate the idea of having a ‘goal weight,’ because a couple of years ago when I first started on the journey I knew I wanted to be healthy – regardless of what weight that was. And I found that even when I hit what I thought would be a cool weight for myself, I was surprised to see that I could go further – I just didn’t. I’m not going to say what the numerical weight will be, but suffice to say that the plan itself is to see what I would look like 50+ lbs lighter. Maybe I’ll like it…maybe I’ll love it…maybe I won’t. But I won’t know until I stop the unhealthy patterns that I’ve recently fallen back into.
Why wait until a New Year to make a change that can start right now?
And so it begins.
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Yesterday I stepped up to the plate to take on the Marine Corp Marathon. 26.2 miles through VA into DC and back again. And it is with some rather bittersweet feelings that I am writing this post.
I won’t give a mile by mile recap, but I will simply say this…running this race was the singular most difficult thing I have ever done. Physically, mentally, and emotionally I was just tapped out. I felt like I really put myself through the ringer in running this race. And the icing on the cake?
Technically, I didn’t even finish.
Did I cross the finish line? Yes.
Did I get a finisher’s medal? Yes.
But I did not run 26.2 miles. I ran 23.2. What wound up happening was rather simple – I was moving too slow to be able to keep up with the course time limit.
Right after I hit mile 17 they were going to re-open the roads. Instead of the sweep van coming to get us stragglers, the Marines directed us to a shortcut that allowed us to catch up with folks at mile 20 and cross the 14th st bridge in time to finish with everyone else. So, that’s what I did. And I finished the race with a strange feeling…one that still kinda sits with me. I feel like I didn’t earn the medal…that I didn’t finish a marathon, because in all actuality I didn’t. I wouldn’t have been able to within the mandated time frame given. It’s hard for me now to even look at photos of get the praise and admiration from friends and family about yesterday because I don’t think I deserve it. I set a goal, and I failed at accomplishing it. Yes, the 26.2 got me good…but in spite of not being able to finish the way I wanted, I will say that I learned a lot about myself, running, and other people yesterday.
I have such respect and admiration for those who run marathons. I always have, but now as one who gave it a shot herself…it is a daunting task to cover that many miles. It takes a lot of heart, guts, and physical ability to be able to conquer 26.2. Now having been in a marathon, I can say with certainty that I am in no way interested in running for that length of time (my unofficial time was 6:51:09). I love running, believe me I do, but I have zero interest in running for that long. If you were to ask me yesterday, would I ever participate in a marathon again I would have given you a resounding NO. But really, what I am saying is that I would never want to be running for that long of an amount of time again. As I continue to run, I am sure I will continue to improve, and should I ever reach the point where my half marathon time is somewhere close to the 2 hr mark, then yes, I would be open to the idea of attempting a marathon again. Running for about 4.5 – 5 hrs doesn’t bother me that much…but yesterday I learned that anything beyond that is beyond anything I am willing to mentally tolerate.
A marathon can be a very lonely race to run, especially if you are a back of the pack kinda runner. There weren’t many people out to cheer for us slow pokes as we made our way through the race. I didn’t have family in the stands to cheer for me or waiting for me at the finish line. And even the finish line itself was being disassembled as I made my way across it. But…strangely enough, yesterday I felt as though I was never alone at any point during that race. I truly believe that sometimes people can be angels too…and that sometimes as we go through various things in life you have to keep an eye out for the angels that tend to cross your path. At several points throughout my run yesterday I felt like quitting and giving up. And at those times an angel met me.
The first one’s name was Leigh and she was a participant who, like myself was experiencing some serious leg pains very early on in the race. I slowed my run down to walk with her and talk to her about races she’s run in the past, where we were both from, and just regular chit chat. Just when I was beginning to really feel alone – there she was. We walked for about 2-3 miles together before her leg pain got the best of her and she had to seek care at a medical aid station.
The next angel that crossed my path was actually one of my lovely blog readers and fellow BGR sisters. I didn’t get her name, but she knew mine and shouted out to me as I was trudging along. Her timing was so divinely perfect, because at that moment I really needed some kind of encouragement, so much so that I had to stop running and go give her a hug. And to that woman, if you’re reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there to encourage runners like me on. It really meant a lot.
Shortly after that I met another angel whose name I didn’t get. She was keeping a mean walking pace, so mean that it was hard for me to keep up with her. With her I was able to talk a little about why I run and what got me into running in the first place. It was nice to be able to share that with someone, and talking about it aloud really helped to remind myself of why I was there in the first place. Eventually she got ahead of me, but I was very thankful of the reminder that came my way via meeting her.
Then there was the elderly gentleman I met along mile 16 or so. We were hobbling together, side by side, keeping one another company. Even when I would start to fall behind a little, he would look back to see if I was there – that gave me all the more reason to dig a little deeper and stay with him. We kept up with each other through the rest of mile 16 through 17, and even the redirection to get to the bridge. I stayed with him for a good while until I caught a second wind and began to tear across the bridge. Having a buddy to navigate through the course when there was no clear direction really helped me to feel grounded and kept me from panicking or falling into despair. And for that I am thankful.
In the last 2 miles…when I really had no run left in me…as I was cursing the idea of a marathon, and in immense pain, I came across an angel named Nancy. A local woman form the area who has used running to transform her life, much like I am trying to do, she and I conversed about our love for running and the challenges that sometimes come from making a positive lifestyle change when those around you are not the most supportive. Talking to her made me feel very thankful for the people that I have in my life – all of whom have celebrated and congratulated and otherwise support me in my efforts to be a better me. It also made me thankful to know that I have so many personal angels in my life on a daily basis that push and challenge me to continue to do more and go further, like the ladies of my running group Black Girls Run, who were also angels all along the course at much needed points to encourage and support me as I tried my hardest to push through. *smile*
Then, in between meeting all of those great people…I had an outpouring of support, love, and encouragement coming by way of FaceBook, text messages, and phone calls. From friends, family, my awesome readers, and other members of the running community. Whenever I was feeling alone…whenever I started to feel a little down…or began to tear up…seeing those messages from all of you kept me going. You were all my life lines, and I am truly humbled by the amount of love and support I have found coming from all of you.
Yesterday was hard…one of the hardest things I have ever done. But it was so beautiful and I feel so very much blessed to know that in all things we are never alone. There is never a time when you have to walk (or run) the marathon that is life by yourself. Be ever on the lookout for the smallest of blessings that may come your way in the form of other people. The Marine Corps Marathon was as much a spiritual experience for me as it was a physical one. And I will proudly sport the 26.2 bumper sticker on my car and the medal on my wall as a reminder that…sometimes in life we are faced with obstacles that seem greater than us, but the amazing thing about it all is that we are and will always be supported, uplifted, and encouraged by the Divine.
And to always be on the lookout for the angels in our midst.
Till next time. 🙂
I almost stayed in bed today.
I almost ran by myself, opting to run in solitude for what I expected was a hard run at a slow pace.
I almost stopped at mile 1.6.
I almost called it quits when I saw those hills.
I almost decided not to cross that big long bridge.
I almost cried at mile 6.
I almost let the pain, shame, and embarrassment of being so out of practice with running prevent me from going just a few more steps.
I almost cheated myself out of 8 miles.
And I’m glad that none of those “almosts” became realities.
Because today I almost forgot how effing great it feels to hurt, to strive, to push, to persevere, and to run.
And what a monumental loss that would have been.
Here’s to finding your limits…and pushing past them.
Happy running! 🙂