I’m back! Did you miss me? I sure hope so! I’ve missed writing for all of you!
I’ve been struggling with how to tell this story, the reason I’ve been so quiet on here. I’m not sure if it’s the dreaded writer’s block or if it’s just that I tend to be a long-form storyteller (and prone to tangents) and I feel like there’s a lot of details I could cover to talk about this journey…
But the simple reason for why updates have been sporadic is this: I recently ran my first Half Marathon!
Those who know me in real life will understand just what a crazy feat this accomplishment turned out to be. I mean, it’s not like running 13.1 miles is the easiest thing in the world, but it is a thing that millions of people have done and will continue to do, so it’s not unachievable. For a mostly sedentary couch potato though? It still boggles me when I happen to look at my medal or come ’round the back end of my truck and my eye catches on the pink-and-white car magnet with 13.1 on it.
I FREAKING RAN A HALF MARATHON.
That’s me, in the white hat, incredulously happy that I’m about to cross the finish line!
How did it happen? Simple. At the end of 2016, I found out that I was pre-diabetic and my weight had creeped back up to my highest recorded number. I was in a really unhappy point in my life. I wasn’t self-medicating with food or hiding on my couch in the basement level of my home, but I certainly wasn’t living my healthiest life. I knew I needed to make changes, both in my diet and concerning my activity level. The first part was actually the easier to conquer of the two; I love to research and come up with a plan and menu-designing makes my little heart go all a-flutter. The second part, the activity part? I was at a loss. Ever since early adulthood, I had had an on-again-off-again relationship with the gym (and was consequently always battling weight-gain), but I’d never found a routine or program or activity even that really clicked with me. Running was just another activity I decided to try. I was inspired by friends who’d somewhat recently taken it up, and because it seemed like it was a pretty low-cost activity (or so I thought) that you could do anywhere, I figured I would give it a shot. I happen to be living in the Midwest at the time, and because both the summers and winters are pretty gnarly, I asked my deal-hunting husband to find me a low-cost treadmill to train on. I bought some sneakers. I started running.
It did NOT go well. I was slow. I was constantly out of breath. I’d get stuck for weeks on the same three days of the C25k training app. Because I was in the wrong shoes, I was injured constantly. A long, drawn out slew of dental procedures also derailed me. I had no idea how to fuel my body for this activity, and I wasn’t prepared for the ‘runger,’ or ‘running hunger.’ I was losing weight, sure, but at a snail’s pace. I wanted to throw the towel in so many times but felt guilty at the thought of doing so. I’d insisted I would use my treadmill all the time and that it would not end up an object from which clothing would hang.
And then? We decided to leave the Midwest somewhat abruptly and move back to California for BP’s job. It was a very hectic time in our lives, and we waited almost a month for our belongings to arrive. Needless to say, I wasn’t worried about running on my treadmill at this point. When it did finally arrive, it was a few more weeks before I even got the house set up and had room to get back on the wagon. Around the same time, I discovered virtual running clubs via some of my runner pals, and I was so in love with the idea—with Hogwarts Running Club, for instance, the medals offered during the year go to different charities, and they have additional ‘Direct Impact Projects’ to make the world suck just a little less. They also get participants up and running to earn the medals at their own pace, and for a novice runner like me who also wants to do #SoMuchGood, it really was a match made in heaven. Joining this group, as well as other running groups and communities, I started to learn so much! I did end up getting fitted for shoes at the end of our time in Minnesota when a friend, who was horrified to learn I was running in just plain old sneakers I got at the outlets, insisted I go to a running store and get fitted. When I started having different pains during my return to running, I asked my running pals online for advice. I then got re-fitted at a new store and found an even better-fitting shoe that has dramatically changed my running life. I started learning more about nutrition for runners, how to fuel my body properly before and after a run as well as ways to combat the dreaded ‘runger’ so as to lose/maintain weight and not gain it during serious training bouts. I learned about all sorts of recovery techniques to help keep my body in shape for the more punishing distances. I started going to races in real life, just 5k’s where they had a cool medal. Never any farther than that though.
So how does a girl who takes walk-breaks during a 5k decide to run a HALF MARATHON? Really, it comes down to options…
See, my town holds an annual race every year, The Modesto Marathon. It’s a great race for a Boston Qualifier, so it’s pretty popular for west coast runners. Offered at this race is a 5k, a half marathon, a relay-team for the half marathon, and a full marathon. I’d been wanting to run longer distances and had been scouring for a 10k to train for, but it’s just not a popular race-distance here in the valley (and surrounding cities), and it wasn’t offered at the MoMa race. And because I don’t have any local running friends, I wasn’t able to sign up for relay. That left the 5k and the half marathon (for me). I asked BP what he thought, and he was very supportive of my tackling the half. I asked my running friends what they thought—I was still pretty far out from the race date, giving myself about 5 months to prepare. (It would actually be less time because this is in October, and the race was in the beginning of March. I also, somewhat stupidly, did not factor in time to get the flu right after a very busy holiday season and an epic reunion with my college BFF.) Everyone was very positive, and my seasoned runner pals all assured me that, given my current progress, I could definitely train for a half in that amount of time. I was still very nervous about the whole idea, but I submitted my registration for the half marathon.
And then I got to work. It was an amazing experience, with highs and lows. There were plenty of times I wanted to throw the towel in. I didn’t give up though, comforted at times solely by the fact that there was a 7-hour time limit to complete the half marathon course and that walkers and novice runners were encouraged to do the half. I was determined to run as much as possible, but I did utilize the Galloway run-walk-run method to make sure I could finish at a time that would make me proud. [For the record, my goal was to finish in 3 hours or less, and I came in at 02:52:46, which makes my average pace time about 13:11 min/mile. I’m very happy with those results!]
Look at that happy gal go!
Nearly everyone in my little corner of the universe was incredibly supportive, and I realize how lucky I am to have so many folks cheering for me as I celebrated this accomplishment. To my personal cheer section reading this: I love you! Thank you so much for being there for me!
I learned so much during the whole process, so if you’re thinking about training for a half marathon, here are a few (hopefully) helpful things I learned that I think are worth passing on:
Number 1: Have a plan. Over-plan. But also be flexible.
Given that most training plans are only about 10 or 12 weeks long and I had about 20 weeks from when I registered, I figured tailoring one of those plans to suit my needs would be better than trying to cobble together multiple plans. The most important thing I learned when putting my plan into motion though? LIFE WILL HAPPEN. You will get injured, have bad days, miss runs entirely, get the flu, celebrate holidays and epic reunions. It’s helpful to pad your training schedule (if possible, obviously) to try and account for whatever life may throw at you. After the dawn of 2018, I had to be very flexible in my training schedule because I was finally coming down to the wire and had taken more time off than I had previously anticipated, even with the padding. It will be fine and work itself out. Just try to stay the course the best you can.
Number 1.5: As part of your planning, find a program/coach/app you like and experiment with a few until you find the one that works for you.
A lot of my running friends started with C25k or ‘Couch to 5k,’ and they loved it. I really liked the coaching from Jeff Galloway’s app ‘lolo Half Marathon.’ I ended up using a Hal Higdon schedule and skipped around in the Galloway app to make the distances match up. That’s just what worked for me. Find what works for you!
Number 2: Get fitted for a proper running shoe. Don’t just throw on any old sneakers. And if you’ve been fitted and have worn the same shoe for a while and you suspect it may be the culprit to some of your aches and pains, get fitted again.
I first got fitted in Minnesota. Those running shoes were definitely an upgrade, but between moving back to California and recommitting to running and losing 30 lbs at that point, I was finding that my running shoes weren’t working the best for me. I decided to get fitted again to see if the employees at the running store might be able to suggest a shoe that would be more tailored to my individual needs. I can’t believe I even waited so long! MY NEW SHOES ARE AMAZING. My first long run in them, I felt like my feet were barely touching the ground. Get good shoes. It’s definitely a greater expense than you might realize, if you’re not a runner, but they’re worth their weight in gold. Which brings me to my next point…
Number 3: Accept that running is not a cheap sport/hobby.
If you had asked me two years ago, I’d have said that running is probably one of the cheaper sports/hobbies. And you can definitely do it on a budget. But it is unwise to buy cheap running shoes (or substitute just any old sneaker) or cheap sports bras. Spend the money y’all. Also, going to races in real life means factoring in: travel expenses, race entry fees, sometimes post-race meals or entertainment, etc. It’s something you should think about budgeting for if you’re going to get into running. I also recommend registering for races ASAP. Not only does it lock you into a commitment and give you a date for goal-setting, but it’s usually cheaper as they tend to charge more the closer you get to actual race day.
Number 4: Worry about the run you’re doing that day.
You will have bad days. You will have bad runs. You will find yourself doubting the whole dang idea only a few miles into your long run, wondering how you’re going to be able to do the full 13.1 miles when you’re struggling through mile 3. Just concentrate on the task right in front of you. The worst run is the one you decide not go on. You can do it!
Number 5: Your training runs are also training opportunities for race day variables and plans.
You should NEVER bring anything to your race day experience that you haven’t tried to account for during training. So don’t wear brand new shoes, or clothes, or try out a running fuel or deviate from any usuals if possible. Of course, life will happen, and you can’t predict everything, but it helps to stick to your plan. For me, finding a mid-run fuel that I could tolerate took about 5 separate runs. It’s worth experimenting with these sort of things weeks in advance. You don’t want any distractions on your race day!
Number 6: Learn how to fuel your body and to also feed the ‘runger.’
Because I strive to live a low-carb life, I had a real bear of a time finding the proper pre- and post-run fuel. A lot of times I’d leave for a run and feel sluggish and burnt out in the first few miles because I wasn’t fueling properly. When I started introducing some good carbs back into the mix just as pre-run food, my energy increased a bunch, and the runs went much smoother.
Running hunger, or ‘runger’ is a real thing. You get done a run and get home, do a cool-down routine, foam roll, ice bath, etc. You take a shower. Then, for the rest of the day, you’re consumed by a bear of an appetite! Running long distances especially, where you’re burning 1000-1500+ calories can make it hard to lose weight while you’re training! You’re just so hungry! Believe me, I was right there. It was also very easy then to rationalize eating not-so-healthy foods because of how much I was running during training. My best advice is to LOAD UP ON VEGETABLES. Especially the green ones. It’s never a bad idea.
Number 7: Half marathon training will consume your life.
You’ll probably get kind of annoying because you’ll bring it up in conversation… A lot. To anyone with ears. But, especially in the latter part of your training, it will take up a big chunk of your day. You’ll be pretty tired at the end of the long run days. I also mostly gave up alcohol because it’s harder to run even if you’re just a wee bit dehydrated (let alone hungover). There’s a small possibility that your social life will slow down just a bit. Your laundry is going to double.
Number 8: You’ll get totally addicted to it.
And you’ll probably lose your mind and want to sign up for the next race just moments after you cross the finish line. Or maybe a few days after when your legs feel like they work again. I never thought I’d become a runner. Or at least a person who runs any farther than a 5k. I’m currently restarting my 5k training to hopefully build up speed and decrease my walking intervals. I already find myself missing those 6 and 7 mile runs—”What do you mean today’s run is only a mile? That feels barely worth getting laced up for! Let’s just go for a few more, shall we?”—and I’d say it’s pretty likely I’ll sign up for the half next year!
Have any tips you think I missed? Leave them in the comments below!
One last thing! An announcement of sorts. Now that I’m done with half-marathon adventures, I’m back on the job-hunting grind! I’ve also been pouring a lot of time and effort into building up enough content to bring APFE updates to the masses on a regular schedule. One way I’d like to do this is by having advertising on my blog but I want to go about said advertising by bringing you the movers, shakers, artists and other makers that I really believe in; things are gaining momentum but I’m still figuring out all of the kinks! In the meantime, I’ve joined Buy Me A Coffee to keep the proverbial lights on. So if you’re a fan of APFE, please consider buying me a cup of coffee, and share this site with your friends? I’ll be eternally grateful!