I have always been somewhat active - Women's Freestyle wrestling as a young adult, boxing, tried out Krav Maga and gym rat at least five times a week. But I had a love/hate relationship with running. Knee injury that ended my wrestling career, a bunion on my right foot that required a $300 customized insole from a podiatrist and just general break down that one might feel at the ripe old age of 37.
But something just stirred inside and I question myself - "what is really stopping me?"
I put a plan in motion - I gave myself three months to train, got new shoes, stopped wearing my insoles (they made my feet hurt when I ran) and made a date at my old community college track where I use to run. I struggled the first two miles but then I ran the third easily. The next week I ran 3.5 miles pretty effortlessly. I soon discovered that running on a track is pretty boring - I might as well just hop on a treadmill. So I ditched the gym on Mondays and ran from the famous Ferry Building along the Embarcadero to AT&T Ballpark and back to my office. This run is a little over 3 miles round trip but depending on how sassy you are feeling you and how much time you have during your lunch break you can easily stretch it to 4 or even 5 miles.
Plus, you have an awesome view of the bay and Bay Bridge:
Okay this became easy enough for me to run. I then decide to take on another nagging challenge - Lake Merced, SF. Click here for map. It's roughly 4.5 miles, I think. I was always intimidate by this lake. My alma mater, SF State University is nearby and I never thought to run or even walk around it. What was I really intimidated by? As expected the first two miles were tough but by mile three, I began to get control of my lungs and my breathing wasn't as heavy...I began to enjoy it. Also, Beastie Boys on an iPod or Pandora station helps the situation. The first month of training closed and I found comfort running 4.5 miles. Word travels to my serious running co-workers, they encourage me, give tips and the make sure I follow through with my running goals. Now that they knew I was running a half-marathon, I am now held accountable for my actions. I don't want to punk out and look like a cowardly jerk if I pulled out.
Month 2 of training...goal - try increasing the next time I run around Lake Merced. Ugh, first obstacle - nagging pain in my right hip knocks me off the course. I felt it as I ran but I wanted to push through it - I thought it would just go away but as I completed the course and thinking I could run a little further. A pain so sharp stopped me from taking another step. DAMN...not again...a year ago my right foot stopped me from wanting to train just to run the 7 mile Bay 2 Breakers annual run. I'm out the next week and a half trying to rest my hip. I don't stop working out - I begin cross training on the elliptical machine and stationary bike. I over come my fear or re-injuring myself by doing running/walking intervals on the treadmill. I find myself back at the lake the following week steadily running a solid 4.5 miles again. I even begin to add on for the first time by running an extra half mile. I discover running with someone else that runs better than you is very helpful - it adds a bit of challenge to keep up. My 10:30 mile goes down to a 9:57 when I run with my buddy, Aaron, who is also part of my theater running group. I also forget to mention another running teammate, Nina, who also ran for the first time. She's a new mother and another inspiration to me. I end this month by running six miles successfully. I am also addicted to tracking every run on the Run Keeper app. It keeps me accountable for my progress and it gives me an estimate of how many calories I burned.
Month 3 begins with me getting nervous and anxious. I begin doubting myself again and really wondering if I can really run 13.1 miles without stopping. Also, everyone around me keep assuring me that it's really okay to stop and walk if I need to. I really am my worst enemy and I tell myself that I can keep running and to stop only when I feel like I'm going to collapse or bust hip - well which ever happens first. I've also increased my running frequency by now - instead of running twice a week, I am now running three times. I keep doing yoga two times a week for flexibility, also to help with my breathing and focus. I try to sneak in a weight session as well. I'm feeling awesome, however my diet is still the same. Needless to say, I don't lose a whole lot of weight but maintain where I am and I finally accept it. Sorry, but I like to eat and drink! My co-worker, Natalie is another great support. She's perky every time I talk to her and she's also running - the FULL 26 MILES! She tells me that if I am going to do another long run before the big day to do it two weeks before. So I run eight miles for the first time with my running buddy, Aaron. We run around the lake twice, well actually I was only going to run 6 miles but I'm feeling great after the first go around and what do you know - I'm feeling pretty awesome after 5 miles so I keep going. Until I reach the 7th mile - I slow down and I stop for the very first time. I talk myself out of it and 5 minutes later I am running again. Albeit, slower but at least I'm running again. The following weekend I attempt running around the lake twice again and I do it. I don't stop running till I reach 9 miles. I feel stronger and it's wonderful! The feeling of completing a full 9 miles non stop is elating, I can only imagine what it feels like to run the full 13.1 without stopping.
The week before the marathon, I am getting more confident in myself. I run twice and they're easy 4 miles. It wasn't that long ago that I feared running around that lake. I begin to get a scratchy throat and I am pissed. There's no way that I'm getting sick now - I buy a box of Cold-eeze and take them religiously. I still have to pick up my running bib and and info at a marathon expo. I have something I secretly always wanted - a bib number - #56451. I am never throwing this away! The Cold-eeze have also worked - my scratchy throat is no more.
Saturday before the race, I don't have any time to freak out - I am hosting my daughter's 4th birthday party at the park and my husband's Stepmother is in town. I am running around this party making sure it goes off without a hitch. Her friends, their parents, my friends and family all enjoy themselves. Most importantly, my daughter has a blast! The party is over and am now consumed by nervous energy but the highlight of that evening - CARB LOADING! I make my favorite fatty Fettuccine Carbonara and I eat 2 1/2 bowls shamelessly. I sleep well but I keep waking up early in fear that the alarm on my phone doesn't come on. I get up before the alarm and I make myself a small cup of coffee, a small egg white soft taco and a glass of water. Yes, all this liquid becomes my downfall later in the marathon.
Here I am so eager to start running:
My husband drops me off and it is quite a scene but I am pumped and happy to know that he and our daughter will be there to see me cross the finish line. I see my friend Nina and we are both nervous and excited. We are in the very last wave and we wait for our turn through the gate. And we're off. At first I turn on my trusty Run Keeper app to help me track my run time to keep me on pace but the problem with this app is that it's like a GPS tracking device and it sucks up a lot of battery. I also have my pandora station on so I have music to listen to. I am tortured the first five miles of this run - it's easy but I'm still running around Golden Gate park. I feel like I'm never going to get out. Finally by mile 6 I'm on the sidewalk and I'm running through the Haight/Ashbury neighborhood. I check my phone and I watch the batter slowly die and as I get to 20% left I have to make a decision what to cut off - I turn off my Run Keeper. At this point, I throw away my desire to push myself to the limit by running faster and I slow down and just enjoy the moment. When I get down to 15% battery power, I turn off my music and really take in the sight and sounds of side walk spectators. They cheer us on and I found them to be an integral part of running this marathon - my inner Olympic athlete comes out. I make it past mile 7 and I have to pee badly. I find the next porta potty, bite my pride, stop and pee. I ignore the fact that I am killing time, do what I have to do and just go right back to it. You know how you appreciate your city when you are hosting a visitor and you take them sight seeing? Well it's the same when you're running in a neighborhood you normally drive through. You notice subtleties of each passing neighborhood and the hill you drive up is really not that hard to also run.
I begin to snap some photos of the sidewalk cheerleaders:
You can't tell but her sign read, "don't chicken out - you're almost there!!" and also I loved these young girls across the street:
I came to the last mile and a very familiar territory - AT&T Ballpark, the scene of my weekly run. I breathe easy and my smile gets bigger and bigger. Because I keep hearing "You're almost there" being yelled at me at every direction and I see this up ahead almost out of nowhere:
And then I find my husband and daughter in the crowd. I am over joyed I have no words, my husband has never been so proud of me. And my daughter is happy to see me.
I hope we look back at this picture and it would serve as some inspiration to her to do commit to a goal and do something courageous.
And if I need another bit of inspiration, I can always turn to this picture:
I will promise to remind myself that I can do anything I set my mind to. Not only did I complete this run but I found a new way of life - allowing myself to get uncomfortable. I learn that if I remain comfortable I will never grow in general - especially at work. I tell my boss this mantra at my last review and he's proud to hear that I am now not afraid to fail by getting out of my comfort zone. I have a new confidence.
I also have these items to thank for getting me through this obstacle:
I forgot to include my old Droid phone that has my Run Keeper and Pandora apps - Roots, Notorious B.I.G., No Doubt and Blondie stations have keep my spirits up as I run!
And yes, I'm currently taking a break from running. But not for long - I'll be running again next week to get ready for my next scheduled half marathon - The SF Giants Half Marathon on Sept 16.