Somewhere around my 30th birthday in 2016, I decided to set a goal to run a half marathon before I turned 35. Seemed like a reasonable goal. I am not, nor have I ever been a “runner”. (Track in middle school, training with cross country as part of our cheerleading workouts in high school, and a failed attempt at a “couch to 5k” program a few years ago notwithstanding since none of those really stuck with me or lasted all that long.) I expressed this goal to my mother-in-law, who is an avid runner and LOVES marathons, (she ran the Boston Marathon in 2007 and has mentioned trying to train for it again) and she suggested that I try to see how far I could run and that we could train for a race together since, as she said, it’s always easier to train with a buddy and she’d been itching to train for another race.
Alright, I guess I’ll give it a shot. ::shrug::
So, in August of 2016 I went out and ran a solid 1.5 miles. Okay, not terrible. The only problem is that the race she wanted us to train for was a 20k, aka 12.4 miles. Well, I’m over a tenth of the way there! Gotta stay positive, right?? I wasn’t sure I was ready to bite off that kind of commitment yet, but also didn’t totally throw the idea out the window.
Not only was my MIL trying to turn me into a runner, she’d also suggested the idea of training for a race to my brother-in-law’s pregnant girlfriend. After my nephew was born in January, she was all for it as a way to lose some of her “baby weight” (not that her early 20’s workout-a-holic body needed any help). And so the commitment was made that we would train together to run a 20k in October. That was plenty of time, right? Yeah, sure…
Since I was officially committed, I got serious about working out and running, typically 4-5 times per week, which, again, is something I’ve never done, but after comparing some pictures of myself, I had gained some serious weight. (Which, as a side note: no one can or will ever tell you! There’s no nice way to say: hey, you got fat. But man it would be great if someone would have told me! I was totally in denial about my clothes not fitting anymore and I had all the excuses: They must have shrunk in the dryer. I am getting older, this tends to happen. My 30-year-old body just isn’t made for this style anymore. But anywho, I digress…)
I was trying to run at least a couple times a week, and workout the other three days because I knew I would need to strengthen my legs to get through this race. Not only was it about 11 miles longer than I’d ever run, it was also a trail race, through a canyon.
My runs were typically pretty short: 1-2 miles, but slowly working my way up to my first goal of 3 miles. I needed to get my legs used to running and I needed to get my breathing and heart rate under control (which is still an issue, but that’s a topic for another time). Once I could hit 3 miles, the plan was for the 3 of us to start training together and slowly increase our distance since we had plenty of time (hah) to get up to 12. Isn’t it funny how time flies sometimes?
By May I still wasn’t running all that far. Most of my runs were still in the 1-2 mile range, with a few 3 milers scattered in here and there. At some point along the way I realized I hated running with other people and broke off from our training group to start training on my own. I was (and still am) at a point in my running where I’m not trying to win or really even race for time, I am just trying to make it through. I tend to walk a good amount until my insanely high heart rate comes down and I want to run at my own pace without feeling like I’m either (a) slowing someone down or (b) working too hard to try to keep up with their pace.
I signed up for my first race, a 5k in my hometown, on a whim when I went to visit my parents over the 4th of July. Yeah, a race in July, in Texas. Great idea. It was hot and humid and slow, but you know what? I did it! And the feeling of accomplishment was amazing! My mom even signed up to walk the 3k, but then both my parents decided to do the full 5k, too!
I convinced my mom (who is an avid, fast walker) to sign up for another 5k in her hometown the first weekend in August. Again, hot, humid, hilly (I had no idea Schulenburg had hills until I had to run them!), and slow (-er than the race in July), but I finished!
My “long runs” were still only about 3 miles and we had somehow gotten within 3 months of our 20k! Eek!! Time to focus on training and increasing distance! I created a training plan for myself and decided that week-by-week I would increase my distance until I was where I needed to be! By the end of September I was at 9 miles!
Now, don’t get any crazy ideas in your head that I am running 9 miles straight. I am very much a part of the run/walk group and it works great for me for right now. I would love to get to the point where I can go run 9 miles straight, but I’ve definitely got some stuff to work on before I get there. I’d also looked up some tips for trail runs and one of the most prominent ones, especially for your first trail race, was walk the ups, run the downs and flats. Since we were running in Palo Duro Canyon (the 2nd largest canyon in the US), I knew that would leave plenty of opportunity for me to take the walk breaks I needed.
But you know what? I am actually enjoying it! Guess I’m a runner now and it was time for my first long distance race!