I have struggled with whether or not to run a half marathon this spring. I have run one – the Derby Mini in Louisville – the past four years, but just didn’t want to run it again this year. I wanted to try a new race, but I also wanted to run a race that none of our friends were running. I know that sounds odd, but I get really nervous at races, and much prefer to be anonymous. My husband suspected I’d throw a race at him, so he began doing long runs before we had even found a race. Because I have a senior daughter with a crazy busy schedule this spring, our options were limited. Gary received an email about a Biggest Loser Half Marathon in Crown Point, Indiana, which is about five or six hours from here. It also happens to be near my hometowns of Hammond, Hobart, and Munster (I claim all three since I had lived in each place by the end of fifth grade). This particular race also claims to be a great race for beginners, and has a walking division. I am not really a beginner, but after running six half marathons, this will be the first in which I work in walking. Walking.
Because of all of my knee issues, long runs seemed to be out of reach. I had tried to do a couple of longer runs, and at about 4.5 miles, my knee would lock up – IT band. I had decided I’d have to stick with no more than five miles, and running 5Ks. I wasn’t happy about it, but knew if I wanted to be able to run at all, I had to be sensible (I am not usually sensible when it comes to things like that). Once I’d made that decision, I received the book Tales From Another Mother Runner compiled by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. One of the essays told of a woman who also had knee issues. She began working some walking into each mile, and was able to complete her long runs. Although I don’t want to walk, I really don’t want to quit running. I want to run half marathons. The atmosphere at a half is unbeatable, and runners don’t receive medals at 5Ks unless they win their age groups. I would travel to run a half marathon; I doubt I’d travel very far to run a 5K. And so I walked.
I came up with a plan to run the first two miles of my long runs, and then walk 2/10 of each mile thereafter. I’ve had to really make myself stick with this plan. Since I am walking some, my knees feel fine, so it’s hard not to just go ahead and run further. The last few weekends, I’ve stuck with my plan, and have been able to complete ten mile runs; this Saturday I will complete eleven. I tend to stress out over really insignificant things, so, of course, I worry about things like what to tell people about my runs. I can’t say ‘I ran ten miles this morning’ because I didn’t run ten miles. I only ran 8.4; I walked 1.6 of the ten. I did ten miles? I ran/walked ten miles? I completed ten miles? What the heck am I supposed to say to people? I stress when people see me walking. I swear I’m running, too. I’m only walking a little. I’m still a runner. My knees hurt, dammit! I stress over the fact that I will post my slowest time at the half marathon. I wonder if there are any running therapists out there?
I have found there are some advantages to walking part of each mile. When I begin to get tired, I know that I only have to run 8/10 mile, and then I can walk again. For some strange reason, it seems to make time go quicker even though it’s taking me longer to complete my runs. Another thing I’ve done to add interest to my running is listening to podcasts instead of music. My daughter actually told me that’s what she does, so I gave it a try. I listen to Jillian Michaels, Another Mother Runner, and All Things Comedy Live Podcast. I’ve found that I really pay attention to the podcasts, whereas with music, I tend to listen on and off. Focusing on the podcasts also makes my runs go faster, and they are very motivating. The comedy one isn’t motivating, but it makes me laugh. Laughing while running alone seems to be frowned upon. Passersby give me mortified looks when I just randomly laugh as they drive by. If they only knew I had Sinbad in my ear.
On Tuesdays I do a three-mile training run after school. I sometimes run with students, and one of my eighth graders asked if she could run with me this past week. We met after school, and took off. I had told her I wasn’t fast, and she said she wasn’t either. Seeing her black Converse on her feet, I wasn’t too concerned about keeping up. After about a half mile, I was quite winded. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so tired. We kept trucking along, talking about her desire to run a 10K and her goals for speed. I was getting more winded, but blamed it on not quite feeling up to par. After about a mile and a half, she wanted to walk a little. Praise God. Sure, Sweetie, if you need to walk, that’s fine. [pant, pant, pant]. Once she was ready, we ran again. When we got back to school, I checked our time, and saw that we had run the first mile and a half at a 9:17 pace. No wonder I was struggling! I’ve been running a 10:00 pace or slower since I am trying to build endurance. Those darned Converse kicked my butt! Well played, Ashley.
Tomorrow is a rest day; Saturday is an 11 miler. After that I’ll just have some short runs, a seven or eight miler, and it’s race time. As much as I am looking forward to crossing that finish line and earning another medal, I am also looking forward to sharing this experience with my husband. It’ll be the first half marathon we have run in which none of our friends or family are there. I hope it goes well for both of us (or it will be a LONG ride home!).
I do want to wish all of our wonderful badass friends who are running the Derby Mini Marathon the very best of luck! We plan to be there to watch you finish. May the weather be perfect, your food digest well (you poop before the race), your legs feel strong, and your spirit carry you through.