We Did It!!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of running 13.1 miles with my middle daughter, Bethany, at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. It was truly a memorable weekend. We took off for Indy Friday afternoon, checked into our hotel, and then walked a few blocks to the Convention Center for the expo. Bethany had been to an expo with me, but not as a runner. While there, we got a little caught up in the excitement and signed up for another half marathon, the Indy 500 Mini in May. We got a free tech tee for signing up early, and who doesn’t want a free shirt? It was fun just to explore the booths, but it was more fun to carb load afterward. We chose Scotty’s Brewhouse for our last big pre-race meal. While most runners would choose a healthy, carb-filled meal (Is that an oxymoron?), I wanted to try something different: a grilled cheese with pulled pork and mac and cheese on it. Yup. It was messy, but delicious. And on the side? Cottage fries with cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Hey…I was going to be running over 13 miles the next morning; I needed energy. Bethany chose grilled chicken. Boring. But that might be one of the reasons she beat me!

indyprerace

When running a long-distance race, there is so much that can go wrong, starting with the weather. Two years ago when my niece, my husband, and I ran the Monumental, it was 15 degrees. It was miserable. Yesterday the weather was perfect. It was chilly while we were waiting to start, but not unbearable. Once we began running, it was gorgeous. Indy is a beautiful city in which to run, and on a sunny day, it’s even more brilliant. Another obstacle to a successful race is stomach issues. Without going into gross detail, yesterday went well. Even my playlist was put together perfectly, which was a total fluke. I had tried to put ‘Living on a Prayer…Halfway there’ at about the 6.5 mile mark, and it landed exactly where I wanted it to.

Bethany seemed to enjoy every moment of the race, which is what I had hoped she would do. I told her ahead of time to take it all in.I didn’t want her to worry about her time or about whether or not she’d finish; I knew she would. The joy of the race comes not only from achieving a monumental goal, but also from enjoying the small moments, the cheers from the spectators (who were amazing yesterday), the sounds of music along the course, the funny signs, and the other runners who all have stories about why they are there. The joy comes from the scenery, the gorgeous neighborhoods, and the pounding of thousands of feet, all working toward the same goal. The joy comes when you see a firefighter in full gear, including his tank, running a marathon, runners with pictures of loved ones ironed on their shirts, and children along the route offering high fives. A few miles into our run, Bethany said, “This is so much fun!” And at mile eight she said, “Mom, I think it’s so cool that you run. If you didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.” That was my favorite moment in the race. I don’t know if she even knows how much that meant to me. We, as parents, never know what our children will learn from us. Knowing that I had a small part in her achieving something she never thought possible, and that gave her so much confidence, was indescribable.

bethanyrunning

As the race went on, I could tell that Bethany could run faster. I was settling into about a 10:35 pace, which was fine with me, but she kept easing a little ahead. At mile 9, I told her to go. I did not want to hold her back if she could go faster. She hesitated, but then a lady running near us also encouraged her to go. She told her that it would make it harder for me if I knew she was waiting, and that if she felt good, she should take advantage of it because it might not happen again. She took off, and I relaxed knowing she was running her race. I was tired those last few miles, but kept a steady pace. Crazy things can run through a runner’s mind when exhaustion sets in. At one point I thought maybe I’ll get a 13.1 tattoo after this. It’s my tenth half marathon, and geez, this is hard. I deserve to have a tattoo. When I told my husband that had run through my mind, he just rolled his eyes. At mile 11, I reminded myself that I was NEVER going to run a full marathon. I couldn’t imagine having another 15 miles to go.

Bethany ended up finishing about five minutes before I did. I am so proud of her! Running is hard work. It takes dedication and determination, and it’s physically demanding. It takes time to train, and with our busy lives, carving that time out isn’t always easy. Completing a race can be life-changing; it gives us confidence in all areas of our lives. I am so thrilled to have shared this journey with my daughter. Congratulations, Bethany!

bethanymomrace

Half Marathon #10

On November 5 I will run my tenth half marathon, the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. It’s been two years since I ran an entire 13.1 miles; the last three I worked some walking in for various reasons. I need to know I can still run the whole route – that my knee can endure 13.1 miles of pounding.

However, accomplishing that goal is not the most important aspect of the race. This race is special because I will be running it with my daughter Bethany. She began running in January of this year, and has since run a couple 5Ks and a 5-miler. She decided this summer that she was ready to take on the challenge of running her first half marathon, and I agreed to train and run with her. When Gary and I began running almost eight years ago, our hope was that we would be a positive example for our kids and grandkids. We wanted to show them that it is never too late to live a healthier lifestyle; it is never too late to set and achieve goals. Since that time, all of the girls have worked fitness into their lives. Gary’s daughter Tamara and her girls have participated in Girls on the Run; Morgan has run a few races and was recently certified to teach yoga; and the youngest, Addie, has now begun running and hopes to work up to a half marathon. Gary’s son Bryce has always been active. He and his wife run, ski, and climb. I don’t know how much we have influenced our children’s choices, but I hope we’ve had at least a little impact.

bethanymom

Training for this race has been interesting. I haven’t worked as hard as I should. It stayed hot so long that my runs suffered. Our long runs have been slower than I would like, but we’ve kept running. This past Saturday we ran 11 miles, our longest training run. It went better than our previous long runs, and I feel that Bethany is ready for this race and will run well. I feel that I had better quit eating junk for the next two weeks and increase my water intake or I’m going to struggle. No matter what, I wouldn’t trade these past weeks of sharing this experience with my daughter. I cannot wait for her to experience crossing that finish line because I know it can be life-changing. I know she will gain a confidence she’s never experienced. I know she will feel a sense of pride that is unlike any other. I know she’ll want to sign up for another!

I have had the unique pleasure of running two of my nieces’ first half marathons with them, and felt so blessed that they wanted to share that time with me. After running a couple 5Ks and a 10K together, Erin and I ran the Monumental two years ago – it was 15 degrees that day. Emily and I ran the Hoosier Half Marathon in Bloomington. Despite being held April 9, it was 20 degrees at the start, and it did not warm up (I won’t even get into the hills). Now I have the honor of running 13.1 with Bethany, which I hope will take place on a perfect 55 degree day. There is something special about running a longer race with someone. If you run, you know that some of the best, most honest conversations take place when we are drenched in sweat, our muscles are aching, and yet we carry on…together.

I’ve written before that sometimes a race is about so much more than a PR or personal goals. My best runs have been when I’ve run for a greater cause, whether it was to help someone complete her first half, or to raise money and awareness for St. Jude. The medals earned represent time spent training and sharing in a common goal. The medals represent not giving up, even when it hurts. They represent achieving something that a few years ago seemed impossible.

Bethany, I am so proud of you! You’ve accomplished so much this year, and it is truly my honor to run with you. I pray for clear skies, perfect temps, strong legs, and settled bellies. Heck, maybe someday you, Morgan, Addie, and I can run one together. That would really be a miracle! Let’s eat healthy foods the next two weeks, okay? Good Luck, Bethany! Thank you for allowing me to be your running partner. Thank you for loving yourself enough to take on such a monumental challenge. Now go #BeMonumental!

St. Jude Half Marathon

This blog is so long overdue, but with December came holiday preparations, and then came company. It’s a little difficult to write with a two year old and four year old running around. And so, it’s January and I’m writing what should have been written in early December.

On December 4, my friends Katie, Kelly, Jennifer, Mary Jane, and I traveled to Memphis for the St. Jude Half Marathon. We had been planning for months, and were anxious to begin what would be a pretty incredible experience. Our weekend began with a tour of St. Jude. We have all seen the children of St. Jude in the heart-wrenching commercials, but to see these kids and their families in person is indescribable. Katie is a St. Jude survivor, and is still a patient for follow-up tests. Seeing where she has spent so many hours – certainly the worst hours of her life – was both moving and inspiring. Witnessing her return to the place that has come to mean so very much to her was a privilege.

Touring St. Jude Jennifer, Mary Jane, Kelly, Me, and Katie

Touring St. Jude
Jennifer, Mary Jane, Kelly, Me, and Katie

The hospital itself was an amazing place. They have thought of everything to make the children as comfortable as possible. Their artwork lines the hallways; the reception desks are at a child’s level; the colors and murals are bright and cheerful. The doctors, nurses, and all staff members are truly heroes. To go to work each day knowing that their patients are young and cancer-stricken must be so trying. To spend their days comforting families must be exhausting. They build true, loving relationships with the kids, which was evident by the joy in their faces as they saw Katie walk in. It was like a member of their family had come home, and truly she had. No wonder she loves that place.

Long before race day, we five had decided that we were sticking together no matter what. Katie cannot run far distances because of the damage done to her lungs, so we had planned to walk all hills and to stop often for photos. I have to say, this race was the best race I have ever run. We had fun the whole way, even when moments of tears crept in, and the weather was perfect. There were spectators along the whole course, and many were parents of St. Jude kids. Because those of us who raised money for St. Jude wore special shirts, and the spectators were aware of that, many people thanked us as we ran by. That was so humbling.

At one point in the race, the course winds through the St. Jude Campus. I knew this would be difficult and emotional, and it was. Just nine years before, Katie had an autologous stem cell transplant and had watched the race from her hospital window. Now, she was running the race. She had fought back and won! How could we not shed a few tears at that moment? How could she not? Determined to have fun and not get caught up in emotions, we regrouped once we passed through. And then…and then…at mile six they had doughnuts! I wasn’t interested (I would have vomited), but the others had just said they were hungry, so they were thrilled.

At each mile marker, we stopped and had someone take a picture of us. They turned out great and are a wonderful reminder that we completed that journey together, one mile at a time.

mile12

While each race I’ve run has been special for one reason or another, I can’t imagine anything topping our St. Jude experience. It was fun while being solemn at times; it was rewarding; it was humbling. Running it and spending the weekend with my four friends could not have gone better. We ate, we talked, Kelly and Katie rapped (seriously), we shopped, and we worked as a team for a greater cause.

At the finish

At the finish

The St. Jude race was my eighth half marathon, but more importantly, is was my best half marathon. No, I didn’t run fast. I didn’t place in the top 20%, but I finished with my friends and gained so much more than a PR. It was an experience I will never forget.

Again, thanks to all who donated to our team! Start saving your pennies as we will be collecting donations again this year!

The Race Report

Before the Race

Before the Race – Look how happy we are!

This past Sunday, Gary and I ran the Biggest Loser Half Marathon in Crown Point, Indiana. We had chosen this particular race because we wanted to run something other than the Derby Mini, which we had run the past four years. The Biggest Loser Half was in the Region, and since I’m from that area, we thought it would make a nice weekend getaway before all of the end-of-school-year-my-baby-is-graduating festivities. We left for Indy Friday after work, checked into our hotel, and had a healthy meal of roasted chicken, veggies, and potatoes. While this might seem inconsequential to most, in our world it was a rather big deal. We are more of a burger and fries couple.

On Saturday, we checked out the house I lived in in Hobart, went to the cemetery (What’s more romantic than that?), shopped (we bought 13 pounds of candy at a candy factory), and went to the expo to get our race gear. The expo was somewhat disappointing, but it wasn’t a large race, so we shouldn’t have expected much. Dinner that evening was at Teibel’s, which is somewhat of an iconic Northwest Indiana restaurant.

Sunday morning arrived; the sun shone brightly into our room. I had very low expectations for the race. My plan was to run the first four miles, and then walk 2/10 of each mile thereafter. My IT bands begin to tighten up after four or five miles. I wanted to complete the race, and knew that a fast time just wasn’t possible. This was my seventh half marathon, and my third since having knee surgery in 2013. I hadn’t trained too hard for this race, but felt that I was ready. I was not. Not even close. Living in Southern Indiana, I am used to hills. I have plenty of hills to train on, but had avoided them because Northwest Indiana is flat. Why would I train on hills to run a flat race? I have never been more wrong in my life.

The first several miles of the race, I listened to the soundtrack of the stage version of Mary Poppins. I’m pretty cool like that. Actually, my family will be involved in the production this summer, so I thought I’d begin to learn the music. People don’t really expect to hear Step in Time in the middle of a race. I tried to not sing out loud, but sometimes it just sneaks out. There were several small, manageable hills in the first few miles, and I kept thinking that surely it would flatten out. Where did those hills even come from? This was the north.

And then it got worse. Miles eight through thirteen were just brutal. I don’t typically cuss (okay, I do), but the expletives were flying. I even texted my running friends on one of my walk breaks just so I could complain to someone. Here is a good picture of how I was feeling in the second half of the race:

joycehillcrown

Not quite as happy as the prerace photo. My plan had been tossed aside. I walked whenever my legs began to scream, which was at the beginning of many hills. I certainly wasn’t alone as many chose to walk up the hills. I was getting passed by lots of runners, but I really didn’t care. At one point a guy in a Spiderman shirt passed me, and I thought It’s okay – It’s Spiderman! I can’t expect to be as fast as Spiderman! 

At several points during the race, I asked myself why I thought running half marathons was fun. I was miserable. My legs were absolutely killing me; my calves were tied in knots. I just wanted this hell to be over. It was also pretty hot out compared to what we had been running in. I got water at almost every stop, but still felt so dry. And then I’d spot yet another freakin’ hill. Are you kidding me?? Can I just crawl now? And did I mention that hills really put a strain on IT bands? Mile 11: Someone was stabbing a knife into the side of my knee. And twisting it. Damn, it hurt. I stopped and rubbed that area hoping for enough relief to keep going. I walked most of that mile. I then alternated walking and running until I finally reached the finish. I don’t think my legs have ever hurt so much at the finish of a race. I would never run a hilly half again.

I actually lived!

I actually lived!

Gary and I then had a five-hour drive home. As we discussed our ‘adventure’, he also complained about the hills. After cooling off and getting our heart rates back to within a reasonable range, we were actually pretty proud of ourselves. That was undoubtedly the hardest half we have ever done, and although our times were not impressive (2:23 for me), we didn’t stop, nor did I puke. The next morning I had to teach a 5:15 Tabata class, and hadn’t planned to participate. When we started, I went ahead and worked out with the class, figuring I could stop at any point. I ended up completing the class and…running! I actually went out and ran about a mile and a half just to see if I could.

Do you know what else I did the day after the race from hell? I registered for the St. Jude Half Marathon! More info on that will follow in the coming months (because our team is fundraising and I’m sure you’ll want to donate). I would compare running a half marathon (or a marathon for some) to childbirth. It is so very painful as we are going through it. Breathing is labored, body parts we weren’t even aware of suddenly scream with pain, and we cuss like we’ve never cussed before. And then when it’s over, we realize how badass we are, and begin to forget the hell we endured. It wasn’t that bad. When can we do it again?

Training Hard…Or Not

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.

#NeverGiveUp

Running Remix

Sometimes in life, we need to step back and reevaluate our intentions. Whether we examine relationships, careers, or fitness, we need to realize our goals can change in spite of us. I am at a point at which I have to reevaluate my running, and believe me, it isn’t by choice. My knees seem to be rebelling, which infuriates me. I am trying to do something good that will keep me mentally and physically healthy, but my body doesn’t want to cooperate.

 

For non-runners the answer is easy — don’t run. Runners understand that it just isn’t that simple. Though I haven’t always been a runner, after six years it has become part of my identity. My friends run; my husband runs; I want to run. Running is an emotional release after a challenging day at school. It’s a way to celebrate life’s little joys. It’s a way to deal with tragedy when I don’t know what else to do with myself. Running gives me confidence, strength, and pleasure. Running makes me angry, disappointed, and frustrated. I love going for a run with friends, and I love running alone because it allows me time to process whatever is happening in my life at the moment. In running I find peace. Simply put, I cannot imagine my life without it.

 

I had already decided that I wouldn’t run a spring half marathon. My plan was to let my knees rest by sticking with shorter runs. After running the Kentucky Derby Half Marathon the past four years, it will be difficult knowing my friends are there and I am not. I do, however, plan to run the Virginia Beach Rock n Roll with my step-daughter Labor Day weekend. After my past couple longer runs, that was even questionable. Once I would reach 4.5 miles, my ‘good’ knee would begin to stiffen up – IT band. It felt exactly the same as my right one did two years ago prior to surgery. I hobbled to get to 5 miles (I’m not sure why I have to end on an even number), and ended up disappointed that I couldn’t go further.

 

I am currently reading Tales from Another Mother Runner by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. It is their third book together, and since I loved the first two, I knew this would be worth my time. One of the essays struck a chord. The woman had knee problems. Ahhh…a sister in pain. She began inserting walking into her runs, and was able to complete her runs. Even though the thought of walking part of a long run, or God forbid, a race, goes against my prideful spirit, I knew I had to try something, or I’d never be able to run long distance again. Yesterday was my experiment.

 

It was going to be a warm sunny day, so I was really looking forward to the run. I had to mentally prepare myself to walk. I know myself well enough to know that if I weren’t disciplined, I would try to run as far as I could, and then I would end up in pain and angry. I decided to run the first two miles, and then walk 2/10 of each mile for the rest of my ‘run’. I didn’t know how far I would go because I just didn’t know how my knees would hold up. I had in the back of my head that I wanted to try to go seven miles because my friends who are running the Derby Half were running seven (again, my brain works in mysterious ways). I found that inserting the walking made the outing enjoyable. I looked forward to the breaks, enjoyed the beautiful weather, and didn’t stress over my distance. Each time I took off running, I knew I only had to run 8/10 mile. I ended up going eight miles – with no knee pain. I ran 6.8 miles, and walked 1.2; that’s further than I’ve been able to run in months. Even with the walking, I averaged an 11 minute pace, which isn’t that bad. Did pride step in? Of course. I was hopeful that no one would see me walking; afterall, I’m supposed to be a runner. In the end, I was very content with my effort. And I was figuring out what finish time I would have if I did that at Louisville. I think my husband might just kill me if I suddenly decide to jump in the race because he hasn’t been doing long runs. But we do have a hotel room booked. Just in case.


This is when I have to ask myself, what are my intentions in regard to running. To stay healthy? Or to compete? To spend time doing something I love? Or to beat people? The responsible answer would be that I intend to stay healthy while doing what I love, and I do, but I also want to run well. I want to have respectable times. I want to PR. In short races, I want to place in my age group. Is that going to be possible? I just don’t know. I would rather walk some if it will allow me to continue running, but my pride will have to adapt to this new vision of who I am as a runner.

Another Half Marathon in the Books!

I thought we were smart to run a half marathon the first weekend of November. We would be able to do our long training runs during October, so it would be a little cooler. November 1 would likely be cool, but quite comfortable for a run. I imagined a bright crisp day, just perfect for runners, but maybe a bit cool for the spectators. Ahhhh…perfect running weather!

Then we arrived in Indianapolis for the Monumental Half Marathon. And it was freezing. I had kept a close eye on weather.com, but had hoped the meteorologists were mistaken. A 30 degree high? A windchill of 18? No way. Friday evening we did everything we could to avoid going outside. Thank goodness for the skywalks from the hotel to the expo and mall. We did have to venture out into the bitter cold to go to dinner. It was snowing! On Halloween night, it was snowing. The night before our race, it was snowing. It was only flurries that melted when they hit the ground, but I did not want to see any sort of white flakes. My niece from Chicago met us in Indy, and had failed to check the weather. She was not prepared for a cold run; we took care of that at the expo.

As we were getting ready for the race Saturday morning, my husband had the local news on, and indeed, the windchill was 18  degrees! It was time to layer up…three layers of shirts, leggings, earband, gloves, shorts over leggings. I was so grateful that our hotel was just around the corner from the starting line. When we arrived in the lobby that morning, we were greeted by a lobby full of runners who were waiting until the last possible moment to head to the starting line. We joined them in waiting. My sister was with us and had planned to watch the race. I knew the cold temps would be much harder on her than on us. Once we began to run, we would warm up. She was going to freeze.

preindy

It was finally time for the race to begin. As I previously posted, this was to be Erin’s first half marathon. Erin had not trained for her first half marathon. I promised her that we would walk if necessary, and I was prepared to just enjoy the race without worrying about my time. I was also running this race for a charity, which I had never done. Two weeks before the race, I decided I would raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. In those two weeks, my friends and family donated $1775; that is better than any PR.

I kissed my husband as he headed to his starting point, and Erin and I found our place. Usually I am so nervous before a race that my stomach is upset and my mind is racing. I wasn’t nervous at all for this race. I was there with 10,000 other runners, ready to run my sixth half marathon.

The starting line on the Monumental Marathon and Half Marathon

The starting line on the Monumental Marathon and Half Marathon

The gun went off, and we were off – well, it actually took Erin and I five minutes to get to the starting mat. The first five miles went by pretty quickly. After about two miles, I began to warm up. As we ran around Monumental Circle, a large crowd lined the street. There is no better feeling than running through a cheering crowd. It really energizes me. The best sign of the day said Could you hurry up! We’re freezing! At mile six, the sun came out. Erin and I had both bought new running sunglasses at the expo, so we were happy to see the bright sun. When we were just about to the split where the half marathoners turned back toward downtown and the marathoners took off in the other direction, I heard someone call my name. My friends Heidi and Derrick were running their first marathon, and were coming up to pass us. I was so glad to get to see them; I was there for their first half marathon, and was so proud they were now running a full.

I mentioned that Erin had not trained for this race. She made me promise to walk. At about mile eight, she said that at mile ten we were going to speed up and finish strong. What?! I let her know I was not speeding up; I just wanted to maintain and finish. She was welcome to take off, and it wouldn’t offend me in the least. I didn’t feel bad, but my legs were getting tired. She stayed with me until the last mile, and ended up finishing about two minutes before me. I know that she could have finished much faster if she hadn’t stuck with me for twelve miles. Erin ran a 10k at the end of September, and hadn’t run more than four miles since then. And she ran an entire half marathon. Without walking. Even though I wanted to not like her, I was beyond proud. I had tried to convince her to run a half marathon for a couple of years, and she didn’t think she could. She did…without training.

Race Bling!

Race Bling!

While I’d like to say we basked in the glory at the post-race festivities, we didn’t. We grabbed our medals, hats, and some chocolate milk, and because we were freezing the second we stopped running, we went right back to the hotel for hot showers. It was so cold, in fact, I didn’t even wait to watch Gary finish. I quickly showered and went to the lobby to wait for him to get back.

I must say, I felt better after this race than I usually do after running 13.1. I was tired and hungry (can’t-stop-eating hungry), but overall, I felt great. Today, the day after, the only issue I have is my right calf muscle hurts. And I still couldn’t stop eating. Last night I was already planning more races, and actually convinced my step-daughter to run a half with me in September 2015. And I would bet that Erin will be joining me for another race. Once a runner earns a medal, and experiences the thrill of crossing a finish line, she’s usually hooked. And if Erin could run as well as she did without training, imagine what she could do if she trained!

Run on, Friends!

Indy, Here We Come!

I just read through my last post in which I stated I would be blogging about my training for the half marathon. As you all know, sometimes life gets in the way. Between school, the gym, band contests, golf matches, and cooking and cleaning, there has been no time to just sit down and write. Now the race is five days away. Ready or not, Saturday I will cover 13.1 miles; with any luck I will be running all of it, but it is more likely that I will do a combination of running and walking with my niece. Honestly, this race isn’t about time; it’s about so much more.

This will be my niece Erin’s first half marathon. I have talked to her about running one for a couple of years, and for some unknown reason, she finally agreed. She hasn’t trained much at all, but because she is young, she’ll do just fine. Erin makes everything more fun. She has a quick wit and keeps us laughing. I feel very blessed to get to share this experience with her because I know it can be life-changing. There’s something about earning a medal – no matter how old we are – that makes us keep running.

About two weeks ago, I was looking at the Monumental Marathon website, and saw that I could sign up to raise money for St. Jude. I’ve never run a race for charity, so the challenge was instantly appealing. Because St. Jude had saved the life of our friend, Katie, it just felt right. I had no idea how much money I could raise, so I set my original goal at $500. I only had a couple of weeks, and I didn’t know if I could pull it off. As of this writing, I’ve raised $1050! My friends and family have been so generous, and it is so appreciated. Every penny goes to help a child fighting cancer. I was speaking to my brother today after he had donated in honor of his children, Emily and Evan. Evan has Down Syndrome, which can come with health problems, so they have spent time in children’s hospitals. As my brother stated, no one really understands how important those places are until he has a child there, and sees all the children who are fighting. What a blessing it is to have healthy children. Saturday I will don my St. Jude shirt and run in honor of those children who are battling cancer, who experience things no child should ever have to experience. Running 13.1 miles? That’s easy. Going through chemotherapy, getting stuck every single day, having multiple surgeries, fearing death…that’s not only difficult; it’s heartbreaking.

Hillary, dancer, age 20, b-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Hillary, dancer, age 20, b-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Each of the five previous half marathons I have completed, I have done for me. I’ve had goals such as beating a previous time or proving my doctor wrong. It’s always been about what I wanted to accomplish. This race is not about me. Will I be proud when I cross that finish line? Heck, yeah! But this race isn’t about what I want. It’s about sharing the experience with Erin and about running for St. Jude and Katie. Katie is one of the lucky ones. She beat cancer. Because Katie beat cancer, the children in our community are fortunate to have her for a teacher and coach. She has also been provided friendship and support for others who have battled or are continuing to fight. St. Jude calls the people who are running to raise money Heroes. I cannot accept that title. The kids of St. Jude are the heroes. I’m just a runner with great friends and family.

I read a blog recently in which a guy said how annoyed he is by 13.1 and 26.2 stickers on cars. He claimed that the only reason runners have them is to brag, and that we think we are better than everyone else because we ran that far. What an ass. He said that typically when one puts a sticker on his car, it is to show support for something, such as a school or their children’s sports. He claimed that our stickers are selfish. I have a 13.1 magnet on my car, and I am very proud of it. Do I think I am better than a non-runner or someone who sticks to shorter distances? Absolutely not. Running is not for everyone. Having that sticker is sort of a rite of passage for some runners. I have several friends who couldn’t wait to earn that sticker. We’ve worked our tails off, spent countless hours pounding the pavement, and sacrificed sleeping in, greasy food, and time with our families. We’ve suffered through injuries, physical therapy, sore muscles, and ugly feet. When I see those stickers on strangers’ cars, I feel an instant bond. Running is the most selfless sport I know of. I have never been around a more supportive group of people than when I am at a race. Fellow runners cheer as loudly for the last runner as they do for the first; actually; sometimes they cheer louder. We all have different paces, and no one looks down upon slower runners. We help one another, listen to each other’s troubles, and support one another until the bitter end. Many people run for charity or share their love of running with children by volunteering at running groups. So, if my 13.1 magnet annoys anyone, just don’t look at it. You can look at my Purdue plate instead!

For the next four days, I must drink plenty of water, avoid too much candy (I can’t avoid it all), and get a couple of short runs in. Friday we head for Indy to meet my niece. If you want to donate to St. Jude, here’s the link:

http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR?px=2902756&fr_id=21100&pg=personal

http://fundraising.stjude.org/images/heroes/Hayli-St-Jude-Heroes-event-image-default.jpg

This is Hayli. She is one year old and is battling leukemia.

Run Happy!

A Change in Plans

After the Chicago 10k – actually, at mile 2 of the Chicago 10k – I decided that there was no way in hell I was going to run the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. At that point, I didn’t know if I was going to make it six miles, so 13.1 would be impossible. As soon as the race was over, I told my husband that we would not be running the Indy race. No way. No how.

And then I came home with my nice medal, jacket, and necklace. I ran Tuesday, and it was not a good run. I had to walk some just to get through three miles. I ran again Wednesday morning with some friends, and that run felt so much better. So yesterday after school I was home alone with time to ponder. I thought that maybe I could just run/walk the Indy race…if I could sucker someone into doing it with me. Gary really wants to run it, and he always does things for me.

I have tried to talk my niece Erin into running a half in the past, and she was pretty adamant about not ever running one. So I texted her. I asked if she’d be interested in meeting me in Indy to run/walk a half marathon. Her answer was quite shocking and unexpected. Her text read, “Ok, if walking is involved then yes.” Seriously. I didn’t have to talk her into it at all. And then she registered right away! Crap. Now I was stuck. I won’t back out on my niece. I am going to participate in the Indy Half. I truly doubt I can run 13.1 at this point, but I am pretty sure I can walk it. Heck, Erin and I ran 6.2 Saturday, and then walked 3 miles back to her apartment, so we just need 4 more miles. Piece of cake! ‘

Now the real training begins. I need to drink more water (as I am sipping on a Diet Pepsi), eat less junk (I ate a bag of Milky Way nuggets on the way home from school), and run distance. I plan to run nine miles Sunday morning. Please, Old Sore Body, cooperate! To celebrate this decision, I believe I’ll get some new running shoes, which are always motivating. I will also blog this journey because it keeps me accountable. You can expect lots of whining, a few victories, and probably some details you don’t care to know.

Let the obsessing begin…

The Derby Mini is now 11 days away. The mix of emotions I am feeling ranges from excitement to fear to acceptance. Elizabeth Kuebler-Ross coined the five stages of grieving. Perhaps I can coin the five stages of pre-race jitters. I did my 11 mile training run Friday. That’s the furthest I will run in preparation for the race; this weekend I will run about seven miles. I love taper time – I’ve put in the time, and now it’s time to rest my body and stick to easy runs.

My 11-miler was a mix of positive and negative. One of my students had been asking about running with me. I didn’t think he’d follow through just because he’s a 14 year old, and typically 14 year olds don’t want to hang out after school with a grandma/teacher. I saw one of the boys at Walmart after school yesterday, and he was completely awkward. This boy was serious, so I told him I would be running slowly because I wasn’t concerned about speed; I just needed to run 11 miles. He agreed to run with me until he had to be at track practice. The kid ran six miles! He had never run more than two miles at one time, so he really didn’t know what he could do. I know him well enough to know that he would probably push through, and would not back out during a run. I really enjoyed the run. He did so well, asked a lot of questions about racing, and listened when I gave him advice. The first half of my run went quickly. I dropped my student off at the track, ran to the bathroom, drank some water, and took off for the next leg of my journey.

The second half? It didn’t go so well. My left knee, which is NOT the knee I had surgery on, began to hurt. It felt exactly like my surgery knee did when those problems started. I had to stop and stretch, and then I’d run a little more, and then I’d stop and stretch, and so on. The really frustrating part was that my endurance was awesome. Honestly, I felt like I could have kept running had my knee not hurt. My last two miles were well under a 10:00 pace, the fastest of the 11. I just need everything to work at once.

I am really not sure what will happen come race day. I have run twice since, but only three miles, so my knee was fine. I ordered new compression socks (in a lovely gray, pink, and black argyle print); I have a knee brace; and I have Ibuprofen and Celebrex. I need one good day. You should hear the conversations I have with God when I begin to have pain. I am sure we will have lots of conversations on April 19.

Now is the time I also begin planning my race attire. When I just run here in town, I might or might not match. At a race, I will match. I bought a super cute Nike running hat in a lovely pattern of pink and black, and I have a Nike light pink tank that is really soft, and I know would feel great in a race. I usually wear a skirt just because I like them (once a cheerleader?). I have some compression socks, but they don’t match the pink of my shirt, which would literally stress me out that day (hey, it’s the little things!). Who would wear hot pink socks with a soft pink tank? Not me. Do you see why this sport can get expensive? I told my [very understanding] husband that if I have to walk part of this race, I am at least going to look decent! I also ordered arm warmers. For those of you who are wondering what the hell arm warmers are and why I need them, here’s the scoop. It is usually cool when the race begins, but then it warms up, and I warm up, after a few miles. I want to wear my pink tank, but it will be chilly, so I put on arm warmers, which I can slip off when I warm up. They will (I hope) tuck nicely in my skirt, and will be much easier to take off than an extra shirt or jacket.

Music. When I first started running races, I didn’t use music because I enjoyed listening to the crowds, and then I tried music, and I ran super fast [middle-aged-runner-nana-not-so-fast-fast]. Since then, I have continued to sport earbuds. And so I am also working on my playlist. This isn’t just a matter of playing songs I like; it’s also a matter of strategically placing songs. My first song is ‘Here Comes the Sun’ because we begin at 6:30 am. I have fun songs for the first half. For the second, and hardest, half, I have songs that inspire me. I asked each of my girls to choose a song for my list that would remind me of her. I have a song for my husband, ‘I’ll Stand by You’ because he is my biggest supporter. I have a song for God, ‘How Beautiful’ to remind me that without my God and my faith, I wouldn’t be out there running. I am going to add a song for my dad, ‘Jesu’, which isn’t really a running song, but it one song I remember hearing him play on the piano and organ. Running is such a mental activity; you’d be surprised how music can inspire the legs to keep moving. I hope I get through my playlist! I made sure it’s extra-long in case I end up walking some. Or a lot.

Time to grade papers..or look up race times…I’d better grade!

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