A Snap Decision
Some of the best things I have done in life have been done with very little thinking. Most people do the research and ask friends for advice and then decide to commit to it. I did the opposite. I missed my spin class one Tuesday night for some dumb reason like running late from work or something. I was mad at myself for missing the class and decided to go for a run instead. My mind wandered…I needed a new physical challenge. Something that would force me to commit to working out and not allow myself to just drum up dumb excuses to miss a workout. I came back from the run, and was messing around on Facebook. One of my friends was posting about training for a half marathon and I thought, “ugh, I really don’t want to run long distance, but that might be the challenge I need right now.” I went out on my deck, and took this picture and posted it on Facebook.
Prior to this Facebook post, the longest I ran was 3 miles and running was something I did only when the weather was nice. So you can imagine the “oh shit” moment I had once I looked at a half marathon training program. But, it was Facebook official so I had to do it. I picked the Rock & Roll half marathon in Charlotte NC that was set for October 18th 2015. I trained for and ran that first half marathon in the good company of my husband and my parents. Then I went on to run the Alexandria Running Festival Half Marathon on May 31st 2016, and the Navy Air Force Half Marathon on September 17th 2016. That is 3 half marathons in 11 months. I learned a lot about running and myself over the time I trained for those races. I’ve outlined some of the biggest lessons I learned in this post.
What I learned About Running
The first lesson I learned was to buy legitimate running shoes. I started out training with a pair of cross trainers. After about a week, I had some serious pain in my achilles. I’m glad I didn’t wait too long to bite the bullet and pay for good running shoes, because I could have done some serious damage to my achilles if I kept wearing them. That being said, here are a few tips I have on gear (buying, figuring out what you need, etc).
- Go to your local running store to buy sneakers, not Amazon or a big chain store. Your local running store will be staffed with fellow runners that are well trained and can give you a proper evaluation that will lead you to the perfect shoe. It may cost you $100-$120 for a good pair of running shoes, but if you are going to train for a half or full marathon, it’s worth it.
Here is some of the other gear I collected over time…
- You’ll need water while you’re running. This may be a new thing if you have only run casually for short distances. I used a handheld water bottle that I got on Amazon.
- Your typical iPhone earbuds may not endure the sweat and sustained moving around that comes with training. Mine didn’t no matter how much I tried to make it work. So I bought Koss running headphones for $14 on Amazon. They work like a charm!
- You may need to beef up your workout wardrobe. Training requires you to run 4-5 days a week, so only 1-2 good sports bras and 2 workout outfits might not be practical. Unless you like doing laundry everyday… I’ll be honest, all of my workout outfits are from Old Navy. The quality is good, and it is CHEAP! Wait for them to do a storewide 50% sale and stock up. The high waisted compression leggings were my favorite because I didn’t have to pull them up while I was running. They stayed in place well!
- Lastly, I blister very easily. So the second thing I learned after I figured out I needed running shoes was that I also needed better socks. Cotton socks are awful for running. They get wet easily and cause blisters. Get running socks. Now, I still get some blisters on my arches when I run longer distances, so I also used Leuko tape. Just tape up the parts of your feet most prone to blisters and put your socks on over it.
I used Hal Higdon’s training program, and found it to be very effective. When training for my first race, I was extremely strict with myself. I followed the program to the book, and it worked. I did pretty well at my first half marathon. The second race was on May 31st. I was a little more relaxed this time around…perhaps too relaxed. I was going along pretty well and ran an 11 mile training run in just over 2 hours which was pretty good for me. But then I went on a two week vacation to Ireland and France. I ate my weight in cheese, bread, wine and beer. I did not stick to my training plan very well on that trip. The second race was ROUGH. The temps were in the high 80’s, and I burned out at mile 9. I ran/walked the remaining 4 miles and hated myself the last 2.5 miles. I definitely attribute this to falling off the training wagon while on vacation. Oh well! Vacation was fun, lesson learned, all is good. For my third race, I didn’t have much of a turnaround time so I squished a 12 week plan into 8 weeks. I stayed committed to it much like I did the first time around. It worked! I feel great about my results in my third race. Lesson learned…pick a training program and commit to it.
This is a lifestyle change.
I skipped happy hours and other fun after work functions to get my training runs in. When you have to do your long runs on the weekends, you’ll have to carve out time. If you have a significant other, you need their support because their life is affected too. There were many Saturdays/Sundays that Kevin and I had to maneuver our plans around a 90 minute training run. The good thing is, if you are committed to it a training plan can really help with accountability. If I don’t have an accountability piece, I will often fall victim to my own excuses. Training made me much better at planning out my week. And, eventually your body gets ‘addicted’ to the endorphins you produce from running so you don’t want to miss it.
What I Learned About Myself
It’s Good To Do Stuff You’re Not Good At
I’m a very competitive person with a type A personality. Therefore, I spend a lot of time at work perfecting things that I am already pretty good at. I am not good at running. I am not fast, and I have a hard time running long distances. This was a tough pill to swallow for me. I had to commit to doing something 4-5 days a week that I wasn’t amazing at. Talk about a humbling experience! But that’s good for me. I would set out to run a 10 or 11 mile training run, and at mile 8 I would have to stop and walk a little. This was crushing for me! I would walk maybe 3 tenths of a mile and then pick it back up. Then, the remaining 2 miles I would just beat myself up like crazy for taking a few minutes to walk. After doing this a few times I realized on one of my long runs that I was being completely ridiculous. Coming face to face with the uncomfortable feelings of being bad at something is good for anyone. No one is perfect, and it is our imperfections that make us more human. In the last month I started a new practice. As soon as I heard those negative thoughts in my head about stopping to walk I would quickly change my thinking to focus on what I am grateful for. I turned the last grueling miles of a long run into a time for gratitude.
Being Stubborn is Not A Bad Thing
If you have a child at home that would rather struggle for 30 minutes to put on one shoe by themselves instead of giving in and having you do it for them…don’t worry I know what that looks like 20 years later and it’s not a bad thing :-). I have always been stubborn and fiercely independent. This is what kept me motivated over the last year. After my first race, I was pleased to have finished but thought I could do better. That is what drove me to sign up for the second race. Then after the second race, I was really not pleased with the outcome. This is what drove me to sign up for my third race…which was only 4 months later. I am stubborn, and I won’t quit until it’s perfect. But, the beauty is, I will never be perfect. So it looks like I am stuck running races forever, or until an injury sidelines me I guess. These last 11 months have brought this personality trait to light, and upon reflection I have found ways to channel this stubborn energy into doing something productive like running. With my focus on improving my running, I find that I am less stubborn about things at work or in other parts of my life. I let things go when I would have put up a fight 3 or 5 years ago. Which leads me to my last lesson.
Running Towards Balance
As you either already know about me, or you can tell from reading this, I am not one that enjoys sitting still. I get bored very easily and for a long time when I got bored I would just find more work to do. I was a workaholic for the better part of my career because I loved the work and I couldn’t sit still at home. Running has helped me find balance. I leave work at 5/5:30 almost every day because that is the time when I go for a run. Running is therapeutic for me. It creates a segue from work to home. When I go for a run I let out any last things that may have challenged me or got me riled up during the work day, and I clear my head. By the time I commute home, get out for my run and cook dinner it’s already 8:30/9pm at night. No more time to be bored. Just the right amount of time to eat dinner, catch up with my husband and maybe watch a little tv. Plus, I can’t stay super late at work because I need to get my run in. It forced me to stop and close up shop at a decent hour.
There you have it. Some lessons I learned from developing a running habit. A little more story to the many (MANY) nike plus pictures posted on Instagram. I always say, “if you don’t post a picture on Instagram, did you really even run?!” If you have similar stories, lessons or tips you want to share about running comment below!