Thursday, April 23, 2015

My journey to a Half Marathon

I wanted to document my experience mostly for me. This blog has taken the place of my journal.

We did it!!

On February 28th Eric and I ran the Woodlands half marathon. This was a big deal for me (not so much for Eric who has 12 full marathons under his belt). He was a good sport and ran with me at my slow pace. So here is how this went down and why it is a big deal.

Since marrying Eric I have had a desire to be a runner so we could share a common interest and if you've ever watched someone train and complete a marathon it is inspiring. Plus running is a good inexpensive way to exercise and drop some unwanted pounds. Early in our marriage my excuse for not running was I was pregnant, then I was too busy being the mom, then I was too fat and it hurt to run. Once my kids were in school, I started teaching school myself and my excuse was there was no time to run. I started running in the summers and would get into good enough shape to run a slow 5k or two but that was about it. Then the school year would begin and I would have great intentions to keep running, but I didn't. This went on for 15 years!

Fast forward to 2013... Eric switches jobs and we move to Houston, TX. I am no longer teaching school. I am 40 lbs overweight, I am staring 50 in the face, I've just become an empty nester and I don't feel good at all. I was literally sicker than I had ever been when we moved to Texas. I had developed diverticulitis and the antibiotics I took made me sicker.   The good part of that was I dropped 10 lbs. I had been walking quite a bit before the move and decided that I no longer had excuses for being inactive. I started running.

In the beginning I would run for a minute or two then walk for awhile. It was hard!! I worked up to being able to run a mile slowly then progressed from there. I eventually over the space of a year worked up to running 12- 20 miles a week. I dropped 30 pounds and was feeling good about my progress. Eric had gone online and figured out a half marathon training program for me and I was following that religiously. 10K's were now doable for me! The heat and humidity in the summer in Texas is brutal so I would go running before the sun came up and it was still miserable, but I plugged along. I was not fast. I was a consistent 12 minute miler and I was ok with that.

 If you've ever met my husband, you will learn that he is a sweetheart, but he is competitive. He likes to run and he cares about his times. He always wants to get faster. I was happy if  I ran a route a little faster than the day before, but getting faster was not my focus. I was happy to just put in the miles. Eric didn't quite understand my contentment with being a consistent 12 minute miler. He would ask me, "Don't you want to see how fast you can go?" After getting this line of questioning a few times I started to think that maybe the right way to be a "real" runner was to focus on time and PR's. I started to push myself a little more. I ran a 5K race in our neighborhood and my pace was 10 minute miles. I didn't die. After that I started to pick up the pace slightly. Time was still not a huge focus for me, but I probably cared more than I did before.

About 2 1/2 months before the actual Half marathon I was at the point in my training that my long runs are around 8 miles and about to increase to 10 miles. I completed my first 8 miler with Eric and I was really excited. That is the farthest I had ever run in my life! It was hard, and I got to look forward to (insert sarcasm) doing it again the next Saturday. The week zoomed by and it was long run day again. This time I would be doing it alone as Eric was working overseas. Seven miles into the run I started to experience pain in the back of my left leg. I kept going, trying to run through it. Bad idea....I walked/limped the last mile to home. Long story short I ended up not being able to run for a few weeks. I was still hopeful that I could get my training back on track after some rest. I would rest the leg then try to run on it. I could usually go about 3 miles before it gave me any problems. Then one day I was trying to do 9 miles and about 6 miles in with no warning pop..instant pain again. It was at that point that I resigned myself that I wasn't going to be able to do the Half. I completely quit running!! Meanwhile, Eric was training to run the same half while he was working in Kuwait. He was also dealing with an injury. His knee had been giving him some problems so his training was not going well either. He had already had to withdraw from the Katy Half because of knee pain.

It is now a couple of weeks before the half and both of us are able to run a little. I decided to go out and see what I could do. My training schedule was for me to run an 11 mile long run. I had only been doing shorter distances mostly because of fear of reinjuring myself. I mapped our an 11 mile course and set out. I had to walk some about 4 miles in because I was bucking a head wind. After that I started to feel pretty good. I got to an area in the neighborhood that has a gate. I had my electronic card with me so I though no problem. Big Problem.. since I don't live in the gated part of our community don't have access anymore to the paths that go through the gated part (which ticks me off because I pay the same amount of HOA dues as they do). I had been on that path a number of times, and the gate was never locked before. I was mad and not mentally prepared to figure out another route on the fly. I back tracked and headed for the last loop of the run and headed home. I mapped the course that I ended up doing and found that it was 9.5 miles.

At this point, I am still thinking there is no way I can do the half marathon. It is only a few days until I have to pick up my packet. Many of our running friends are telling us to run it anyway even if we have to walk a good portion of it. Well, I am confident that I can run at least 9.5 miles then I can walk the last 4 if I have to. Eric has still been experiencing knee problems but he is game run/walk it with me so we commit to do it. I was scared and just kept asking myself if I was crazy. I was most afraid that it would totally suck and I would feel like I had to do another one some other time to redeem myself.

Race Day! The weather was perfect for running. It was cold by Texas standards and the forecast was for clouds and temps in the 40 - 50's. Perfect running weather for me. The race started at 7:00am which made for a really early morning for us. The Woodlands are a good hour drive from our house. I was still questioning the stupidity of doing this, but I was in the starting shoot anyway. Eric kept wanting to inch up to the faster pacers. I didn't care what my time was. I just wanted to finish and not die. When we started the pace was really slow even by my standards, but I liked it. I was afraid that I would let my nerves dictate and go out too fast then run out of steam. A forced slow pace was good for me and Eric! As the runners thinned out we were able to up the pace to where I felt comfortable. Around mile 3 I had to go to the bathroom. There was a port-a- potty with a line. Some girl was saying that just up the road at the next light there were a whole bunch of bathrooms. So we kept going.  We got to the reported spot and there were no bathrooms! In fact the next bathroom wasn't until mile 6. That is 3 miles of having to use a toilet...not fun!!! And to top it off there was no toilet paper. Needless to say...I will be purchasing new gloves for next winter's running season. With that little obstacle out of the way, we continued on. The miles went by and I found that I felt pretty good. Eric was doing well and his knee was not bothering him. I was pretty tired at mile 10, but so far I had run every step. After mile ten we began to walk through the water stations then start running after we finished our cup of water/Gatorade. At one point I walked a little longer after the water station, but found that it was much harder to get going again than it was to just keep going so we kept running. 13.1 miles.... we did it. Our time was 2:38. We averaged 12 minute miles even when including the bathroom break into the time. I was very happy with that time so I don't feel the need to redeem myself. I don't ever have to run another one unless I want to. I will say that it is a possibility however, I have no desire to do a full marathon. I felt pretty good afterwards, but I was spent.  I cannot even imagine adding another 13.1 miles on.

How much have I run since completing my goal.....well, not much. I need a new goal and some serious motivation to keep at it. I keep having some issues with pain in my right leg this time. Not fun.


  1. Oh great. I'm doing my first half marathon on May 9. The good news though, is that is totally unofficial. Our neighborhood just made it up. I want to make sure I can do it before I pay the big bucks. This Saturday is my 11 mile run...I'm freaking out, but I freaked out at the 9 and 10 mile runs too. I'm still trying to figure out why I love running so much. It's torture. Nonetheless, congratulations on such a big accomplishment!

  2. You inspire me! I need to run again. I need to find the time.