This past weekend, I completed my fourth half marathon. I ran in the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans half. How did I go from being barely able to run a 5k, to half marathons? Oh, and it hasn’t even been a year since I started Couch to 5k!
After I completed Run Like a Mother and Ramblin’ Rose in 2015, I had the bug. I still didn’t necessarily like running, but I loved the satisfied feeling when I finished a race, and the swag – shirts and, more importantly, medals – was very motivating. I had signed up for several more races by the end of the month: Superhero 5k, Stubborn Warrior, The Color Run. I toyed with the idea of a 10k, but running more than 3 miles was so intimidating.
I finally signed up for my first 10k in June. I trained by gradually increasing my run distances until I finally hit 6 miles… only to have the race be cancelled (shortened to just a 5k) due to a bad storm coming through the area. Thankfully, it worked out in the end as the weather was freakishly hot, even for an evening race, and shortly after finishing the 5k, the storm hit. Then, a girlfriend was coming into town that I knew would do a run with me. I looked up some local runs for the weekend she was around and found the WakeMed Scrub Run 10k. It’s for a good cause and was local (downtown Raleigh), so why not? Thus, Raleigh, the hilliest city in America (ok, I might be exaggerating a little) was the home of my first 10k.
I was miserable.
The run was so hard, and there was little to not shade from the morning sun and awful humidity. And no medal… what?? But once I crossed that finish line… I did it. I ran the whole thing and though I was slow… I. Did. It. And I knew it could be done.
I started talking to my girlfriend, Rachel, that I knew did long runs. At one point she posted on her Facebook page asking if anyone wanted to do an ‘easy 7 or 8’ with her. Miles?? You must be kidding! But she offered to do a shorter distance with me to get me started. So I joined her at Umstead park, the hilliest location in Raleigh (ok, that might only be a slight exaggeration but I doubt it), for a run. I barely made it to 4 miles and the whole time I was cursing her and rethinking our friendship as well as her sanity. She promised a flatter location the next time.
So we started running together. Every Sunday we met at a couple of different (flatter) trails and we ran. I was worried about not running with music, but we were able to hold a conversation the whole time (granted, I was usually panting, but I’m a very good listener!) and she sold me on how I could do a half marathon. It really didn’t take too much convincing – I think she’s had this conversation before!
I signed up for Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah in November. It was July at the time so I knew I would have plenty of time to train at my own pace. I downloaded some training plans and started out by loosely using them, but Rachel made me confident in my own abilities and each week we increased our distance by one or two miles. I still remember the first time I did 6 miles, and then suddenly I was doing 8 and 10. By September, I had done a 13 mile run with Rachel. I was feeling totally ready for my half in November. Then, another friend that I had done some long runs with needed someone to run with her when she did her first half in October. I was happy to join her, as it was a local run, and why not? I was already ready! So in October, I joined my girlfriend, Kristen, for our first half at the Durham Bull City Rodeo. The weather that morning was so cold – in the 40s, and we spent a long time waiting to get started. By the time the race gun went off, I was chilled all the way through. I assumed I would warm up through the race, but unfortunately, this wasn’t necessarily the case. Because I was so cold, I started to run funny, straining my IT band. I had never had any injuries through my training (except some mild Runner’s Knee in the very beginning) so I didn’t know what to do. I kept running on it until finally at mile 10, my legs said no more. I was in so much pain and I begged my friend to go on without me. I didn’t want to ruin her first half experience with me limping behind her. I trudged through, running a little, then limping a little. Finally, at just shy of 3 hours, I crossed the finish line. It wasn’t the experience that I wanted for my first half, but I did it.
Immediately after, I setup an appointment with a Physical Therapist who confirmed that my IT band was the culprit. We immediately set to work to get it better and introduced some dynamic stretching and foam rolling into my workout routines. By the time Savannah came, I wasn’t in as much pain but of course this time, the weather decided to do the polar opposite. On a freakishly hot day in November, I ran the Savannah half. The race ran out of water (they claim that’s not possible due to public water supply being unlimited, but I passed many a water station with the tables turned to the side and not a clean cup in sight… just the crushed ones on the ground. People were drinking from hoses and pitchers provided by residents in the city.), and they ended up cutting the full marathon short. Thankfully, I wear a hydration pack for my long runs, but even that was completely depleted by mile 10. I had to walk a little bit, but I improved my time slightly and was excited to once again cross the finish line.
Since then, I set a goal for 2016 to run 6 half marathons in the year. I’ve already done 2: Charleston in January and Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans this past weekend. Both were good experiences and run with friends, but this last weekend I finally felt pain free and beat my previous 3 times by a landslide. Twenty whole minutes off of my fastest one, finishing at 2:27 (they made us stand at the starting line for one minute even after the starting pad clocked us as running… which I knew because I got a notice on my phone that we had started the race). So my half race isn’t until April, but I have a few shorter things in the meantime, and some hill training that I want to work on in preparation.
But all of this has taken place in less than a year of me even starting Couch to 5k. I didn’t begin the program until March of last year and in that time I’ve run four half marathons… after swearing there wouldn’t be a chance that I would ever even run one. Before I started running, I would laugh at people who said they ran for fun. Now my long run is one of my favorite ways to decompress, to get caught up with friends, or to just challenge myself mentally. I’m not the fastest, but I’m working on my endurance, speed, and overall enjoying myself through this new (and painful) hobby.