Half Marathon 2013

(Before I get into this post, just a quick reminder that I’m giving away a copy of Gather: The Art of Paleo EntertainingClick here to find out how you can earn SIX chances to win!)
If you’ve been following me and this website at all for the last couple of years, then you know that running is my Moby Dick.  I should say that running confidently and well (and fast) is what always seems to elude me.  I have a love/hate relationship with it.  I’m terrible at it, but that’s why I want to do it.  It is uncomfortable, but I have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I am Ms. Slowpoke McGhee, but I have to challenge myself to keep going.
However, one of my goals for 2013 is to become a more confident runner.  Still my expectation is low.  I’m not talking about becoming one of these folks who casually rocks out 14 miles on a workday morning.  I just want to be someone who feels good running 4 or 5 miles at a time without stress or fretting.  I want to be able to feel good about going out for 45 minutes or so and running and feel great after I’m finished.  That’s all.  I have no desire to break records, nor am I under any illusion that I will ever win anything with my running skill.  I just want to get out there and move and not have it be a major stressful event where I’m in agony before, during, and after.
Last year when I ran the half marathon portion of the Pittsburgh Marathon, I had some very difficult moments.  I went into the race not really knowing what to expect, I didn’t train properly or enough for it, and although I had a good time with it, it wasn’t exactly a shining moment of fitness for me.  I was proud of my (not-so-bragworthy) time of 2:46:33 because that was as well as I could do with what I had.  I told myself that I wasn’t going to do it again, that once was plenty and I should probably stick to shorter distances.
Then I hurt my ankle.
My doctor and physical therapist told me that I would probably be able to run again, but it would be a very very L-O-N-G time before I was back to normal – IF I could even get back to normal.  They were very candid about my ankle never being the same again.
So, here I am, NOT running, and all I can think about is how badly I want to run.  I would have dreams about it.  Just a month before I injured myself, I (kind of) swore off running.  Isn’t that the way it always goes?  You don’t want something, but the minute you are forbidden from having it, it becomes all you want.  Oh, Jill.  You’re so predictable!
September of last year rolls around and I’m finally back on my feet – running!  I ran a few 5Ks and they were really really slow.  But! I was doing it!  YAY!  Celebrate!
And then something happened.  I got swept up in the excitement of my fellow Steel City Road Runners Club members and I impulsively registered for the half marathon portion of the Pittsburgh Marathon BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE WAS DOING IT!  Is that the lamest thing you’ve ever heard?  I got all excited about the pretty significant discount I got on registration for being a member of the club and just did it. I even posted a photo of my registration on Instagram labeling it an impulse buy.  It totally was.
So, I was locked in to it.  I had mixed emotions about it after the fog of peer pressure dissipated.  Part of me was regretful.  Part of me was excited.  Part of me was dreading the training.  Part of me was excited about the challenge.  Part of me thought I acted too quickly and forgot about my ankle.  Part of me knew that my ankle was stronger each day and I’d be fine.
I immediately started training.  Casually at first, but then I kicked it up over the winter.
I don’t know about where you live, but here in Pittsburgh we had a really weird winter.  It lingered.  Temperatures were unusually frigid, there was a large amount of snow and rain, and it lasted much longer into the springtime months than normal.  This made for some frustrating training runs.  I got so sick and tired of running with 4 or 5 layers of clothing.  I was sick of being cold all the time.  I was starting to really second guess my judgement and kick myself for registering.
I was lucky to have a few different sources of support, however.  My friend Kelly and I started running together and that was terrific for me.  I had someone with whom I had to keep my running dates.  A small group of Pittsburgh area CrossFitters started a half marathon training group and I ran with them a few times.  They kept me accountable each week for long runs.
By this past Sunday, I was as ready as I was going to ever be.  I had run the training miles.  It wasn’t easy because of the weather, my ankle flared up a few times, and I am just painfully slow.  But, the work was in the books.

prerace(My pre-race selfie in my bathroom mirror.  Check out that snazzy First Comes Health shirt!)

I was nervous.  I knew what to expect, but I was afraid of the pain and the fatigue.  I didn’t know how my ankle would react.  Plus I was running it all alone.  Last year Dude and I stuck together the whole time. This year, I was out there all by myself.  Not really a big deal, but when you’re already nervous and anxious, the thought of doing something like this alone seemed quite daunting.
So!  The race!  Turns out, it was FANTASTIC!  I enjoyed almost every single minute of it.  There were times when I flagged a little bit, but I kept my thoughts focused on the goal of finishing.  There were moments when I kind of lost myself a bit, but a few deep breaths and a figurative kick in my own behind was all it took.

part of my cheer posse(A few members of my cheer posse!  Kelly, Ann, and my Dude)

Like last year, miles 8 through 10 were very tough.  I just wanted it to be over.  But breaking those miles down into little sections (Just get to the corner of Carson Street and Smithfield Street! or Run as fast as you can until you reach the block where Piper’s Pub is!) made them tick by like nothing.  There were even moments when I was whizzing past people and felt like I was flying.
Jill mid half marathon high fives

(Here I am at the halfway point high-fiving my cheer posse!)

By the end I felt really good.  There were a few moments when I had to walk for 10 or 15 steps just to regain a bit of my composure and reaffirm myself, but I crossed the finish in 2:35:47.  That’s a whole 10:45 faster than last year.  That’s a whole 10:45 faster than my pre-injury time!!!
banner
I had a super secret goal of 2:30:00 or less and I didn’t tell a single person about it.  Obviously I didn’t make that, but I am really really excited and proud of how I did perform.  It may not be the most brag-worthy half marathon time, but for me, it’s everything.  I am really pumped up.
So, here are my final post-race reflections:

  • Don’t underestimate yourself – I do this all the damned time and I really need to cut it out.  Up until the moment the race started I doubted whether or not I could really do it.  But then the next thing I knew I was 5 miles in to it and I felt great.  Confidence, confidence, confidence.  Believe in yourself and trust in your own hard work.  This is what got me through the entire race.
  • I’m a real runner now – I wholeheartedly believe that no matter if you’re running your first 5K or your 20th ultra-marathon, you’re a runner. However, I just didn’t believe that for myself for some reason.  I don’t know what I thought I needed to accomplish before I could consider myself a true runner, but I just couldn’t allow myself to accept that title no matter how many races I’ve participated in.  But after this race, I feel like I’ve earned the right to really call myself a runner.
  • No more impulse buys – Sure, this one worked out for me, but I won’t get swept up in the madness again and register for any races without thinking about it first.  I don’t ever want to back down from a challenge, but there were times when I felt like I painted myself in to a corner with this race by spending the money on it before really thinking about it.
  • It is fantastic to have family and friends cheering you on – My Dude, my dad, my coaches from my CrossFit, and a whole gang of my friends were at the halfway point with signs and loud cheers for me.  I loved that!  It gave me something to look forward to and helped me shake off my nerves.  It also helped to know that another friend of mine, Ashley, was waiting between mile 9 and 10.  That’s where I really needed a high-five.  Seeing friendly and encouraging faces along the course really made my day.
  • Use visual cues to distract yourself when the going gets tough – You’ve heard it a million times (even from me!). Running is a mental sport as much as it is a physical one.  In order to overcome any self-doubting thoughts, I did everything I could to distract myself.  One of the tricks I picked up during my training was to plan to think of people or things each time you spot a predetermined object.  So, each time I saw someone wearing a running skirt, I thought of my friend Diane.  She wears them all the time!  I would see a woman in a running skirt (and I even did this with the few guys I saw in kilts) and spend then next several minutes thinking of my friend, how she would be cheering me on and encouraging me to stay strong.  I highly recommend this little technique.

final(Yay! I’m a Runner of Steel for the second time!)

So, there you have it.  2013 Pittsburgh (half) Marathon is in the books!  I’m really proud of my achievement, but I know I still have much work to do in order to keep improving.  My next running goal is to finish Pittsburgh’s Great Race 10K in late September at around 1 hour.  We’ll see.  I’m going to keep on running and I’ll keep you posted.

2 Comments

  1. Austin King
    May 8, 2013 12:25 pm

    Way to go Jill!

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