June 8, 2014

My First Half Marathon, and How In the World I Fell In Love With Running

I think most women start feeling itchy in their last trimester of pregnancy to do something really physically challenging again. (Perhaps nature's way of enticing the body to actually want to go through labor?) I definitely had that desire my last trimester of pregnancy with Lorenzo. Because of spotting early on in my second trimester, I had quickly dropped any and all forms of exercise that might potentially cause harm to the baby/pregnancy and walked and stretched exclusively. Not only did I begin to crave doing something really physically demanding, but I went so far as to tell BJ, "I think I'm going to run when this pregnancy is over". That statement for me was as bold as declaring I'd never eat a piece of cake again. In the past, I HATED running. I loathed it, and had graciously accepted the fact that never again in my life would I feel bad for not being a runner. I know many fit and active people who share my old sentiment. They know the importance of exercise. They like to push themselves, but a line is drawn, and that line is drawn at running. Who cares if it's great for your cardiac, bone, and reproductive health, or if it helps stave off diabetes and cancer, or if reduces stress and builds your immunity and keeps your weight in check? It hurts, and it sucks. Period.
Suddenly, I had this desire, and surprisingly, it didn't go away after Lorenzo was born. If I remember correctly, my first run after Lorenzo was born was when he was 4 weeks old. Since I had faithfully walked 3 miles a day 6 days a week almost without fail, I would make my first run 3 miles. It was hideous, I'm sure, and by the end of it, my legs and shorts were absolutely drenched in urine. My uterine wall was no where near ready to handle the pound, pound, pounding pressure of step after step. I ran again a few days later though, and this time wore all black. The pee kept coming, and I was amazed how much harder it was to add just one simple mile. This run hurt. Nearly every step was painful and I did not enjoy it. I took a break for a couple weeks until I came across something called the run-walk-run method by Jeff Galloway. I read about it and how you alternate running and walking to create a gentler, more approachable and less painful alternative to just straight running. The point is to allow yourself to run at a pace that is comfortable for you, to avoid injury, and to not burn out. This method appealed to and piqued my interest. I wanted to run, but I didn't want it to hurt, and I knew I didn't want to just fizzle out again. I also knew that I loved to walk and the idea that I could walk every 3 minutes was so alluring to me. Right then and there, that Sunday night in my bedroom, I decided to start Jeff Galloway's half marathon training schedule. I had no intention of actually running in a race, but I wanted a schedule to keep me accountable, to guide me along, and to clearly tell me what needed to be done each day and week.
I followed the schedule and worked up to 8 miles, and started to taper off. I can't remember exactly why now, but around January or February I was only running a couple times a week. Then in March I decided to buckle down. I was still running, but had become less consistent, and I was realizing that the less and less I was doing it, the more and more I began to dislike it. I remember talking to Courtney and telling her I was only running a couple times a week. She said, "Oh, doesn't it hurt? I hurt when I only run a couple times a week. I have to run more than that." A light bulb went off and I realized that was true for me too. Sometime in March I bit the bullet and decided to sign up for the Fontana Days half marathon scheduled for Saturday, June 7th. This way, I would have to be accountable, and I wouldn't have the option of not being consistent in my running.
I essentially picked up where I left off and this time was creating my own training schedule. I had already successfully run some big mileage days, and didn't want to digress too much. I needed to be flexible and train for my schedule. At first I ran 4 days a week. 1 short run, 1 medium run, 1 long run, and 1 speed or hill run. Pretty soon thereafter I nixed the speed run (speed is definitely my weakness) for just another short run, and then eventually settled comfortably into a 3 day a week program with 1 long run, 1 short, and 1 medium. (The short and medium runs are my favorite. I have a little 3 mile loop by my house that is my bread and butter. I love it.) I worked up to 12 miles as my longest, did several 9 and 10 milers, and many, many under that.
A few weeks before the race I was absolutely kicking myself. I was so frustrated that I had signed up to race. Couldn't I have just been accountable without having to actually go to the event? I knew I wasn't going to not go. I had committed to it, and I had trained for it, but I was NOT looking forward to it. At all. The night before the race when I had to go pick up my number and shirt and bag I was in the grumpiest mood. I thought this was so stupid and I felt so out of my element. I was mad and cranky, but also a little sad. I had done all this work, these months and months of preparation, and I had no one to share it with. I felt really lonely throughout the process, so I prayed and prayed and prayed. Silent prayer after silent prayer- on my knees and all about my tasks preparing for it I prayed. I asked that Heavenly Father would be with me. I asked for comfort. (Surprisingly, throughout the entire course of the training, day before, and day of, I never really felt nervous. An excitement, and a tiny bit of butterflies perhaps, but not true sick or jittery nervousness.) I also prayed that since I was doing this alone, that Heavenly Father would bless me with His Spirit. I didn't want to feel alone. I wanted to feel that He was there with me. I also prayed that he would help me have fun. I decided to change my attitude. I was racing no matter what. I was doing it all no matter what, so I could be grumpy and cranky and miserable, or I could be happy, positive, and optimistic. My final, and continual prayer throughout the course of my training and for the race itself was that Heavenly Father would consecrate my performance for the welfare of my soul. This scripture was my motto for my natural childbirth with Lorenzo:
"I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul."
This scripture has become the theme in which I try to live my life, and I had seen how my prayer had been answered in my delivery, and knew it could be so again. I felt confirmation that my pursuit and training for this was a good thing when my Relief Society president talked to us several months ago about the good nature of setting goals and sticking to them and the power that comes from that. I did however, have weeks of turmoil second guessing why I had made this training a priority. I felt bad leaving my kiddos in the morning, especially on Saturdays when I'd be gone for two hours. I didn't know if the strain was something that was foolish since I was still nursing Lorenzo and needing to keep up with two young babies. And I knew it was hard for BJ to juggle work calls and the two kiddos in the mornings while I was gone. On the other hand, in the early days of my running, right after I had Lorenzo and had settled into my first half training schedule, I felt very strongly that finding and uncovering this love for running had been an answer to the prayers of my heart as I was a new mom to two little ones and feeling very overwhelmed. My running time was so therapeutic being alone, being out in nature, and starting my day to myself, sorting through my thoughts, and coming home with endorphins and runner's high coursing through my body. I felt like it was helping settle into my role as mother of two.
After ensuring I had all my stuff ready the night before, I went to bed early and got about 7 hours of sleep. I woke up at 4:25 the morning of the race and was out the door a little after 5. I listened to a talk on the Mormon Channel, prayed, sat in silence, listened to some music, and sat in silence again. When I arrived I found a good, close parking spot and sat in my car thinking through things and watch the people around me get out of their cars and observed what they were doing. I was definitely a novice and needed a little guidance in what to do. The car parked in front of mine on the street unloaded and had 3 men and two women. They all looked like pretty seasoned runners. I asked them a couple questions and felt somewhat "snubbed". They were cordial, but not overly friendly. I felt like it was mostly because they could tell I was such an amateur, but maybe that's an unfair assumption. I noticed a group nearby of four women who looked unassuming and unintimidating, and I went up to them and essentially asked if I could be their friend. I felt so strange being there completely alone, and as I looked around I hadn't seen anyone else that wasn't there with someone. They were beyond sweet, and automatically accepted me completely. They had all done this half before, among other races. They were good friends, but treated me just like I was one of them. I was so at ease, and enjoying myself completely with my new-found friends. After about twenty minutes, and after I had asked them all the number of children they each had, I asked if they were LDS. They were and they said they had been wanting to find a subtle way to figure out if I was too. Soon after we boarded the bus and were on our way up the hill. We waited at the top of the mountain, shivered, stretched, laughed and went to the bathroom one more time. Then it was time for the race! I loved how the event was well organized, yet so casual feeling. Unlike dance, you don't have people watching you and judging you, which was such a refreshing change. (I'm going to take a moment to mention that already that morning I had felt aspects of energy and excitement that had reminded me of mornings at conventions. The energy and anticipation of hard work and challenge was thrilling. I felt confident in my abilities, and challenged, and I loved that.) We started out slowly at a very casual, light jog and were lined up next to each other talking. They all knew the story already as they are good friends, so one of the girls was filling me in. I turned to reply to something she had said and suddenly, WHAM! I was on my hands and knees. I had rolled my ankle and tripped in a matter of milli-seconds. I stood up and my ankle was tight, stiff and sore so I pulled to the shoulder of the road to walk. The girls were so sweet, encouraging, and comforting, but I urged them to go on. They said I would catch up, and I quickly did after walking it out, rolling my ankle a couple times and standing on it. It was tender and a bit weak, but it would be fine. I casually jogged, and caught up to the girls quickly and then passed them. My comfortable pace was quicker than theirs. I jogged on and felt out how my ankle was going to be. I prayed and sent positive thoughts and imagery to my ankle. It felt kinky and crunchy for a few miles but I was comfortable enough. At about mile 4 I stopped to ask if they had an Advil. They didn't at their station but one of the workers said she did in her purse in her car. She probably took 3 minutes or so looking and she didn't have any, but then up came my friends and one of them did! I took 3 Advil and went on. I started to get into my comfortable pace, speeding up a little bit and after another stop decided at the next that I would put my headphones in. I was in disbelief when I asked and was told it was already mile 6. I couldn't believe how quickly it was going! I got a tiny drink and dumped the rest on my body, plugged my headphones in and took off. It felt incredible to RUN! I was literally running, not jogging, feeling an absolute high. It was incredible. My body felt so strong and fast and I was passing every runner on the road. From the rest of the race on, all I did was pass people. I did not have anyone that I could see in a reasonable proximity to me that I did not pass. That was a great feeling. I eased up a little around mile 9 and 10 because it had always been a goal of mine to finish strongly and sprint the last mile. I ate 1/2 of my Larabar at mile 10 and picked up the pace again. The last two miles I kept my eyes peeled for BJ and my kiddos. I wasn't sure where they would be. Besides my ankle, the only challenge of the race physically was some tightness in my quads on miles 11 and 12. I didn't know if mile 12 would be the last mile or if it would say mile 13 and then it would be 1 more mile til the finish line. But so quickly I saw the balloons in the sky and words "FINISH LINE" in the distance and couldn't believe it. It was not far away at all so I decided to push it. I ran strong and then spotted BJ and the babes. Ellie was in a daze and Lorenzo was bawling. At that point I began to glide. My stride was long, fluid, strong, and aggressive. I felt so, so, so good. My body felt incredible. I had done it. I had done it!
I said so many prayers of thanks throughout the race. I was grateful for my body above all. It is strong, healthy and capable. I am grateful for my muscles and for the talents I have been able to develop in this life that have challenged and pushed my body. They have blessed my life incredibly. It was overall the most positive experience in every way. There was not an ounce of regret within me. Like people had told me, I was hooked. I feel such a passion for running. It has blessed my life. Heavenly Father definitely answered my prayer to consecrate my performance for the welfare of my soul. I feel like every aspect of this race was beneficial to me.
I just wish I hadn't sprained my ankle.
Here's to many more. Hopefully!
Overall time: 1 hr. 51 min. 20 seconds
8:30 average mile pace
11th place in my age division (Female 25-29)
358th overall ;)


  1. That's fast! Good for you! I can relate, but I'm no where near as fast as you or as converted to running, yet anyway.

  2. I'm not really that keen on running before as well. I used to think it was just plain exhausting and wasn't worth my time. Until a good friend asked me to run with her and I had the time of my life. Somehow, running had helped me ease my mind and I was hooked ever since. Anyway, I'm sorry you tripped and sprained your ankle. I think it's worth it since you completed the marathon still. Get well soon! :)

    Madalyn Oconnell @ Steadman Hawkins Clinic-Denver