The things I’ve learned

Time is quickly approaching for my first 13.1 race that I’ve blogged about. I’ve been in a training program with my local Fleet Feet. This was a 12 week program that consisted of people with a 10k distance and people with a half marathon distance. There were mentors in the program who were there to run with the trainees and offer support in working toward the goal. We had meetings with helpful information to prepare for the races ahead. The program also offered 2 times where the participants received a store discount to ‘gear up’ for training and for the race.

First off, I started running with Fleet Feet last autumn when I needed to run outdoors in the cold to train for a 5k race in December. They offer free “Fun Runs” on Monday nights with different distances and they welcome any speed. I wouldn’t have known this, except that I went in one day for something and a very tiny woman with an outgoing personality told me about the fun runs and told me that I should join. The next time I saw her, she told me I should join them for their Ladies’ Night runs. The night I went to the Ladies’ Night, I discovered the welcoming woman from the store was in fact, the owner. So the stores are locally owned by people in their community.  That was something I knew going into training, but not when I started running.

I’ve also learned a few really important things along the way to endurance running from being someone who was running 5k races for the different causes they support or the swag they had to offer.  Among those things, I’ve learned that cotton is not the best choice for athletic clothing. It tends to soak up moisture, not dry quickly, and get heavy. There are so many choices in active clothing, that we really don’t have to suffer in the same old stuff that was popular in that area. I’ve discovered that while water is great for short runs, electrolytes can really help out. I sweat almost as soon as I start to work out. I discovered that I could buy capsules to help with electrolytes and that I could carry a water bottle on a belt with me and put something in it that would hydrate better than water. This came in handy in the hottest days and on the longer runs, it was necessary. I’m wearing my belt to the race on Saturday so I have control of when/where I get my drinks. So I have my gauzy tank top, moisture wicking compression Bermuda running shorts, and my hydration belt. I will be applying anti chaffing balm to myself before all of my long runs. I’ve discovered that the spot my sports bra touches my chest rubs a line into it once I’ve been running awhile and sweating. I’ve found that there are weird places on my arm that rub on the side and leave marks. I’ve also discovered that I can’t wear shorts that are 3 or 4 inches long because my thighs love each other and can’t resist causing painful chaffing. I’ve learned that I have a preferred brand of nutrition during my long runs and it isn’t the one that they offer on the race day course. Fortunately, the belt with the bottles on it has a place for the packets of nutrition as well.

Another thing that nobody can prepare you for without your own experience is the mental game in endurance. Overriding your brain when you’re on a long run to tell yourself to just keep moving forward is difficult. It can feel downright impossible. I can honestly say that there were multiple times where I almost cried on a run because I just didn’t feel like I could move forward anymore. At first, I wanted to just bury the emotion that I was feeling. I thought about stopping. I would just stop and walk a little instead of pushing past. One morning, I told the mentor that I was with that I wanted to cry and I wanted to stop. She didn’t laugh or shake it off. She told me it wasn’t an unusual feeling and that if I honestly felt I needed to stop, that I should, but then she complimented my effort and pointed out that I really only had about 20 minutes of running left. She asked if I thought I could just do it for 20 more minutes, then 10, then a few more. She pushed me without being mean about it and taught me a bit about pushing myself. That wasn’t the only time I expressed to my running partner I wanted to actually cry. Nobody laughed about it. None of them shrugged it off. Everyone had tips on handling the feelings of self defeat and helped me find my way of keeping moving until the run was over instead of when I wanted it over. By feeling validated in being emotionally exhausted, I developed confidence that I’ve carried into my everyday life. I have improved self-esteem with this training. I have lost weight with this training. I have run 13.1 miles and am going to complete a race of 13.1 miles over the weekend.

The day that I ran the practice 13.1 on the race course, I drew an arrow on my left hand with a permanent marker. The arrow was where my thumb attached to the back of my hand and pointed forward. Why? Forward is the only way you can go in life. Forward is the way to the finish line. I decide how I move forward, so I want to do it the way I’m proud of. I want to move forward by running the whole way. The arrow was meaningful and I will probably place it there again for the race. When my head dropped, I saw my hand. I saw the arrow and I lifted my head and looked forward. The direction I was moving.

In 12 weeks of training, I’ve met so many interesting people. I’ve made a few friends. I’ve decided that the reason I don’t think I look like a runner is because there cannot possibly be one way that a runner looks. A runner runs. There are helpful hints to know when you start doing it often. There are things to learn to get better. There are people who want to share their tips and places that help you meet other people who like to run.

This weekend is the first time I am going to run a half marathon. That gives me a baseline time for the next one. The race is also my time to fulfill my goal to run a half marathon before I turn 35. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m happy. I have prepared myself for everything I can prepare for this far in advance. I am consumed with thoughts on it. I am amazed that I chose to do something like this. I can’t wait to see what my next “wild idea” is. Maybe I’ll train for a full marathon…or a really fast half.

Good luck on your next race! Don’t forget to keep challenging yourself! Did you learn any tips that you want to share? Have you developed a pre-game ritual?

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