I'm not a runner. I've never really aspired to be a runner, or to participate in any endurance activities. I would much rather run sprints than run 3 miles, but I'm always in awe of endurance athletes. One of my amazing brothers, Matt, mentioned that he was running another 1/2 marathon in St. Louis and challenged me to join him. Matt ran his first 1/2 marathon several months prior in Arizona and said it was an awesome experience. Knowing him, he hadn't ever really been into running, so it really impressed me that he jumped right in and completed this long distance race with no issues.
I'm the type of person to impulsively say "yes" to things, and then figure out the details later... so the next day I registered for the race. What impressed me most about this, was that my brother (43) was the one motivating me (26). Matt was diagnosed with CML (Chronic myeloid leukemia) in 2006 and has since been in remission, however, it has been a long road. He has a family, a dog, owns and operates his own super-successful business, and has many other responsibilities (that I don't) that could keep him from training. If he could train and run a 1/2 marathon, I figured I had no excuse not to!
My family lives in St. Louis, so we signed up for the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon. Growing up I have always played sports and have run here and there but haven't ever gotten into it hard-core. I'm currently doing Crossfit and running is of course a part of that but not to this degree. I had about 9 weeks to train for the race, a little less than I would have liked but I jumped right in to one of Hal Higdon's Training plans. I mixed Crossfit and running into my training schedule, so I was running about 3 times per week, with my long run on the weekend. I was training in February/ early April in Chicago so I had to bundle up and run outside, with a few treadmill runs mixed in. (I HATE running on treadmills, but it was a nice break from the cold.) Luckily we had a mild winter in Chicago, so the outdoor runs weren't too terrible and provided a good challenge. For me it was more mental than anything; who wants to abandon their warm bed + furry dog + fiance on a Sunday morning to go run 5 miles on a gray 35 degree Chicago morning?! Certainly not me, but I did. It was also challenging training alone. Since Matt was in St. Louis we never ran together, but talked on the phone a few times about how our training was going. For anyone who is starting to train for a race of any kind, I would recommend having a training buddy for sure!
I found the whole training experience completely eye opening, humbling, and challenging. People are doing WAY harder things in the world, yet I dreaded my Sunday morning run the whole week. Why?! Every day I would think, " I can't run X miles...I've never run that far before.." and then I would go do it! It felt amazing. Matt said to me during one of our conversations about training," if you can run 10 miles before the race, you will be prepared." I saw the 10 mile run on my training plan and thought that there was no way I could run 10 miles without stopping many times. On those long-run-Sundays, once I started running and got into my groove, I just worked toward that mental goal of whatever mileage I was trying to hit until I got there. (A good playlist and podcasts don't hurt!) I definitely had to walk here and there (thank you Chicago crosswalks), but overall kept a steady pace (not a fast one!). I was able to get a 10 mile run in before the race and felt confident with where I was at before race day.
Matt and I were up bright and early on April 9th, ready to run. The weather was mild, not too sunny, not too hot, and there were thousands of people participating and the energy was high. We were corralled in downtown St. Louis near the Mississippi river, and stood for about 20 minutes waiting to get started. (The anticipation was killing me and I had to pee but couldn't leave my spot in the corral!) Although Matt and I never ran together during our training, we ran the whole 13.1 miles together! Matt stayed by my side, and we only walked quickly through the water stations and then got back to running. I told Matt to not let me hold him back and pick up the pace if needed, but we kept our slow, but steady pace together finishing a bit over 2 hours. We "talked" in between breathing for the first 3 miles or so, and then popped in our headphones and got in the zone. My knees and feet were killing me, and I couldn't have been more excited to cross the finish line!
The race was extremely humbling. The flag runners who run the whole race holding an american flag, the fire fighters running in uniform, the older runners running for a charity or just for "fun", the handicapped ; they are the true bad-asses in the world. Not to mention the amazing athletes running a MARATHON in about the time it took Matt and me to run 1/2 that distance, incredible! It was a serious challenge to run 13.1 miles straight and I wanted to stop so many times, but didn't. The discipline and the mental toughness that went into the training and the race itself was well worth it. I feel like everyone should challenge themselves to get outside their comfort zone in some way, and this certainly did that for me. For now, I have no future races in sight, but I'm always up for a challenge!
During my training I did experience some knee pain, but some help from my coaches at Crossfit CE, stretching, and new shoes + inserts helped me get over that. However, after the race I had a major problem in my right foot. It almost felt like my Metatarsal bone was broken, pain on the outside of the foot all the way back to the heel- I could barely put pressure on it during the 4-5 days following the race. I didn't go to a doctor to have my foot looked at, but iced it and stretched consistently for one month. Using a foam roller, lacrosse ball, and some Arnicare Gel, I worked to keep the pain away. I'm still not sure exactly what was wrong with it... Plantar Fascistic, or a bone bruise... not sure? Have any of you experienced this pain? The pain/ discomfort didn't go away for about 6 weeks, but after that it was finally back to normal.
Please send me your experiences with running, racing, or training I would love to hear!