One topic that I have yet to give proper attention to here is fitness. While doing a total overhaul of our diet in these past few months, another key to my proactively seeking a healthier lifestyle has been a stronger commitment to exercise. This commitment actually came shortly prior to the diet changes. I have typically gained and lost the same 10 pounds every year for the last 10 years. As I felt my pants get tighter, I would do an annual tune up with a fad diet for a few weeks. While I was able to drop weigh quickly the first few years of trying this method, each year it became harder and harder to drop those same 10 pounds. And the annual weight I was putting on started to become more than just those same 10 pounds. I finally came to the realization that I need to get off my butt and get active once again.
I had always been active as a child, teenager and even into 20’s. I swam and played softball most of my life. I’ve mountain biked, played ultimate frisbee, slow pitch softball and other recreational sports. But as I started a family, time away to go to the gym or play on sports teams was kind of slim. So I needed to find something that I could do at or around home and could do with the kids around if need be. As I brainstormed my options, it was regrettably leading to one thing that I absolutely have never cared for…running! Urgh. I do not like to run long distances. I’m more of a sprinter…run to first, steal a base, run for a fly ball. I can do that. Run a mile…no thank you! I did run cross country in middle school. I really did not care for it, but I loved the social aspect of doing team sports, so I tolerated it.
I know a lot of people that run, and I’ve always wondered “WHY?”. There must be something enjoyable to it, but I’d never found it. However, I decided it was time to investigate the sport since I could do it anywhere, no gym memberships, I could take the kids along in a stroller if I absolutely had to, or do it on a treadmill after everyone was in bed. So last spring I asked a runner friend of mine if I could start running with her.
On my first run, I didn’t make it a half mile before I needed to walk. I couldn’t even count how many intervals of run/walk I did for the 3 miles we did that day. I could barely walk the next day. This was definitely, not enjoyable! But I stuck to it for a few weeks, getting out and running/walking a couple times a week. Until it got hot out…then I got lazy. So much for that running thing.
Fast forward to September, as school was starting back, I committed to get back on the running wagon. I set up a weekly schedule with a friend. Every Tuesday and Thursday, we would meet in her basement after the kids were in school. We would run on the treadmill and do cross training. This held me accountable and made me stick to the schedule. Slowly but surely, I started to feel great about running…not about the act of running, but how I felt after I was done. I felt energized and like I had conquered something big. I soon determined to set a goal to run a 5K. I begged my friend to sign up for the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot in Downtown Detroit with me. This would be my first 5K race. I had a date, a commitment, a goal and a plan. I continued to train, but by mid October, I was getting antsy to run a 5K and check my distance and time goal complete. So I then begged the same friend to do a Halloween run with me. Then I could accomplish my goal and move on to the next…maybe do the 10K at Thanksgiving instead. But when I found out that you got a medal for doing the Halloween 10K race and not for the 5K, I decided I wanted to quickly stretch my distance to 10K and get a medal for my efforts. So, within one day, I doubled the distance of my furthest run. I did 6 miles for the first time on Thursday and competed in a 10K on Sunday.
The next week, runner’s knee began to set in. I could no longer run 3 miles without my knee killing me. As I continued to run in an attempt to fight through the pain, I was soon finding myself in pain right out of the gate. I became very frustrated and discouraged. I made it through the Thanksgiving Day 10K with much pain, but was then forced to stop running in order to heal my knee. I spent most of December and January doing leg, butt and ab toning with my Nike Training Club app.
Somehow, even through all the pain I was experiencing, I found a desire to set a goal to run a 1/2 marathon. In all honesty, it wasn’t just for the goal of running, but it was more to get my husband to go on a weekend trip to Nashville…a place I’d been nagging for us to go together for years. He is a country boy. He loves his country music of past and present. But he’s also a homebody, and to get him to go anywhere, sometimes takes a bit of effort and coaxing. So, I again talked to my friend into signing up to run the Country Music 1/2 Marathon of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series with me. It would be a weekend couples trip. This run didn’t take as much coaxing for my friend, since she too, was excited to see Nashville and she’d run several 1/2 marathons (and a full marathon). I, on the other hand, had never ran more than 6 miles at a time and was currently on the disabled list.
But I am a strong willed person. The 1/2 marathon was now a goal and goals keep me motivated. They drive me to do things that are not pleasant….that includes running which was not fun and was currently causing me great pain. But the goal had a training plan, which was essentially a checklist for me and I am a checklist type person. I just needed to get my joints healed in order to start the training plan by the beginning of February.
Thankfully all fell into place. I continued cross training and slowly began very short runs. I was feeling good to start the plan as scheduled. I continued to workout with my friend weekly by doing cross training together. I bought a used treadmill so that I could train through the winter months regardless of weather. I began to do a lot of my running late at night after the kids were in bed. As my distances increased, I felt more and more confident. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment, especially as I was starting to stretch it to 8 and 9 miles at a time. I ended up doing most of my training indoors.
Then spring started to make an appearance. As the highs reached into the 60s, it seemed like a no brainer to get outside for my scheduled long 9 mile run just a couple weeks before our Nashville trip. I felt great, out in the fresh air and sunshine. I hadn’t hit the pavement in weeks….and that was a problem. A very big problem! As I finished off that 9 mile run, I could just begin to feel the strain in my knee. My other knee…not the knee I had trouble with in the fall…now it was the other knee. I didn’t worry about it too much that day, I expected that I would feel some discomfort as I increased my distance. But I did begin to worry two days later when I began to run on the treadmill. Shortly into my run, I felt pain not only in my knee, but in my hip as well. Now this was just great, I was only a couple weeks out from my goal to run a 1/2 marathon and felt like I was right back to where I was a few months ago.
I continued to attempt to run, and continued to feel the pain. Now I was at a cross roads; keep trying to run through the pain, or quit running until the race. Of course, bailing on the goal and the race was not even an option for consideration. I had already committed and set the goal. I would complete it, but how? I decided to stop running. Three weeks prior to my run, I quit running and resumed a strong focus on strength training once again. I was so frustrated, all this training and it had been going so well. But running on the treadmill and running on pavement are very different. In looking back, I wish I never would have hit the pavement for that 9 mile run. Or I wish I would have trained on pavement routinely throughout the process. But those where now lesssons learned. I could not change the past.
Before I knew it, the day had arrived. On Saturday April 27, I awoke at 4:30 am to rain and cold temperatures. That was just great, I had assumed in heading south, we would find more pleasant weather than we left in Michigan. But it was out of my control. It would just make for a more memorable experience.
The race started at 7am. As our corral started the run, I was overcome with emotion; this was it…this is what I had been working for. I was there among 30,000 people running the (VERY HILLY) streets of Nashville. We ran through the downtown, through Printer’s Alley, past numberous recording studios and through neighborhoods. Aside from being soaked, I felt great for the first few miles. It was particularly encouraging to see hundreds, maybe even thousands of spectators lining the course, standing in the poring rain, holding signs, cheering and handing out things like beer, bacon, donuts and other crazy things to the runners. It was an undescribable positive feeling…until I hit mile marker 8. The rainy conditions had my capri pants water logged at the calf. Also, waterlogged was the tape on both of my knees. Eventually, the tape on my bad knee could hold on no longer. I could feel everything loosen on my leg as the tape began to flop back and forth. I began to wonder how I would finish 13 miles. I was barely half way complete and was starting to find myself in severe pain. But giving up was not even an option. I began repeating in my head the words of a spectator’s sign I read along the way “Forward it a pace. Keep moving forward”. That I did, my pace slipped greatly from my target, but I kept reminding myself that I was competing with nobody but myself. I didn’t have to meet my goal time, the bigger goal at the moment was to finish. Since this was my first race, no matter what my finish time was, it would be a PR for me. So I just kept chugging along. Like the little engine that could, up and down every hill. At last, I caught a glimpse of the finish line location across the river…LP field. The end was in sight. Thankfully the last 1/4 mile of the course was downhill. I began to pick up the pace, I forgot about the pain. As I turned the corner into the field and saw the actual finish line, I nearly broke down into tears. As I approached the finish line, I could hear my running buddy and mentor screaming (she’s always at the finsh line screaming for me to sprint to the finish…she’s much faster than me), she was jumping up and down, packed in the sea of specators against the baracade. But I could see her. And I could see that she was proud. I had done it! All the training…all the miles…all the pain….I had done something that I never though imaginable a few months before. I finished 15 minutes over my goal time. And you know what that means to a strong willed personality like mine…I’m have got to do it again!…I need to hit my time goal, not just my finishing goal. Training will resume, and I will set a goal for another 1/2 marathon…as soon as I recover from this one. 😉