Guest Post Kristin: My first 1/2 Marathon

Kristin has quickly become one of my closest friends.  She is a sorority sister of 2 of my best friends from college and we both now live in Atlanta.  You may have read about her here in December and most recently in my recaps of the Publix GA 1/2 Marathon.  I wanted to share the perspective of a someone running their first 1/2 marathon and what the experience was like for a mom of a 17th month old.

Why Did I Sign Up?
The furthest I had ever run prior to signing up for the Publix GA 1/2 Marathon was a 15K.  It was the Jacksonville River Run in 2008 and I finished in 1:37.  So I knew I was capable of running at least 9 miles if I trained, but I knew that 13.1 miles in my current physical state was a real goal.  This would be the reason to get back into a significant running routine.  When I told my husband, Peter, I was signing up for the race through Team in Training he said super supportive things like, “I’ll believe it when I see it” or “Uh huh, good luck with that” and “I’m sure something’s going to happen like you’ll get injured and you won’t run this race.”

He knows me well enough to know that I am a sucker for reverse psychology.  Oh, and in his defense, I generally have a habit of saying I’ll do things and never really get around to actually doing them.  Examples include: learning to sew (I have a sewing machine that has been used once-by my mother-in-law), taking cooking classes (I have a gift certificate to a cooking class that expired 4 years ago), cleaning out my closet (it continues to be a real sh*t show with shoes sitting in there that no longer fit my feet).  You get the idea.  But running a 1/2 marathon I was DETERMINED TO DO.

The Training
The training began in October 2010.  It involved a couple of test runs around Chastain (a park in Atlanta).  It reminded me of college when I was trying to lose that weight I gained freshman and sophomore year.  It brought back those familiar feelings of pushing through the pain when all you what to do is walk.  It was an unforgettable process and brought back good memories.  In November I received our Team in Training schedule.  This gave me a solid outline of how the next few months would look and an actual plan to follow.

I put the schedule on my refrigerator and proudly crossed off my 2 and 3 mile runs.  And for the first few weeks-they were brutal…It’s not easy-reminding your body what exercise is when you’ve been inactive for two years!  The most I did during my pregnancy was water aerobics (not exactly taxing) and after I had my son, Michael, I would go for an occasional stroll around the neighborhood (again, not exactly taxing).

So on Tuesdays and Thursdays I’d either wake up before Peter and Michael and go early in the morning or between Michaels naps -I would strap him into his BOB and we’d head out.  On Wednesday nights regardless of whether or not Peter was in town (I’d get a sitter if he wasn’t) I would go to Big Peach and run with TNT.  On Saturday mornings I would leave my cozy bed and my family-to go run with TNT again.  When I didn’t feel like it, when all i wanted to do was sleep or come up with an excuse (like I’ve done for the past two years) I would power through it and still get my stuff on and run.

And I felt so good about what I had accomplished when it was over-even if it was only a 2 mile run-that was more than I’d done before and I’d smile and stretch and fish for compliments from Peter when I got home.  And he always complimented me.  The accolades got even better when I did my first 4 mile run with my sister-in-law in Concord, New Hampshire in below zero weather.  “I’m impressed hon, your doing great” he’d say.  And I’d say “Yep, I know!”  When I woke up on a Saturday in January and completed my first 6 miles run with TNT at the river. …I felt so impressed with what I’d trained my body to do after it was over.

It’s not easy to push through shin splints and ankle pains and all the other ailments that came along with training for this 1/2 marathon.  I didn’t quit. I iced, I stretched, I discussed the issues with my coaches, with Liz, and I kept running.  I ran on treadmills in Mexico, in the frozen tundra of the Northeast, I ran in the cold rain in Atlanta and in Jacksonville before the sun came up.  I remember all of my runs because at the end of them-I thought, “Wow, good for me.”

The Race
Without all of those training runs I would have been even more nervous waking up the morning of March 20th for my first 1/2 marathon. And, I was SO nervous.  The alarm went off at 4:45am, but I had been awake long before that..playing out how each mile would feel on my body, and in my head.  It was intimidating seeing the thousands of people preparing to run in the race.  I’ve run in small 5K’s and one 15K-but this was quite a site.  Every runner going through their routines and rituals–bathroom breaks, stretches, and warm up runs.  I just kind of stood around and stared-trying to swallow my anxiety.

I took the long walk to my corral (M, it went A-P so I wasn’t the last one) and waited for the start.  It took us (my TNT friends, who have been with me every Saturday morning for the past several months) 12 plus minutes to cross the start line and off we went.  My nerves didn’t subside until we hit mile 3.  I was conscious of taking it slower than my body was telling me I should go (and I already run slow) because I knew the course had several hills-many of them at the end of the race.  I consulted my Garmin watch often to make sure I was keeping pace and not wearing myself out too early in the race.  I enjoyed running with my TNT friends–we caught upon Kate’s latest vacation, the progress of Lauren’s custom made engagement ring, etc.

Running through the Old 4th Ward neighborhood and through Little Five Points was my favorite part of the race.   Peter and Michael were waiting at the turn going into mile 7.  I stopped for a second to get a hug from my confused son and supportive husband.  Around mile 9 I started to wonder why people participate in races like this…I had to pee, my body was starting to revolt, my legs were starting to go numb, and I had hip pain-but I ran on.  We saw one of the TNT coaches at mile 10 going up an impressive hill on the other side of Piedmont Park. She put things in perspective and said we only had 3 more miles to go!  In my head I refocused and told myself “3 miles-no problem I can do 3 more miles.”

Kate and I stayed together until the last water stop at mile 12.  It was a long and miserable hill at the end of Georgia Tech’s campus.  I was feeling fine.  I had taken 3 Clif Shot Blocks back at mile 6, and again at mile 10…I know this helped a lot (thanks again for the tip Liz).  I lost sight of Kate in the middle of the hill and decided to push hard for a strong finish.  I saw Peter, Michael, and my best friend Katie as I was sprinting for the finish line…and after I made a fool of myself at the finish line photo…I crossed that line and received my first 1/2 marathon medal.

After I was done-I realized why people train for endurance events like this and sign up for races over and over again….there’s not another feeling like it. Pushing your body as hard as you can during a race, dedicating yourself to training for months and months, hundreds/thousands of people cheering with you  and for you before you cross the finish line–it’s just amazing.  I am so proud of myself and thankful for my family and friends for supporting me and encouraging me to meet my goal.

I will continue to run.  I haven’t signed up for another 1/2 marathon-yet. but..I know i will. I proved to myself that even as a stay at home mom with an active one year old-there IS time to exercise and even run a 1/2 marathon if you’re determined enough to make it happen.

Kristin was truly all smiles when she finished.  She finished with an official time of 2:32:23.  Not only did she finish the race, she raised almost $3000 for LLS and was a top fundraiser for her team.  I can’t wait to watch her cross many more finish lines in the future!  So proud of you Kris!!  Love you tons!!

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