Category Archives: Half-Marathon Adventure

What I learned from NOT running a half-marathon

Back in January I embarked on what I called the “Half-Marathon Adventure.” I had only run my first 5K a few months earlier, but after hearing an inspiring story at a New Year’s Eve party I decided that could jump up the next day and start training for a half-marathon. I did some research, I came up with a training plan, signed up for a race, and hit the ground running (no pun intended…).  A few weeks and 6 miles in, I was falling apart. I was exhausted and sick, which ultimately led to me being frustrated and angry.  I never did run that half-marathon.

I was a first-year teacher so I kept blaming my sickness on that, but I realized after some time that I had pushed myself. I kept thinking of what others could accomplish . Instead of listening to MY body, I kept comparing what I couldn’t do to what others could do and I ran myself ragged because of it. For months I hadn’t been back in a normal running routine. I kept setting expectations that are way too high and disappointing myself. I kept telling myself “I need to go to the gym and I need to run 2 miles.” It wouldn’t happen, then I’d get angry. I was getting sucked into that all-or-nothing approach and I knew it, but I didn’t know how to stop it! Mostly because I had been on such a roll, running a lot had become the norm and I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t do that any more and that I had to start at square one.

About a month ago my boyfriend gave me the best running advice anyone could have given me. I get very obsessed with running schedules and special plans. I always need a plan. He told me that I just need to run. Get my butt out there and run! Run as much as I can, then run a little bit farther. So I went to the gym for the first time in months and for the first time ever without a plan. I don’t think I ran more than a half-mile and I definitely wasn’t there more than 20 minutes, but I showed up and I did something. That’s better than what I had been doing – nothing! I told myself I’d do this three times a week. Within a couple weeks my distances were increasing and getting easier. Just last week I ran two miles and it was so easy! On the flip side, today I ran only a mile and felt like I was going to die. But you know what? That’s what my body can handle and it’s fine. I’m still doing a great job.

Obviously I’ve “given up” on my half-marathon goal for this year, but is it really giving up? No. I think I’ve just become realistic. I tried something new, realized it was too much, and learned a lot about running (and myself) along the way. So 2011 will not be the year I run a half. Will there ever be a year I run a half? I’m not sure. It might just not be something my body can handle, and I’m not going to push it if it can’t. Instead I’m going to be proud of the things that I CAN accomplish, no matter what anyone else around me can do.

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I’m back!

As some of you may have noticed, I was struggling with a lot of stress and illness when my posts started to fizzle out.  To be honest, this last track of school has been more about survival than anything.  Physically, I haven’t been feeling the greatest.  Just when I start to feel normal, I get sick.  I’m exhausted – mentally and physically.  And emotionally I’m just frustrated because of all of this.  Yoga and running have been on pause for what seems like months.  It started out with being sick all the time and has turned into a combination of lack of energy and lack of motivation.  I think there’s definitely something weird going on with my body, and I’m in the process of trying to figure that out, but I think that despite that I may be guilty of over-training when I set out on this Half-Marathon Adventure.  I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my running practice, and although I’ve learned a lot from running, I’ve also learned a lot over the past few months from not running:

Don’t compare yourself to others.  This is a recipe for disaster.  My body is different than everyone else out there, and I need to do what’s right for me.  If that means learning to run 6 miles over the course of 16 weeks, then that’s OK.  If that means running a 12 minute mile, that’s acceptable.  I’m still progressing, perhaps at a slower rate.  Better to do that and stay healthy than to push myself and end up in the pickle I’ve been in for months.

I joined a running group at the YMCA and really struggle with seeing all the posts coming through my e-mail.  People twice my age are running marathons at paces that I could never dream of maintaining.  On top of that they’re doing all sorts of other activities on the side – cycling, swimming, strength training.  Sometimes I feel that being the youngest one in the crowd, and especially one that doesn’t have a family to worry about on top of that, I should be able to do just as much as them, if not more.  But I forget that I am different, and that they have been doing this for years!  I just started running a year and a half ago.  Why wouldn’t they be running farther and faster than me?!?  I need to do what is right for Tamara.

I don’t need to do everything.  I don’t know why I never had this revelation before, but it dawned on me the other day that I don’t need to be a runner all the time and that I don’t need to do yoga all the time.  I can’t do everything all at once.  My mother told me that constantly as a kid and I feel like I’ve been learning that lesson for months now.  I expect way too much out of myself, and then I burn out.  I can have a season for running.  I can have a season for yoga.  I remember how when I started my half-marathon training I would go to yoga on Saturday morning for 90 minutes and then go to the lake and run 6 miles.  At the time it made sense, but now it seems psychotic.  That’s almost 3 hours of intense activity and over 1000 calories burned!  No wonder my body gave up on me!  EEP!

I don’t need to run 5 miles for it to be good exercise.  I always thought I was so good about not having the all-or-nothing approach, but then I realized that I was completely guilty of this.  For some reason I had it stuck in my head that if I wasn’t going on long runs or that if I wasn’t at the gym for an hour, it wasn’t doing anything and wasn’t worth my time.  When I started getting sick and exhausted, instead of cutting back on what I was doing, I stopped doing anything.

When my friend David was home for his spring break, we started going on walks together.  It may seem stupid, but it wasn’t until I started going on those walks that I remembered that walking is, in fact, exercise and that if I’m too tired too go on a run it is perfectly acceptable to go on a walk.  Along the same line, if I can’t run three miles any more, why can’t I focus on running one?  One mile is better than zero miles.

So what’s my plan?  Don’t worry, I’m still on this Half-Marathon Adventure.  I will run 13.1 miles – I’m just not entirely sure it’s going to happen in 2011.  I need to take smaller steps than I thought, and I am accepting that.  Either way, I’m still going farther than I would have if I had not set a goal at all and I’m growing and learning along the way.  My plan is to follow the 16-week beginner 10K plan from the coach in my running group.  There’s the part of me that cringes at the thought of the first couple of weeks only being a mile, but then I think about how I went from running three miles to six miles in only a month or so and how soon after everything quit.  Maybe it’s best for me to only run a mile for a couple of weeks.  I think my body will thank me!

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New Shoes! And some encouragement…

I wrote this earlier this week (before the next illness) and forgot to publish it…whoops!

Went to Raleigh Running Outfitters this weekend and bought myself a new pair of running shoes.  I’ve had the same pair of shoes for about a year and a half and I figured it was time for 1) a new pair and 2) to get my gait analyzed so I have the right shoes before I launch out on this half marathon thing again.  Turns out I have a lot of pronation, which is interesting considering the fact that I always thought I had high arches.  But this makes a lot of sense about why my knees were killing me those first few weeks I was upping mileage.  So I bought a pair of stability shoes.  They look like space boots, but I tested them out yesterday and I felt a lot less wobbly while running.  The one problem was that my wide feet started cramping up as though the shoes were too tight.  They didn’t feel that way when I tried them on, so maybe I laced them too tightly.  I’ll try them out a few more times and if it’s still happening, I’ll take them back and see if I can exchange them.

I also thought that buying new running shoes might be a nice bit of encouragement to slowly, but surely, get back into my training.  I’m making sure to take it slow, maybe even too slow, to be certain that I don’t burn myself out.  I’m starting with barely running to build my body back up and doing a lot of walking in the meantime.  I’m still pretty tired and need my 2 1/2 weeks of break to refresh me.  Yesterday I walked one mile and ran one mile.  Mentally I wanted to go more, but my body was not digging that idea, so I left the lake and went home.  It was a lot for me to tell myself that I only have to do one lap around the lake.  That my workout doesn’t have to last for an hour.  That’s it’s OK to only cover 1 mile running.  All of that is perfectly acceptable!  And for some reason I can’t understand that without reminding myself a million times.  Oh well.  These are lessons I need to learn, I suppose.  Gotta keep moving, no matter how little…

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A Tough Decision…

…but a necessary one.  I won’t be running the half marathon in April.  This sickness really hit me hard and I haven’t been back to 100% in about three weeks.  Two weeks of that I was pretty sick, and even when I was done with the antibiotics my body was still exhausted.  I wanted to get back into running and tried jumping back in to the recovery week I would have been on if I had still run those two weeks.  I hopped on the treadmill and ran 3 miles and felt like I was going to fall over because my body was so tired.  The day after, I was supposed to do speed workouts.  It took all my energy just to go grocery shopping, let alone sprint my fastest.

While I was grocery shopping I realized that this race was becoming stress-inducing due to the fact that I had missed so much of my training and was on a time crunch, so I started wondering if I should do it.  Of course, there’s the part of me that felt like I was quitting on myself.  Yes, I’m pushing myself to do these things so that I can live without fear, but instead I’m getting scared of different things.  Like fearing that if I let myself stop to take a breather, I’m not going to pick back up.  I’ll end up depressed, fat, and miserable like I was before.  I know that won’t happen – I can’t ever let myself go back there.  So I don’t know why this is a fear I have, but it is.

I called my good and very practical running friend David to ask his advice on the situation.  I was all in a tizzy and on the verge of crying, but his answer was simple.  “Running is something that should be enjoyable, and if it’s stressing you out then don’t do it!”  He reminded me that it’s not quitting, just choosing not to do this race.  There will be plenty of others!  Of course my parents said the same thing, and my mother reminded me that I’m anything but lazy and, at times, a little too much so.

I’ve already paid for the race.  I won’t be running the half, but I might run the 5K that goes with it.  I’m bummed because I hear it’s a really good race, but I think this will be better.  There’s another half in Raleigh in November, and the time in school leading up to it is much less stressful, so I’ll do that one instead.  I realize now I can’t plan to do anything during this third track.  I was warned it was a tough one, but I didn’t believe anyone because the first six weeks breezed by.

I’m almost back 100%.  I got on the elliptical for 30 minutes yesterday and covered about 3 miles.  It felt really good to finally be moving again.  I was able to go out with friends again last night and felt a sudden burst of energy, so this week I should be able to hop back into things.  I think what I’m going to do is start the half training program again with no race in mind and no time-constraint.  Just do it for the fun of it and run that distance before I sign up for any race.  No pressure.  That’s how I did the 5K and it seems to work better for me this way.

In the meantime, I’m not going to let myself get all worked up over the fact that I’m not running the race I had in mind.  I’m not going to let myself think that I’m quitting.  I’m going to remind myself that I’m putting things on hold until it’s a better and healthier time for me to do it.  Until that next race, I’m going to keep smiling, keep moving, and keep living.

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February Recap

This past week I didn’t run again.  Although I was feeling quite better, I was still pretty tired.  On top of that, this week was the week before my choir concert, which meant I was in Durham until 10:00 3 nights out of the week.  I wasn’t even going to try to do anything those nights since they would be exhausting enough.  I did manage to get out for a quick 3-miler on Wednesday.  I was feeling pretty good and thought I’d give it a try, but started coughing non-stop when I was done.  I also felt really tired that night.  Saturday I started getting stir-crazy and had to let out a bunch of nervous energy, so once again I went out with the intention of doing a short run and ended up sprinting for 15 minutes.  I could not make myself slow down no matter how hard I tried.  But it felt good to let it out!

I still have a cough and some sniffles, but I’m feeling pretty good.  I’m going to try to jump back in this week, but be very conscious to listen to my body.  I’ve been trying to figure out how to hop back into my training.  If I backtrack I’ll be WAY behind.  The last two weeks I missed were my second build week and my peak week, peaking at 7 miles on Saturday.  That would make this coming week a recovery week and an easier place to pick up than the first week I missed.  Today was supposed to be a rest day, but since I’ve hardly done any running, I’m going to make it an easy 3 miles, and my long run on Saturday will only be 5.  Totally doable.  I was planning on running a 5K on Saturday, but I’m going to take it easy.  I’ll have plenty of opportunities this year to run 5Ks.  Now I’ll just focus on this half marathon.

Anyway, let’s see how I’m doing on my yearly goals…

  1. Run 3 times a week – aside from the past two weeks, I’m doing well with this goal.  It’s kind of hard not to when I’m training.  : )
  2. Run 5 5Ks – still down just the one but, as I mentioned, I’ll have plenty of opportunities after this race to do them.
  3. Train for and participate in a half-marathon – check.  I registered for the race so there’s no turning back now.
  4. Strength train twice a week – I was counting my yoga as this, so read below.
  5. Go to a yoga class at least once a week – Wednesday night yoga didn’t work out a few times this month because of Bible study.  The young adults at my church are trying to get a Bible study started this night and for right now it’s only once or twice a month, but they’re trying to make it every week, so there goes Wednesday night yoga class.  As for Saturdays, it’s becoming too much to do Saturday yoga AND a long run.  It was OK when it was 3 or 4 miles, but doing yoga for an hour and a half and then running 6 miles makes me feel like I’m going to pass out.  On top of that, by the time I’m done with yoga and my run, my entire day is gone.  I could run before yoga but 1) I don’t want to get up early.  I just don’t like it.  2)  It’s hard to get up early and plan eating for a run along with my medication which I have to take on an empty stomach and wait at least 30 minutes before I can eat.  And I can’t run with food in my belly.  It’s just complicated.  3) I don’t want to be rushing to finish a run and make it to yoga on time.  4) Last time I tried running before a yoga class I blacked out for a couple of seconds in yoga, so I don’t think I’ll be trying that again soon.  So I think that until this half is over, I’m not going to worry about going to yoga class.  I’ll do some living room yoga and maybe try to start getting up in the mornings and do it before work.  I did that in the summer, but once winter rolled around and I was in hibernation mode, it was impossible to do that.
  6. Pray every day – still haven’t found a special time to pray, so I usually end up praying in bed while I’m falling asleep.  So I suppose that has become my special time.
  7. Join a Bible study – As I mentioned above, I’ve been going to the young adult Bible study at church.
  8. Read 20 books – Finished another one this month.  Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes.  AWESOME read if you’re a runner; I highly suggest it.
  9. Put away $100-$200 a month for a down payment on a car – check.
  10. Try 3 new recipes each month – I don’t remember exactly how many I tried, but I tried at least a couple, one being this awesome vegetarianization of a favourite dish from my childhood.  : )

How is everyone else out there doing with their goals?  What’s something you’re really excelling at and something you might still need to work on?  Have you sat down and evaluated how you’re doing with reaching your goals?

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Week 5 Recap and Some Reflections on Running

Well, as you can probably guess from my last post, I really don’t have anything to reflect on for this week.  I did my scheduled 5 mile run on Monday, although that was a giant mistake.  I was so sore and tired from the 5K the day before and the 5 miles I did on the elliptical the Saturday before that I really needed a day of rest, but it was such a beautiful day I just couldn’t resist.  Spring fever!  The rest of the week I did nothing except sit home and rest.  So frustrating!  But I know it was the right choice.  I did, however, want to write about some thoughts I had on Monday while running, but have been too exhausted to write them down this entire week.

Monday I was running at Lake Lynn and focusing on staying in the correct HR range.  I felt like I could go forever, and it was liberating.  For the first time since I started running, I realized just how much I love the sport.  I love its simplicity.  You don’t need any fancy equipment to be a runner.  All you need is a pair of shoes (some would even argue that) and a ground to run on.  It’s raw and it’s organic.  There are no rules – just lace up your shoes and go.  I love its solitude.  Some might think running can get lonely, but I love the time I have to spend in my head – I’ve gotten to know myself a lot better since I started.  And although racing creates competition against others, I feel that, more than anything, running is a game you play against yourself.  On a deeper level, running is a game you play against your mind.  I love the freedom.  I love that my feet can take me anywhere I want to go, as far as I’m willing to push myself.

For the first time in my life, I truly feel that I am a runner.  It is not just something I do, but a part of who I am.  I’m no longer doing it to lose weight and get healthy, but rather because I can’t imagine a life without it.  Running has changed me, perhaps saved me.  Each time I go for a run I always find myself asking, “how did I live my life before?”  The honest answer to that is that I don’t think I did.

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Week 4 Training Recap

Monday: REST I was sick too so this worked out nicely.  I called in and slept all day.

Tuesday: Planned – Track Workout; Actual – light walk. Called in sick again this day, but by the end of the day was able to get myself up for an easy walk.

Wednesday: Planned – Yoga + CX 30 min; Actual – Speed/track workout on treadmill + core. Did the workout I’d do at the track on the treadmill to make up for the day before.  Didn’t go to yoga class because I had a Bible study, but I did a little in my living room.

Thursday: REST

Friday: Planned – 60 Min CX + core; Actual – REST I was exhausted this day and seeing as how I was sick earlier that week and still getting over all the sinus stuff, I decided to take another day.  It works out though because Sunday is usually my rest day, but I have a 5K planned for that day, so by switching that rest day and Friday and bumping everything back a day it worked itself out.

Saturday: Planned – Yoga + 5 miles; Actual – Yoga and 60 min. CX I hopped on an elliptical for 60 minutes after yoga.  I focused on staying completely in my endurance heart range but had a cross-training workout with changing incline so I worked different muscles and had to speed up/slow down based on the incline to keep my HR the same.  I felt awesome, like I could stay there all day!  Woohoo!  I covered about 5 1/2 miles anyway, so it was like getting my long run in.

Sunday: Planned – REST; Actual – Run for the Roses 5K with a 1 mile warm-up My running coach would be upset with me because after this whole seminar on the importance of paying attention to your HR, I ran the 5K at top speed.  I was running with a friend, which didn’t help, and I was excited!  So I ended up in my top heart range for most of it.  My time for my first 5K ever was 32:20 and my time this time around was 32:26, so not bad.  This course was a lot hillier than the first race I ran!  Anyway, I hurt all over and I have a headache.  I’m supposed to run 5 miles tomorrow, but I don’t know that that will be happening.  We’ll see.  : )  Probably not the smartest race ever, but I’m glad I did it.  It felt really good! 

Before the race!


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