Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How to become a runner in 4 easy steps

This year, I have two running goals - complete my second half marathon with a personal record time (check!) and complete my first marathon. When I first started running about 8 years ago, that would have seemed like a ridiculous pair of goals. Heck, it STILL seems kind of ridiculous when I stop to really think about it.

After the 2014 Mercedes Half - with Diana staring at my medal!
Part of my training program is to keep track of my runs - so, I've been doing that with an app called RunKeeper, which posts to social media when I log a run. Doing that keeps me motivated and accountable, and I need all the help I can get!
I guess since I've been so obnoxious about posting my runs this year, I've started to get a lot of questions from friends about "how to become a runner". This always strikes me as funny, because truth be told, when I started 8 years ago, I couldn't run 100 yards without literally thinking I was going to P-A-S-S O-U-T!

True story - when I started training for my first 5k, I went to a reservoir in West Hartford that had a running trail around it about that distance. On day one, the person helping me get started suggested that I pick a landmark up ahead and just focus on running towards it, and then, once I got there, I could decide if I wanted to pick another landmark, and so on. Well, by the time my out-of-shape butt got to that first landmark, an oak tree, I was so out of breath that I felt like I had a hood coming up over the top of my head trying to black me out. I know this may be shocking to some, but I was kind of a drama queen about it, too. I would shout to him, as we approached the oak tree, "HOOD! HOOD!", and once we got to the tree, I would make a grand show of slowing down and walking the rest of the distance around the reservoir in my weakened and exhausted state.

Over time, as the weeks rolled on, I would get past that oak tree, and then, the next, and then, the next, until finally, I was slowly jogging the whole distance around the reservoir. I wasn't going quickly, but I was GOING! It wasn't pretty, it wasn't graceful, it wasn't athletic - it was just motion in the right direction for long enough to achieve the goal. All I wanted that first year was to be able to run a full 5k in memory of my mom - and I did!
Race for the Cure 2008 (with my friend Barb on my back!)
My point is this: if I can do it, YOU can do it. I wasn't an athlete in high school - as a matter of fact, I was so unathletic that the basketball coach (despite his high hopes for my Amazonian height) kindly guided me towards trying out for the theatre program after floundering around on the basketball court for a few weeks. So, if I can do it, YOU can do it.

Me and Steven with friends at the Jingle Bell Run in Birmingham

Step 1: Pick a goal. Pick a real one, one that you can achieve, so that you don't get upset and quit before you even give yourself a chance to get started. If you have never run, a 5k is a great goal to start. Give yourself lots of time leading up to it to get trained. (Remember the curse of the HOOD!)

Step 2: Pick a plan. Just thinking that you'll go out and run a few days a week isn't tangible enough to feel like a plan. I really like Hal Higdon's website (www.halhigdon.com) for training plans of all kinds of races, for all kinds of fitness levels. They have some built in to apps like my RunKeeper app, too. Find one that works for the distance you want to go, and map it out. I literally have a calendar of all the runs I am going to do between now and my marathon in November. It took some time to plan it out, but now, I don't even have to think about it, I just get up each day and GO!

Step 3: Pick a buddy. One of the best things I can recommend is have a friend that can act as an accountability partner. For me, it's my friend Donna. We are both training for different races right now, but we check in with each other after we run. Heck, we don't even live in the same state anymore! For us, it's not about running right next to each other, it's about offering moral support and accountability. We offer encouragement to each other when we run...and when we don't, too. When one of us is too busy or doesn't feel well or is nursing an injury, we are honest about that too, and offer encouragement then, as well. One of the best feelings in the world is when I send my daily report and get hers back!

Step 4: Pick up your feet. GO! If you are like me, you can worry about getting all the right stuff (the shoes, the outfits, the temperature, etc.) in place before you start, and if you are like me, it'll all have to be perfect before you can take even one step. WRONG! Just go. GO! GOOOOOOO! Pick up your feet and run 100 yards. Done? That's 100 yards that you didn't run yesterday. How cool is that?? You can make progress each day, just by picking yourself up off the chair you are sitting in and heading out the door or onto the treadmill!

One last thing: be gentle with yourself. None of us are perfect. None of us run the perfect race, or follow the training plan perfectly. It just doesn't happen. Don't push too hard if you start to feel pain either! Don't be too hard on yourself if you hit a slump or feel sluggish, just do the best you can, and incrementally, day by day (or as in my case, year by year!), you'll get to where you want to be.

Talladega Half with two of the coolest sisters I know: Kristen and B!

If I can do it, ANYONE can do it. I would LOVE to hear from you, if you are trying to run. Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help encourage you along the way! The running community is an incredible group of people - I've met some amazing people and had fantastic experience. The feeling of accomplishment when you cross the finish line is second only to the sense of camraderie and community you feel with the folks that are running along beside you. Don't miss out on this awesome experience!

Mercedes Half 2014 - at the starting line with my friend Scott, who pushed me to get a 2:07!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Six months later...

Have you ever meant to get to something, and let time slip and slip and slip by? So, six months later, here I am! I've been meaning to write, meaning to set aside the time, meaning to get organized and down to business...but then, well, life happened and I just never got around to capturing my thoughts here.

I am sitting here, with the rain coming down outside, in the kitchen of my new house with my daughter and husband asleep upstairs. Scratch that. She's asleep - he just sent me a video of her snoring while he holds her. How stinking cute is that?

Lots has changed in the last six months - the biggest thing is that our little family moved into a new house. It was quite the adventure with lots of drama along the way. We almost bought a house with termites. One of the owners threatened to sue us for not wanting to buy the house with termites. We had to find a new house in 48 hours because we sold our old house and the closing date was looming. Oh, and then, when we did find a house and determine a closing date for our old house, it was right smack dab on the middle of a two week mandatory training class that I had to take at work, so S ended up doing pretty much all of the coordinating and organizing. On Monday, March 24. I left to go to work from one house and came home to another! 

We are going to spend quite a while getting this house to feel like our home, but we love it, so far. It has lots of room for Diana and for us, and for family and friends to come visit or stay (hint, hint...) It's closer to civilization, so now, heading into town for an event isn't such a daunting proposition. 

The other big milestone for me was getting a PR (personal record) in the Mercedes Half Marathon in February. I had been wanting to get back into running and with my new schedule at my new job, I can run before my work day starts. After a few months of serious training, I ended up running next to a friend who kept me so distracted that I didn't even realize how quickly we were running until we crossed the finish line! I got a 2:07, which is a full 24 minutes faster than my only other half marathon. 

What's up next? Vegas, baby! I am planning in doing my first full marathon there in November! Training has already begun, and if my knee holds out, I can cross that off my bucket list. 

Well, I know this wasn't the deepest or most inspirational post, but basically, I just wanted to write SOMETHING to get back in the habit. More to come - hopefully soon.

Today, I am grateful for:
1. Rain on my window - it's the best soundtrack for a Sunday afternoon nap. 
2. Getting to spend time with my in laws this weekend - they are truly some of the best people I know.
3. A husband that will go grocery shopping when I don't want to - what a champ!
4. A friend that I can text or call when I have something keeping me up at night to help get me out of my shame spiral and off the hamster wheel.
5.  This: 

Dear God, thank you for the many blessings in my life. I know that I am blessed beyond measure and only by Your grace. Please grant Diana some relief from her pink eye - I know You have lots of other stuff to worry about with world peace and all, but since You are God, I am hoping you can multitask. Please show me how to be of service to those in need and look for ways to give rather than take. Amen.