Race Recap: Back to the Start

Race Recap- Back to the Start

My run last weekend took me back to where it all began 10 years ago this month.  10 years?!?!  Has it really been 10 years since that first race?  It seems like just yesterday.  Yet, I can’t even imagine my life, the lessons I’ve learned, the people I’ve met, and the journey I’ve made before running.

Runners are some of the most courageous, determined (okay, maybe stubborn is a better word), caring, and selfless people in the world.  And 10 years ago this month, at this very course, a very special runner did an incredibly selfless thing to help me get to the finish line of my very first race.

Some of the sights along the way...

Some of the sights along the way…

It was a cold morning at Chickamauga Battlefield in Ft Oglethorpe, TN.  I’d only begun my running journey a couple of months before, and I was very nervous about finishing my first race.  My husband and I were planning to run the Battlefield 10 miler that day, but the childcare we’d arranged for our kids had fallen through at the last minute.  I told him to go ahead and run since he’d been training for a long time and was running with some buddies from work.  We talked to the race organizers who said it was fine for me to start late since there would be a marathon on the same course that day.  So he would run his 10 miler first, and then I would start so one of us could stay with the kids the whole time.

I kissed him goodbye at the start all the while longing to be starting with him.  The kids and I made our way to the post race building where we could stay warm while we waited for him.  As I tried to figure out ways to entertain the kids, my nerves continued to dismantle my self confidence.  The thought of all those people out there already ticking off the miles and knowing I still had yet to start nearly got the best of me.  I waited about as patiently as a thoroughbred at the start line of the Kentucky Derby.  Then the door to the building suddenly burst open bringing with it a gust of cold air and…..my husband?!?  What was he doing back so soon?  Had he gotten hurt?  Was he okay?  Had he just set some sort of world record for the 10 mile distance? Continue reading

Marine Corps Marathon: Memorials, Memories, Saying Goodbye, and Pressing On

MCM 2016

October 25, 2015 started early as my husband dropped me off at the metro.  We’d traveled 500 miles to Washington DC so I could run my third Marine Corps Marathon.  I knew this one would be different in so many ways because it was the first time we’d been back to DC since we moved away 18 months earlier.

The morning started early. Several thousand of us had to wait over an hour at the security checkpoint because of a security issue. The nearest metro stop is over a mile from the start line. Once we finally got through security we had to sprint over a mile to make it to the start on time. So we really ran over 27 miles. Do I get credit for an ultra marathon?

The morning started early. Several thousand of us had to wait over an hour at the security checkpoint because of a security issue. The nearest metro stop is over a mile from the start line. Once we finally got through security we had to sprint over a mile to make it to the start on time. So we really ran over 27 miles. Do I get credit for an ultra marathon? (October 2015)

It would be hard to see all the familiar places that I missed so much.  Also, my husband, who runs almost every race with me, would be on the sidelines for this race.  I’d have to conquer those 26.2 miles alone.  Finally, I knew this was the last time I’d run Marine Corps for the foreseeable future.  It was the last time I’d run it for my friend, the one who inspired me to run again when I wanted to quit.

My story starts in 2008.  At that time I had one marathon under my belt, and I decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon: The People’s Marathon.  Our fifth baby was born in March of 2008 which gave me plenty of time to train for the October race.  I trained all summer and into the fall.  I couldn’t wait to run through the streets of our beautiful capital with 20,000+ other runners, and I could almost taste the victory of crossing the finish line.  Unfortunately, post partum depression had plagued me for months after the birth of our baby, and on race day it was so severe (along with a nasty sinus infection) that getting to the start line was more than I could handle.  I was devastated, and I vowed I would never run a full marathon again.  I was determined that I would never sacrifice that kind of time and energy training only to have my dreams dashed at the last minute.

Then there was Jen.  Over the next couple of years I continued to run shorter distances, and it was during that time I met my dear, sweet friend Jen.  She was a mom of seven who lived a mile or so from us, and I often saw her out running along my favorite trails.  We’d pause during our runs to chat for a few moments, and one day she mentioned she was going to run the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon.  I was excited for her, but I’ll admit I felt a twinge of jealousy.  I still had a score to settle with that race, but I wasn’t willing to even consider running it again.  I used the fact that we had a large family (six kids at the time) as an excuse.  I told myself people with that many kids just didn’t have time to train for full marathons. Continue reading

Race Recap: 7 Bridges Marathon

Race Recap-7 Bridges MarathonThe four of us were still rubbing the sleep out of our eyes as we left our hotel room last Sunday morning at 5:45 am.  The 7 Bridges Marathon in Chattanooga has been on my bucket list for the last couple of years, but I never dreamed I’d get to run it with my husband and our two oldest boys.

The start was cold (40-ish degrees). We debated whether to bring trash bags to wear at the start to keep us warm.  We decided we didn’t need them. Bad choice.  But once we got started and warmed up, it was an absolutely perfect day for a race.

Ryan's finisher medal.

Ryan’s finisher medal.

The big news of the day is Ryan finished his first marathon!  He and Drew ran together for the first few miles until Drew pulled ahead.    One of the things I love most about running is the life lessons we’ve been able to teach our kids through it.  Ryan learned some important ones Sunday.  First, he learned the importance of being prepared.  Ryan was a bit under-trained for this distance and his body let him know that around the half way point.  He said running miles 15-23 was one of the hardest things he’s ever done.  But he DID IT!! He also learned that he can do anything he puts his mind to.  For more of the lessons our kids have learned from running go here.  Congratulations, Ryan, on a job well done.  Less than 1% of people have the dedication and determination to finish a marathon, and you just joined that elite group.

For winning his age group, he got a beer stein. I guess he'll be using it for root beer floats for the next several years.

For winning his age group, he got a beer stein. I guess he’ll be using it for root beer floats for the next several years.

Drew also had a great race despite having some pretty tired legs from a marathon 5 days before and “PR-ing” at his cross country meet 3 days before.  This course was not nearly the mental battle that last week’s course presented.  It was a beautiful, flat course …..  Drew’s tired legs prevented him from getting a PR, but they didn’t keep him from winning his age group!!  Way to go Drew!

This was a tough, but beautiful, race for David and me.  We ran it much smarter than last spring’s Knoxville marathon, but we didn’t get enough training in to make it a comfortable race or to even come close to a PR.  There are two things I learned from this race that are more important than any PR.  First, I learned (okay, I’m still learning it) that pace isn’t all that important.  I really struggled from miles 16-22 to just put one foot in front of the other.  As I watched one pace group after another pass us, I got more and more discouraged about my slow pace.  That’s when David reminded me that pace is irrelevant.  He reminded me that I was out there running a marathon.  Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m a “real” runner because I’m so slow.  But he reminded me that a fast pace doesn’t make a “real” runner….running does.  And he reminded me that at the finish line I would have covered the same 26.2 miles that everyone else covered which is a heck of a lot more than the person still sitting on the couch.2015-10-18 10.55.09

The other thing I learned (well, I already knew it) is that I have the most amazing running partner in the world.  After 21 years of marriage, 8 kids, and a gazillion moves he is still my best friend and biggest supporter.  He runs every single training run and race with me even though I’m as slow as a snail in peanut butter.  He’s an amazing runner and could probably win his age group at a lot of races.  Instead, he often finishes near the end of his age group.  He says he doesn’t care and that he’d rather spend that time with me.  This weekend he listened to me whine and complain from about mile 17 to 23, but he never gave up on me.  He just kept encouraging me and telling me I could do it.  There are so many reasons to love running, but my favorite part is the kindness, selflessness, generosity, and encouragement of other runners….especially this one.

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10 Ways 10 Years of Running Has Changed My Life

10 Ways 10 YearsTen years ago this month I ran (well, more like walked, gasped, crawled) my first mile.  You can go here if you’d like to read about that first run.  But for now, I’d love to share with you how running has completely changed my life over the last 10 years.  I hope you’ll find some reasons to start (or continue) your own running and healthy living journey.

1. Running has improved my overall fitness.

This is probably the most obvious benefit of running, and I could probably write at least 100 posts about how running has improved my health. There are countless studies showing the health benefits of regular exercise including decreased chances of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.  One of these days I’ll do a post that includes some of that research, but for now take some time to look into it for yourself. Continue reading

Family Fitness Day: Sand Volleyball

Family Fun Day-Because of the large age range in our family (not to mention the sheer number of us), it can be hard to find things we can all do together to stay active.  Today we discovered sand volleyball.  We had a blast!  We spent time together, everyone got some exercise, and most importantly, we had FUN!

The big kids played volleyball while the 'littles' just played in the sand.

The big kids played volleyball while the ‘littles’ just played in the sand.

The three year old spent much of his time laying in the middle of the volleyball court.  It didn't even phase the big kids.  They just played around him.

The three year old spent much of his time laying in the middle of the volleyball court. It didn’t even phase the big kids. They just played around him.

Continue reading

How to Set S.M.A.R.T. Diet and Exercise Goals

How to set S.M.A.R.T. Diet and ExerciseWe’ve all done it.  We decide to get healthy.  We’re going to eat better and exercise more.  We’re going to turn over a new leaf.  We’re going to stop eating junk food.  For me, my commitment to eating better and exercise usually lasts about 1.5 days or until I sniff out some fresh baked brownies whichever comes first.  If you read my weight loss story you know I’ve figured out how to resist those darn brownies at least some of the time.  So let’s chat about how to set healthy goals that we can actually stick with.  For easy reference I’ve created a graphic on the right that you can pin.

(The information on this blog should not be taken as medical advice.  You should always consult with your doctor or health care practitioner before beginning a new diet or exercise plan.) Continue reading

Uphills: The View from the Top

Uphills The View from the TopIf you read my previous post you know I learned a lot about the sport of running at the Blueridge Marathon last weekend, but I also learned some important life lessons on those mountains that day.

The Blueridge Marathon in Roanoke, VA is know as “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” because of it’s 7,430 foot elevation change as it winds up and down the mountains surrounding Roanoke.

If you’ve been around this blog very long, you know I hate running hills. But over the last year I’ve been learning to love the hills and learning a lot of life lessons in the process.

After the start, the first 8 miles or so were straight uphill. As we trudged up the mountain I wondered who the heck thought it would be a good idea to put a marathon in the mountains. I also wondered what had possessed my husband to register us for this race. Continue reading

Race Day: Running Smart

Race Day Running SmartButterflies lived in my belly most of last week. I was more nervous about our upcoming race than any other race I’d ever run. The Knoxville Marathon three weeks earlier had gotten the best of both my husband and me. We finished, but it was ugly. Read about it here if you really want to.

I knew the Blueridge Marathon Saturday was going to be far more difficult than the Knoxville Marathon had been. It’s known as “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” for it’s 7,430 foot elevation change through the mountains around Roanoke, VA.

David and I had talked and strategized since the Knoxville Marathon, and we vowed to follow smart race strategies and not make the same mistakes we did three weeks earlier. Continue reading

Learning to Love the Hills

Learning to love the hills...I hate hills.  I’m a lazy runner.  I avoid hills at all costs.  Until last summer that was pretty easy to do.  We lived in the suburbs of a major city where there were beautifully paved (and mostly flat) trails everywhere.  Oh yes, of course, there were same major hills here and there, but they were easy to avoid.  I even checked the elevation of races before I signed up just to make sure I wouldn’t have to deal with too many hills.

And then my husband announced that we were moving because of his work.  There was no question about whether we’d go.  It was a big promotion for him and an opportunity to further his career.  I knew I’d miss my favorite running trails.  They’d become like trusted confidants.  But I was excited about the prospect of discovering new trails and running routes in our new city. Continue reading