About 11 months ago I finished the Bolder Boulder 10K in Boulder, CO.  Several of my friends had been pushing/encouraging me to run it and sort of reluctantly I trained for and completed it.  That was the longest run I had ever finished–prior to that I was a reluctant/occasional runner with a definite love-hate relationship with the sport (leaning heavily towards hate!).  I had decided though, that as I approached 40 I needed to get more healthy and exercise regularly, especially since I’d found out I had polycystic kidney disease.  I couldn’t make that go away but I’d be darned if I was going to sit back and just wait for my body to crash on me.  Running seemed like a cheap and relatively easy (so to speak) way to accomplish these goals.  When I finished the BB10K I had the following thoughts:

It was fun.  Lots of fun.  (The BB is a fantastic road race, BTW.  I highly recommend it!)  I felt great for having accomplished it and by that point considered myself to be a “habitual” runner (meaning I ran consistently 3-4x a week) and had no intention of giving that up.  It also was hard…at the end of the race I was wiped and said to myself “That’s just about perfect.  I feel like I worked hard but not like I’m going to die.  I can’t imagine ever running more than 2x that for a half marathon (never mind a MARATHON).  I will stick to 5K’s and 10K’s.  I will not ever, EVER run a half marathon!”  That last part was further confirmed by my friend Tammy’s experience with her half later that summer, which was really challenging for her.  Nope.  Not interested.

Cut to April 28, 2013.  This morning I completed the Athleta Iron Girl Half Marathon in Columbia, Maryland.  In pretty decent time too, I might add.

So how did I get here today???  Well, first of all, running has become a habit.  I missed a week or two this past fall but for pretty much a year and a half I have run at least 3 times a week.  I hate missing it.  I don’t like to put it off.  A lot of days I don’t feel like doing it at all but I still go and I always am glad.  Some runs are easy and feel good, some (even short ones) are a total slog from start to finish.  But I have made it a habit like brushing my teeth and that feels good.

Secondly, I am a very goal-driven person.  I like to have something I am working towards…in college one semester I had 18 papers to write.  I made a big sign for the back of my door where I blacked out the numbers as I counted down from 18 to 1.  It was very helpful and motivating for me.  As the fall wore on I was feeling more and more like I needed some sort of goal to work towards in my running.  One of my goals then, for the new year, was to run a half marathon.  I wasn’t 100% set on doing it, but it was out there.

Then towards the end of February, I was out running and just, well, kept going.  I was feeling good and added an extra loop to my run.  I’d been running much farther distances since we’d moved to Maryland on a regular basis (4, 5 and 6 miles, as opposed to 3, maybe 4 typically), but I wasn’t sure how far I’d gone this particular day.  As I mapped it out on Map My Run I realized I’d run 8.34 miles.  8 miles!  I was surprised and realized that the goal of running a half wasn’t so far fetched.  I started looking into races more seriously and found this one, the Iron Girl Half, at the end of April.  It looked really cool, had great reviews, was all female, and the $$ went to a good cause (cancer research).  After going back and forth about it one evening Bill said “Just do it!” (no, he doesn’t work for Nike!) and click, click, click–I am signed up for a half marathon in about 8 weeks.

The next 2 months flew by.  I hung a training schedule on my fridge, ala college, and x’ed out each run.  There were a few shorter runs I  skipped (just a couple) but I did all the long ones.  And then today, the race–DONE, already!  Amazing.

A few things I learned today:

There is great power in groups.  I ran much slower in training than I did in today’s race.  I am so much more motivated at a race, so encouraged and empowered.  A race is amazing, people of all shapes, ages, sizes, going out there and giving their all.  I was particularly proud of being in this huge group of women out there pushing ourselves and doing this tremendous athletic feat.  I wished I’d had my friends with me, particularly Shelly and Tammy, who’d been the ones to get me running in the first place.  I’m terrible at actually running “with” someone…I am no good at pacing myself at another person’s pace.  But I wish I’d had a friend to stand at the start with and get going with and then meet at the end and go celebrate with.  If I run another half marathon–and I fully intend to!–hopefully one of you friends out there will join me!  It felt so good–so good!  It was amazing from start to finish.  I didn’t have any of the “ohmygodi’mgoingtostoprightnowican’trunanyfarther” moments that I had when training.  Driving the course beforehand was tremendously helpful.  There were a couple good sized hills that I was glad I knew about ahead of time and was able to get a little reserve going so I could kick it into gear up those hills.  If there is one invention I am thankful for it is the ipod.  I LOVE my ipod.  I love my running mix.  As Britney Spears’ “Stronger” kicked in at mile 12, I busted my butt down that last hill, up that next hill and into the homestretch.  A lot of people can run without music but I am not one of them.  The words, the beat, the emotion all get me going and help me keep my pace.

What a great day it was!  I am so proud of myself for accomplishing this.  I know we’re not supposed to be prideful but this is something I did and I feel so good about it and I’d like to think that God is looking down on me and feeling pretty pleased for me too.  I don’t think it’s bad to be proud of something you’ve worked hard for.  If you think you could never run 13.1 miles, think again!  Start small and keep putting one foot in front of the other and who knows where you will end up!

But I’m never, ever running a marathon.  You can forget it.