November 27th, 2010
Heya guys! I am excited for this guest post today. It is from my good friend, and college roommate, Amanda! Amanda has run the Philly half marathon the past two years and had two very different experiences with it. She has graciously agreed to write about what she has learned from running and racing. I can definitely relate to it, and I am sure most runners out there can… take it away, Amandaaaaa!
I have never been a runner. But if you don’t believe me, ask Abby. I remember telling her she was crazy when she started running when we were in college. I couldn’t bring myself to run through the hills of Pittsburgh. I’d rather spend my time trying to get Abby not to run – i.e. celebrating Steelers Super Bowl Victories, falling out of chairs in our living room, celebrating 21st birthdays, or painting the infamous Bates Street apartment orange. (I know she’s complained to all of you about the color of our living room in college. Btw…I picked out that color.)
But then I moved to Philadelphia to start grad school in September 2008. All of my friends here in Philly were big runners, so I decided to take a chance and start running too, and it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done. I told Abby right away, and I remember her saying, “We’ll have to run a half marathon together soon!” I rolled my eyes and ignored this comment as if she didn’t even say it.
It’s funny how your friends really know what you’re capable of.
Almost exactly 1 year after I started running, I signed up to do the Philadelphia Half Marathon. I was running 4 times per week and felt I could really do it. I have to admit though, my intentions for signing up were completely wrong. Rather than doing it for myself, I did it to impress my boyfriend, whom I had met 6 weeks before I registered for the race. He said he was going to do it, so I thought to myself, “If he, who never runs, can do it, then I can certainly do it.” So, I started a 12-week training schedule and pushed my body further than I thought it would ever go.
During training, I usually ran 3 3-5 mile runs per week and 1 long one. The furthest I ran was about 10 miles before the half marathon. I went through some pains over those weeks, but I felt like I was really ready to do 13.1.
Then came the race day: November 22, 2009. I was really nervous because I wanted Dan (who, by the way, decided to not sign up!) to be impressed with me. Both his family and my family came down to see his brother-in-law, Dave, and me run which increased my nerves even more. I still felt like there was something more I could have done to prepare, even though I had done everything and more that my training schedule had told me to do.
I ran the entire thing, which was a major goal for me. I didn’t stop once. I would run through water stations, grab a cup, and attempt to drink while I kept running, which wasn’t very effective since the water/Gatorade would just spill right out of the cup. Therefore, I wasn’t hydrating throughout the race. I also got really stressed and frustrated my iPod playlist would run out, so I was constantly trying to find something to listen to.
But I did finish (2:31:33). I was so proud of myself for doing it but was disappointed with my time and exhausted as I crossed the finish line. My finish line picture shows a person who is just about to collapse, but I put on a good face for Dan, my family, and Dan’s family. Dave finished the Philly marathon as well!
Despite my big smile in this picture, I was seriously sick and hurting. I was so sick all afternoon and evening from dehydration. In addition, because I didn’t listen to my body during the run as it yelled at me to slow down, I had injured my IT Band. (Notice in the picture above that I’m putting to weight on my left foot.) I could barely walk from my apartment to my classes for 3 weeks. And because of that injury, I barely ran for the next few months. I was so afraid of hurting myself again.
But then I realized….maybe I got injured because I wasn’t going about this the right way. While I was training, I forced myself to run on days when I was sick or when my body was about to give up or when I was completely stressed about school. I just felt like I had to do this. I just couldn’t fail. This was completely the wrong way to go about it.
Over the summer, I really started to refocus my running. I didn’t push myself too hard and only went out for a run only when I felt like running. I didn’t force myself to do anything or any distance I didn’t want to do.
By mid-September, I had decided that I wanted to run the Philly Half Marathon again….not for Dan, but for myself. Just because it was something I wanted to do. I was signing up later than I did in 2009, but I felt better about doing it! I can’t even explain it. The first person I told was Abby, who gave me a training schedule for the 9 weeks leading up to the race. While still running 3 shorter runs and 1 long run per week, I also did a yoga session each week.
While I really tried to keep to her little and extremely organized schedule, there were times I just didn’t want to run. So, I didn’t. I didn’t want to force myself to run 5 miles after work when my mind and body just weren’t up to it. I didn’t want a repeat of last year.
The Monday morning before the race, I was feeling great. I was getting really excited that the half marathon was only 6 days away. And if you’ve ever been to Philly for the marathon, you know how excited the city gets for it. EVERYTHING is about the race, and it’s hard to ignore all the excitement when I live in Center City about 3 blocks from Independence Hall.
However, the worst happened…I fell walking to work and sprained my lower back. I was crushed. The pain would cause my right hip to ache so much that it hurt to both just sit and walk. Despite the injury, I still really wanted to do the race. I was icing it every night and constantly stretching to make sure I would be comfortable on Sunday and could make it through the 13.1.
Race Day: November 21, 2010. Standing in my corral, I wasn’t nervous at all. I was actually really excited!! I couldn’t wait to get to the starting line and be on my way! I didn’t care about who saw me race and what they thought about my form, time, outfit, whatever.
This time around, I walked through each water station rather than running. And when my body started to hurt, especially my right lower back/hip/leg from my fall, I walked. My confidence actually grew throughout the race because I realized that I had a better understand of what my body could and couldn’t do. For instance, when we reached Fairmount Park, I knew that my hip couldn’t take the steep incline of the hills, so I power walked them rather than hurting myself by running them. I also decided to listen to a book (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) on my iPod rather than music, so I never had to fiddle around with my iPod once the race started.
I crossed the finish line in a much better mood than last year. I had my arms up in triumph, had a huge smile on my face, and cheered so loudly. I was so proud of myself! It’s actually really difficult to put into words how I felt. While my time was a little slower than 2009 (2:38:24), I was happy with my result. I wasn’t sick after the race, plus I wasn’t hurting at all that day or the next.
It has always been a very difficult thing for me to admit my faults and when I’m doing something wrong. But realizing my mistakes in 2009, including the reasons for which I was running, has completely made a difference for me in 2010. For me it’s not about time, distance, having the best gear, or making sure everyone sees my accomplishment; it’s about feeling content with what I do, the feeling of accomplishment in myself, and discovering better, more effective ways to do something I love.
PS…I must have made some impression on Dan since he’s no longer my boyfriend…he’s my FIANCÉ!!!! AND he ran the 2010 Philly Half Marathon! (But I doubt these decisions were based on my 2009 half)