One year ago exactly, I did the first day of Couch to 5k. I still remember huffing and puffing back and forth between stop signs, thinking that there was NO WAY this was going to work for me. Not at all. I was so slow and it was so hard to breathe. Each sixty second interval seemed like an eternity and I was gasping and red-faced after each one. The cool down couldn't come quickly enough, but I was still not convinced that it was going to work.
It did, obviously. It's been a year of highs and lows, in so many ways. I learned things that never would've crossed my mind a year ago: negative splits, hill repeats, over-pronation. A year ago, I would've blinked and smiled blankly at those terms, now I can add my own input. Now I can say that I've ran a half-marathon, that the girl who struggled through sixty second intervals ran for over two hours. TWO HOURS. That's a really long time.
I'd hoped to complete two half-marathons this month, the second being yesterday. After I drove home from my first, though, I realized that I was not going to be able to do the 2.5 hour drive home from the second one alone. I tried everything I could to find someone who could go with me, but it just wasn't going to work. I sucked it up, ate the registration fee, and found a ten mile race that two of my friends were doing. A ten mile race that just happened to be 15 minutes from my house.
I'm not going to lie... I'm not a big fan of pushing through the pain. I'm just not a big fan of pain in general, to be honest. When things start to hurt, I back off. Therefore, I prefer to choose races with courses that are described as "fast, flat, and easy." Now that's my language. If I found a course that was described as having a three mile slip and slide in the middle, I would be ALL OVER THAT. This course, however, was described as challenging. Challenging? Even those tiny inclines to make sidewalks wheelchair accessible are a challenge for me!
But I did it. And here's the crazy thing. I'd just come off of half-marathon training, so I didn't do a whole lot to train for this. I did one ten mile run and one eight mile run. I did a few days of hill repeats and miraculously, I started to feel a little better about hills (but I would still prefer sliding down one on a slip 'n slide). But here's the crazy thing, at least the crazy thing for me, I didn't stress about it. I knew I could run ten miles. I didn't really care about my time on this race, it was more about having fun and accomplishing something. I've always ran races alone and being the solo person at a race tends to get lonely, so I was super excited to run with Barb.
The day started out ominous, with thunder, wind, and rain. Fortunately, the rain stopped just before the race started, but the wind and the cold kept up.
Sarah, Barb, and I before the race. Photo taken by the awesome Bari who drove to down to spectate!
They did not lie when they said the course was challenging. The course consisted of seven miles on the road, then three miles on trails in Taltree Arboretum. The roads were country roads, which tend to be hilly. These were no exception. Miles 2.5-3.5 were somehow all uphill, with little to no downhill. I'm not sure how that worked, but we just kept going UP. Around mile six there was a hill that looked like it'd be impossible to climb, because it just seemed to go up. Yet, we did. I want to pat Barb and myself on the back and say that we ran every single hill for the first seven miles, even when we had to weave around people who weren't running them, even when we were huffing and puffing and cursing the very existence of said hills. A year ago, I couldn't have done that.
The transition from road to trail was a little rough! The first trail had long grass where I couldn't really find my footing. We transitioned onto mulch after that, which seemed easier, then they threw in some muddy and slippery hills. By this point, my hip was screaming at me, but we managed. I ended up with my slowest ten mile time, but I felt amazing about it. Our average pace for the first seven miles was somewhere around 10:30, which is great considering the hills and that we were chatting through most of it. Aside from the half-marathon, I've never felt so accomplished after a race. It helps that the race volunteers were some of the most genuinely cheery, happy to be there people I've ever encountered. They were COLD standing out there in the wind, but every single one had something supportive to say. I felt like I picked up the pace a little bit each time we encountered a volunteer, because they were so great.
The best part was cheering on Sarah as she received her age group award after the race (that girl is amazing!), except for the part where once we stopped moving, we got very, very cold.
Afterward, we went out to breakfast, where I proceeded to make a glutton of myself with stuffed french toast and house potatoes. It was worth it, very worth it, except for the part where my stomach was not too happy with me afterward. But seriously? WORTH IT.
It's strange to reflect on the past year and think of how far I've come, yet how far I still hope to go. I have no plans on running a marathon, mainly because I don't think I could handle the time commitment with training while working full-time with two young kids, but also because the thought of running 26.2 miles makes me want to stab myself in the eye. I do want to learn to push myself a little. I want an official sub-30 5k, and I'm going to have to learn to like pain just a tiny little bit to get myself comfortably there. After that? Who knows. I've ran 262 total miles this year so far, but something tells me I have many more to go.