You Can Call Me Marathoner Mal!

Hello friends! Remember me? Remember how I ran a marathon almost over two months ago and it’s taken me this long to finally write about it? 2017 resolution: Stop procrastinating! But really, I did get pretty swamped at work and was studying for my personal trainer certification (which I got, yay!) and so wanted a break from reading and writing. Then came the holidays. Blah blah. Excuses, excuses.

Good thing I took notes so I wouldn’t miss a single detail to share with you, though! Get ready for the longest post ever.

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Kicking Off Marathon Weekend

Asics hosted a breakfast on Friday morning to talk about marathon day, do a little shake out run, eat some food and hear from some runners who already earned several marathon medals. We met at the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle and then headed out for maybe a half mile run, just up to the finish line in Central Park. It was so exciting to see all the international flags that lead up to the finish line and to be able to visualize being there on Sunday. Coach Kastor gave a little speech about race day, as did Deena (his wife and Olympic marathoner who’s featured in Spirit of the Marathon). We hung out there for a bit—Maggie, Laurel and I took some weird boomerang videos—and then headed back for breakfast.

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After we grabbed some food, Olympic marathoners Sarah and Ryan Hall, and Deena gave us advice leading into Sunday. Most of them talked about enjoying the experience of race day, of being out there and using the energy of the crowds to push through the miles. The advice that stuck with me the most: “Stay in the mile you’re in.” In other words, not letting your mind focus on how you’ll feel at mile 13 when you’re only at mile four, but to really enjoy that fourth mile and concentrate on how good you feel then. I honed in on those words a lot during race day, not letting myself worry about how tired I would be come mile 20, but concentrating how good I was feeling at 10.

After breakfast, we headed into Columbus Circle to support Asics’ Extra Mile campaign. They had treadmills set up outside and for every mile clocked, they’d donate a pair of shoes to Girls on the Run. Laurel and I tag teamed the mile because, tapering.

Of course I had head to work after that and make it through the day without reading about marathon Sunday or letting thoughts of running consume all of my brain power. But I did get to leave early to head to the marathon expo to pick up my number. I was so excited that the weekend was finally here that I basically raced out of the office. I had been preparing for this weekend for the past four months—well, technically a year prior when I signed up for the 9+1 program—so I was ready to get the party started and soak up every. single. second.

I took the subway all the way over to the west side to the Javits Convention Center, a huge event space in the Hudson Yards. (It’s also where Hillary Clinton set up shop on election night. But we’ll breeze right over that topic…) The place was obviously popping when I walked in, but it wasn’t as filled as I expected which was nice.

The actual picking up of my number was a smidge anti-climatic. It took me all of about 20 seconds. (I should have know this too, because I volunteered last year, working the number pick up, and lots of people had a “that’s it?!” reaction, like it should be as extravagant as a graduation ceremony or something.) But alas, I had my number and it was all really happening. I made sure to text a bunch of people to let them know it was official.

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After I got my T-shirt, I walked all around the expo, hitting every booth I could. I bought another Asics “Run NYC” shirt, even though they had sent me a ton of awesome apparel. (Can you really ever have enough?) After one lap around the place, I didn’t want to leave so I took another lap. I also made sure to get a picture with my number in front of the pretty background (see above) and I stopped by the booth that was putting runners’ photos on fake Runner’s World mag covers.

I did find myself wishing I had a PIC or my family there with me, but it was a great introduction to race weekend. I also realized how much I wanted to make sure I lived up this experience as much as I could. My goal was to look back and know I was present for every moment of the marathon, just in case I crossed the finish line and decided I never wanted to do it again ha. (After doing so, I’ll say I probably would do another one. I’d just like a training buddy.)

I headed back home, after spending probably close to two hours at the expo, to get some sleep before my family came the next day.

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The Day Before the Big Day

I got a great night’s rest on Friday night and woke up around 9am or so to do a little two mile jog around my Astoria neighborhood. It was slow and lovely.

Then I headed out to meet my parents, brother and niece in Manhattan. We had plans to get some food at Billy’s Bar and Burger and afterward took a little walk through Central Park to see the finish line again. (I wanted to visit the marathon pavilion, but apparently that only happened on Thursday and Friday. Whoops!) We also went to Jack Rabbit in the Time Warner Center to get some PowerGels and a potential fanny pack/belt to hold all my snacks.

Side note: I the Berry Blast gels (which contain caffeine) on my 20-miler and wanted to make sure I had them again. I had figured out a race-day fuel plan with a dietitian and we factored these into it. The plan: Three Glukos fruit punch gummies at mile three, another three gummies at mile six, a half of a gel at mile 10, the other half at mile 12, three gummies at mile 15, three more at 18 and my last full gel at mile 22. I followed that schedule almost exactly on Sunday.

After some shopping, we went back to the hotel to hang for a little and rest up a bit more. I ended up having Dig Inn for my pre-marathon dinner—not a meal I had had during training, but it seemed like a good idea to have rice, potatoes and meatballs. I will say, I don’t think it was the best choice. Probably too much fiber, but the damage was done.

I left my family’s hotel around 7pm so I could get back to my place, finalize everything I needed for race day and get to bed early. That’s when I freaked out a little, mostly because I could not decide what pants to wear. (ha!) I thought I was going to wear these Asics leggings (because hello, #TeamAsics), but I also needed an extra pocket for all my gummies and gels. I tried on my outfit about 10 times, swapping between the Asics tights and an Under Armour pair with an extra zip pocket, which I had worn during a half marathon. I eventually decided on the latter because it fit all of my belongings more comfortably. I also changed my hand band plan (to one that said “never give up”) and decided the Nathan’s belt I got at the store was comfy enough and definitely convenient so I’d go for it. So much for not trying anything new on race day!

It wasn’t until I posted the photo of my outfit on Instagram and the good luck messages started rolling in that I got truly excited! Then I had to go to bed.

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And So It Begins: Marathon Morning!

I set literally five alarms to get up on Sunday just to be safe, even though Laurel, Maggie and I vowed to call each other if someone didn’t respond to text. I ended up waking up at the sound of my first alarm at 4:45am. The day had come, people!

I put on some mascara—because lots of photos were about to be taken, of course—ate my bowl of plain oatmeal, did a quick foam roll, got dressed, braided my hair, put on my really sweet sweats (aka old ones I didn’t mind leaving at the start) and headed out the door at 5:45am. (For reference, I wasn’t scheduled to start running until 10:40am.)

While walking to the subway, I decided to hop in a cab, because fears of missing the bus began to settle in. I’m so glad I did. I basically had a marathon guardian angle as my driver. He was from Bangladesh with a sweet, calming accent and despite me telling him I wasn’t expecting to win, he reassured me that I totally could, if I just thought positively. What a sweet, clueless-about-the-marathon man. He also told me my name meant something sweet, like I had a warm soul or something? Ego, boosted. Ready to go after that ride!

I had signed up for a ferry to take me to Staten Island, but Asics was offering a bus and I could ride with Laurel and Maggie so I met them in Midtown West.

Not too long after we all met, we boarded the bus and headed to the starting line! Laurel, Maggie and I chatted about our nervousness and excitement for the day. Maggie had written down where everyone she knew was going to stand on the course, so she could review it in the start village. It was pretty cute. We also took a short little snoozer and watched the Alec Baldwin marathon video again to get ourselves even more pumped up.

It’s hard to describe how I felt when we got off the bus and into the crowd making their wait to the waiting areas. Excited, yes. A little nervous, totally. I think also privileged and already feeling kind of accomplished just for making it there. I also could relax a little, since at this point I was just waiting to take off. I didn’t have to worry about missing the bus or forgetting something. I was ready!

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The three ladies in the pic above and myself took a seat in the grass, wrapped in towels and blankets. But really, we hardly needed them. We seriously lucked out with a beautiful day. It was sunny and probably close to 50 degrees, if not higher, even in the morning.

We had about an hour to hang. I ate the peanut butter sandwich I brought, a banana and a Clif Shot Block that Maggie gave me because I panicked I needed more salt. Laurel also gave me a salt table to have on the course, just in case I felt like I needed it. (I did suck on it from miles say, 18 to 20ish, when I started to get tired. It tasted a little weird though.) I also finished a water bottle about an hour before my start time. I read that was a good rule of thumb, so I wouldn’t have to stop on the route. It worked.

I tried to sneak into Maggie’s 10:15 start time, but they wouldn’t let me. Totally understandable, but I did get sad for a second. I gave myself a quick pep talk, though, not letting that ruin my positive mindset for the morning. This was marathon day and it was damn exciting! So instead, I sat on a kind stranger’s blanker and counted down the half hour until my corral got called.

I walked through the gate. Hit the porter potty one last time. Then started walking up to the start line. (Just a two minute walk up a little hill.) I could not believe I was at about to star the NYC Marathon!

We got a little pep talk from the announcer. I did a bit of stretching, a lot of dancing (swaying?) around and then “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra started playing over the loudspeaker. I smiled, danced some more, and clapped and snapped a few pics. I reminded myself that this was the last time I’d start my first marathon. Weird maybe, but kept me in that moment. Then the cannon went off and away we went… slowly.

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Running the Streets of NYC

I was on the bottom level of the Verrazano, so the views weren’t as great as you might expect, but I still tried to take in as much of waterfront landscapes as I could. I planned to go up the bridge pretty slow, so I tried not to check my watch (another last minute addition to my race day wardrobe). It seemed like most people were moving fairly slowly, but lots of people passed me. Soon enough, we were at the top and already at mile marker number one, before we started coming back down the other side of the bridge.

When we exited the bridge I saw lots of people taking a little bathroom break under the bridge in a not-so-secluded area. I had been warned by a few people that runners peed off the side of the bridge on the upper level, so I was to stay toward the center to avoid it. I followed that advice, but I didn’t see any streams anyway. I guess people waited until they came off the bridge. (There was also a sign at the start clearly stating you wouldn’t be able to finish if you didn’t relieve yourself in the designated bathrooms.)

There weren’t many spectators when we hit the bottom of the bridge in Brooklyn. But because people follow different paths for this beginning portion of the race, there were runners coming from several different directions. It was a pretty awesome sight to see so many people working toward the same goal, and to be a part of that. Official feel-good moment number one…check.

I also had my first batch of gummies soon after getting off the bridge. I wasn’t feeling like I needed it yet, but the dietitian I spoke too mentioned it was better to fill up before you felt like you needed it, so I stayed on schedule.

I’m not very familiar with Brooklyn neighborhoods so I was kinda lost going through the first half of the race, at least in terms of recognizing where I was. Hitting the first popping neighborhood was definitely uplifting and exciting. People were out cheering and some were playing music. I first heard my name called during this stretch. And by name I mean, “Mai Pai.” See, I decided to put “Mal Pal” on my shirt. Every marathoner I talked to mentioned putting your name on your shirt, because getting cheers from the crowd during the race was a serious motivator and another feel-good moment. But because the L’s looked a little too much like I’s, I think people got confused. Ok, I don’t think, I know. It was probably 50/50 in how many times I got Mal Pal versus Mai Pai. But it certainly made me chuckle every time.

I remember around mile four or so, I started thinking about whether I should stop to go to the bathroom now or later in the race. (I wish I could say my stomach was 100%, but I was definitely feeling a little uneasy. That fiber, you know?) That’s when I reminded myself to stay in the mile I was in, to just go with how I was feeling in that moment instead of thinking about what could go wrong later.

Of course I did have to think about my pace so I would make it to the end. I had planned to start the first six miles at a 10:15 per mile pace, but I was making a conscious effort to go slow and I was at 9:45, so I just went with it. (Looking back, pretty happy with that decision.) I also tried to really look at the crowd and jam along with any music I heard. I was going to make it to the end, no matter what happened or how much I had to struggle, so I wanted to really enjoy my surroundings. (There was one time that I saw a much older man speed by me. That’s when I picked it up a bit. At least for a few minutes.)

One of my favorite BK neighborhoods was definitely the Park Slope area. (At least that’s the neighborhood I assume it was.) There were tons of pretty brownstones to look at and even better, the streets were jam-packed with people. They didn’t regulate the crowds on the course as much here, so the screams were louder, the energy felt a bit more turns up and everyone just seemed to be having a blast. Williamsburg was also bumping and fun to cruise through. (Full discloser, I totally thought Williamsburg was one of the first places we hit in BK, but in looking at the course map, it’s one of the last. Either way, it was fun.)

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I knew the first sighting of my family would be at mile eight, right around the Barclays Center area. So I kept my eyes peeled right after I saw the seven mile marker. I spotted them right as I was rounding a corner. I think I heard my dad or my friend’s boyfriend yell my name first and I immediately started jumping and waving. I was on a pretty solid stretch of adrenaline, so I decided not to slow down and go over to them—also because I was a little nervous about making my way over to them and back. But I vowed to make sure I’d give them hugs next time.

The miles between eight and 13 were kind of a blur. I’d turn my music up when the crowd thinned out and back down when lots of people flooded the streets. I knew I was almost at the halfway point when i saw the Pulaski Bridge. I remembered the stretch leading up to it from my 20-mile training run and I knew the bridge was steep, but quick. NYRR also set up a marker for the halfway point, which was cool and some people cheered when we got there—myself included. I took a pic to remember it, too (see below). I thought I’d take more pics while running, but this was the only one I managed.

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I actually couldn’t believe I had made it to the halfway point already. Those 13 previous miles definitely felt shorter and quicker than they ever had in the past. For a second, I thought about how I’d have to repeat what I just did, though, and how that didn’t sound that fun. But I quickly switched my thinking back to how good I was feeling and ready to take on Queens, my ‘hood!

I loved breezing through the Queens streets. You don’t spend much time there on the course (only about a mile or two), but the energy definitely perked me up. I knew my friend Joanna would be at mile 14, so I kept my eyes peeled for her on the right side. I also saw my co-worker, Caitlin, soon before I reached Joanna. It was so nice to see how excited she was when we spotted each other!

I saw Joanna’s husband, Ariel with his unicorn sign that read “tap for magic,” gave him a hug and then ran up to Jo for one, too.

Before I knew it, I was heading up onto the Queensboro bridge that leads to Manhattan. To be honest, I was kind of looking forward to tackling this part of the race, notoriously known as the toughest part. I had done many training runs (including runs to work) over this and I loved the views of the water. I had also come to appreciate how darn good it felt to reach the top. However, during the marathon, you’re running on the lower level and I was toward the middle, so the views weren’t as great. Also, lots of people walk, which is totally cool, but makes it a little tricky to weave in and out when you’re trying to stick to your goal of only walking through water stations. It was a bit more of a struggle than expected, but still not as bad as some people had warned.

Heading back down the other side of the bridge, my excitement level skyrocketed. I had been pumped about hitting First Ave, probably the most insane part (energy wise) of the race, before I even got my bib. I had even heard that people drop their pace by minutes during this stretch of a few miles. I obviously turned my music wayyy down in prep for the screams.

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I rounded the corner off the bridge, went down 59th street to First Ave and felt like a celebrity as people yelled my name (and this time, by name I mean “runners”). The crowd was just amazing at this point. So many people. So much screaming.

I stayed to the left of the road, because I knew everyone would be on that side and I wanted to make sure I caught everyone. (Again, I was surprised how much room I had on the course here. I thought it would be way more crowded.)

My friends from ‘Cuse weren’t too far up on First Ave. I spotted them around 64th street and I jumped around because I was SO pumped to see everyone. I gave some high fives, did my little enthusiastic dance and went on my merry way.

I spotted a few more people I knew—an old co-worker, my Shape mag work BFF, who gave me a tissue and some chapstick, and some other NYC friends. Even though I don’t think I could have been keeping an eye out any more than I had without falling face first, I definitely missed some people here. I even remember seeing a sign that said “I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 26.2,” which I loved. Turns out, my friend Jenna made it. Obviously I wasn’t paying as close of attention as I thought. I’m going to chalk that up to being overwhelmed with joy and excitement.

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I saw my family again around mile 18. I gave them hugs, kissed my niece and took a sip of water before I moved on this time.

Not too long after seeing the fam, the crowds starting thinning out and my energy definitely took a little turn for the slow. I remember when I practiced the last 10 or so miles of the race, though, that the strip leading up to the Willis Ave bridge felt terribly long. It actually didn’t on race day. I got there before I even realized it. But by that point, even though the bridge is pretty short, it felt like more of an incline than I would have liked. I was a bit of a struggle. I made it over a-okay, but the man puking off to the side was definitely having a rough time.

Then came the Bronx, hello! In talking with a Nike run coach, he specifically said, “don’t let the Bronx break you.” Because apparently it does break some people. I was so pleasantly surprised at how awesome it was up there. There were lots more people than I expected and it felt a lot shorter than the day we met running angel Nigel who led us through the course.

I saw one of my co-workers who had a sign for me, which really made me happy. And I saw a friend of a friend right before I got on the last bridge of the route.( I could not tell you the name of it, but Google could.) Seeing people I knew gave me the burst of energy and drive I really needed at this point of the race.

On a scale of one to 10 in terms of tough, the next little stretch was about a six, just in terms of how I felt, not the course itself. There weren’t as many people and the energy was lacking a bit. My former boss said she’d be around Fifth Ave and 120, though, so I tried to spot her. Unfortunately, I didn’t, but it was a nice little distraction trying to do so. I did see one of my other current co-workers, Joanna, at mile 21 and she definitely lifted my spirits. I was still feeling okay at this point, but definitely not great, and she ran a few feet with me. She was so pepped up, complimenting me on how happy I seemed, and it was awesome.

But then shit got real. I had definitely mentally prepared for the next stretch. You’d never really notice this just walking down Fifth Ave, but around mile 22.5 at 110th Street, there’s an incline that lasts for a solid mile. I had run this three times. It was hard every time, but nothing compared to this go. I had to give myself a little pep talk: “Mal, you prepared for this. You knew this part would be somewhat terrible, but if you walk, you’re gonna be real pissed at the end.” I didn’t walk until I hit the water station and let’s just say I took some realllll slow sips. I also saw my roommates on this stretch and my ‘Cuse friends again, so that definitely helped pull me through, even if I looked a lot less perky than I did at mile 17.

I knew entering Central Park would be a nice portion of the race, because most of it spans downhill, minus a few tiny hills so that was a relief. It also felt a little more like home, considering I had run around this area many a times for many a years.

I had been looking for my fam on the uphill battle from 110 to 90th st, so when I didn’t see them I thought I must have missed them. But as I was rounding a corner in Central Park, I heard them call my name again and found them waiting for me in the park. That was the last time I’d see them before the end so it was great to wave to them.

Soon after that, I reached Cat Hill, which I knew would be a nice breather because it’s a steep decline. Then the rest of the park felt pretty speedy.

Soon enough I was on Central Park South, probably the second hardest part of the race, streaming from mile 25 to 26. Almost every every run I go on, the last mile feels pretty darn long. Add in a slight incline after 25 miles, and snap…is what it felt like my legs might do. Again, you’d never notice this tiny hill just walking, but this time I did. Thankfully, the crowds were pretty thick and loud here too and I knew I only had ten minutes left of this several-hour journey.

Then I reached the edge of the park and all was good in the world again. My legs felt strong and I knew the finish line was just up the hill. The days prior to race day, I had pictured how good I would feel at this point of the race and honestly, it was even better than that. People were cheering all along the sides, my energy was on full blast, and when I got to the top of the hill, I could see the finish line. I obviously couldn’t stop smiling. I was hoping I would have some energy to pick it up a bit at this point and though it wasn’t much, I did. I think it’s hard not to get a boost of adrenaline when you’re about to get a 26.2 medal!

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I didn’t want to forget the incredible feeling of making it up to that finish line and finally stepping on the plastic. In fact, I almost didn’t want it to be over. (Crazy, I know!) I just loved the entire race—seeing people cheering, realizing I was really making it happen, that I was succeeding in all the hard work I put in. With each mile I was one step closer to this goal I worked so hard on for months and planned for years and soon, it was going to be over. Before I knew, it was. I had cross the finish line of my first marathon, feeling so great and so happy.

Laurel told me to look back after crossing in the finish line to really look at what was happening and take in the moment. So I definitely did that and stood there for a little while admiring that I got to participate in one of the greatest days of the year in the city. And then I got a medal to prove it.

I obviously tried to take a selfie at the finish line, but failed, so I got someone to take a better photo for me. Then I waited in line to get an official pic, because I wasn’t going to miss that opportunity. I immediately posted a pic to Instagram, because of course I spent some time on the course planing what my caption would read.

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The Aftermath of 26.2

I walked (exceptionally slowly!) out of the park and down to meet my parents and family on the west side. It was so awesome to finally see them and give them a hug and thank them for being there. We stood and took some more pics before we figured out a way to get over to the east side to meet my friends and CELEBRATE!!

I had told basically everyone I knew to meet me at a place called Treadwell after the race. But because there weren’t many tables and my family had trekked all over the city, my roommates grabbed us a table at a bar nearby called Honky Tonk a block or two away. We walked passed Treadwell before we got to Honky so I could pop in and say hi to everyone before meeting the rest of the crew at Honky.

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When I walked in, my college friends were all there with their signs, as well as Laurel and Maggie (and Laurel’s bf’s sign with my face on it ha!), as well as some of my NYC friends. As soon as I walked in, they started chanting Mal Pal and it might have been one of the most touching moments of my life. (Also, my mom said she could hear this from the street. She loves telling people this was her favorite part of the day. It melts my heart and I’m so thankful for my friends for that.)

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I chatted with everyone at Treadwell for awhile, gave lots of hugs and made the rounds, and again, couldn’t stop smiling. I was so happy and excited to see everyone and talk about the race it was such an exciting time. Then, I made my way over to Honky to meet back up with the fam and my roomies.

We had a great table in the back where I walked into more cheers. I then grabbed a beer, took a shot with my dad—the first drink I had in a month—gave more hugs, checked out everyone’s signed and said how much I didn’t want the day to end.

Now here I am, still wishing I could go back and relive that day. From waking up at 4:45, right on through. It was one of the best, happiness days of my life.

I mentioned this in my Instagram caption (ha!) but it really is true… So many people told me how awesome I would feel when I crossed the finish line. Jared Ward (he’s an Olympic marathoner) said he wished everyone could feel what it’s like to earn that medal. (I agree!) But even more than that, the ups and downs of training, receiving tons of good luck texts and comments on photos, getting cheers from your best friends and strangers and see other people out on the course who worked toward the same goal, who are trying to make it to that finish line and are giving it all they’ve got—that’s the beauty of signing up for a marathon. It makes it so worth every ache, pain, Friday night in and super early morning run. The journey to the finish line is what made my entire year. Ok, and the celebrations after.

 

 

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The Countown Is On — And It’s Short!

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Laurel and I jogging along the Willis Ave Bridge with our guardian run angel, Nigel.

We’re less than a week away from race day!! Can you believe it? I cannot. But I am sitting here drinking all of the water and eating all of the pasta and oatmeal so that I am fully hydrated and filled with glucose come Sunday.

The scary part of the training is done. There’s nothing more I can do to prepare…just a few things I could do to mess it up. But we will focus on the positive, which brings me to my list of runs since I last wrote. (I clearly failed at the regular blogging thing; hopefully the other half of my goal — enjoying and doing well in the race — will turn out better.)

The 18 Miler
As mentioned, I was home in PA for this toughie and I got my dad to bike along with me, which was AWESOME. There’s a tree-lined trail by my parents’ house and because my dad was nervous to bike on the main road, we did nine miles out and nine miles back to make the 18. I was nervous about that at first, but it turned well thanks to the steady chatter along the way. It was so nice to have someone along who wasn’t huffing and puffing and could clearly keep the convo up. (He did mention at the end how tired he wasn’t. Thanks, dad, I was dying.) It was also nice to have him carry my water, Gatorade and Glukos gummies. I could just ask for a little pick-me-up when I needed some fueling and he was there to hand it over. Such a kind soul.

I averaged about a 10:15-minute pace for this run, which was slower than my others, but I think that’s why I felt so great by the end. I even sped up a bit during the last mile. It definitely gave me an awesome feeling of accomplishment. I think that’s the great think about training — you already feel like you did something you never thought you could do. With each longer run, you achieve a new goal and that’s a motivating feeling.

The 13 Mile “Recovery” Week
I ran the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon for this training run and man, did it suck. The good news is I scored a PR. I finished in 2:04, which was 10 minutes faster than my quickest half so far. (I was hoping to break two hours, but, oh well.) I don’t think I was mentally prepared to run a half. I was going into it thinking it was a regular training run that I could just run much faster. And because it was five miles less than the previous week, to me, that seemed doable and easy to just kind of get it done. But no. Not easy. And not a short run either. I think I started out too fast right from the start. I will say, when I got to mile six and saw that I was under an hour, I was pretty psyched. But then it all went downhill. And not literally, which made me pretty sad. In fact, I could have sworn I ran uphill both ways. It was a down-and-back situation and I was so excited to make the turn, because it looked like it was a downward incline. It was not and I almost cried. Then I started to get the chills. I don’t think I drank enough water the day before or the morning of and that was clearly messing with me. To make up for it, I gulped a lot of water at each of the stations, which I also used as my excuse to slow down. (Also, lesson learned for marathon day: Don’t try to run and drink water. I almost choked trying to do that during this race.)

Then the incident happened. Shortly after I failed myself and walked up a slight incline in Prospect Park between miles 10 and 11, I felt a warm sensation down my lower half. In other words, I peed my pants. And not like, oh I don’t want to mess up my time and stop to go to the bathroom. More like, oh my gawd, I cannot stop myself from peeing right now. I’m seriously trying but I can’t so now I give up. Can anyone see this? Thankfully, no one could see my pee in my patterned Sweaty Betty leggings. So I kept dragging on. Then, I saw a bathroom at mile 12, which had no line, because who can’t hold it for the last mile? Well, before I could even open the door, more pee was dripping down my leg and it was all out before I got my pants down. I did sit there for about two minutes catching my breath though. So if you can’t tell, it was pretty terrible in total. And I will forever understand why people accidently poop their pants — it’s just not something you can control even if you wanted to (at least for most people, I imagine). Oh also, my friend picked me up from that race and we had to put a towel down in his car so I wouldn’t get the seat wet. Thanks for the judgment-free zone, pal.

The 20 Miler
Perhaps my best training run yet! I was feeling pretty anti running by this point. I had such a terrible race and thought everything was going to shit (literally?). So I was quite nervous to attempt the 20 miler. (I do remember my boss telling me she was so ready for the taper by the 20 miler week and I wasn’t feeling that way earlier. After the half, I definitely understood what she meant.)

To boost my confidence and excitement a little, I decided to run with a group. I paid to go with the New York Flyers, a pretty big running club in the city. They had pace groups, water stations and fuel stations along the mapped out route, so I figured it was the best way to tackle 20. And I was right.

I decided to join the slower pace group, the 10:30 minute mile. (I was deciding between that and the 10 minute, but figured I could use the ego boost if I was doing better than the rest of the crew, rather than suffering to keep up.) We did stop a bunch of times — at mile 5, we had a dedicated bathroom break that was about 10 minutes and then we stopped for a few minutes at two more water stations. Our route: We met at the New York Running Company store in the Time Warner Center, did a mini loop of Central Park, went down the west side along the Hudson River to the Brooklyn Bridge, over to Brooklyn, over the Polaski Bridge (the halfway point of the marathon) into Queens, over the Queensboro (one of the toughest spots in the race) and up and around Central Park again. I felt great the entire time and I even pulled ahead after we got into Brooklyn. I felt strong going over the Queensboro and into Central Park and I even ran a little farther to make sure I hit the 20, because my tracking app was off from the others. And I surprisingly didn’t mind doing it. If the race goes like this 20 miler, I will be SO. HAPPY. Cross yo’ fingers!

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Maggie, Me and Laurel before our last training run. That’s the Queensboro behind us.

The 12 and 9 Mile Tapers
The last two weeks, I ran with my friends, Laurel and Maggie, which makes the run so much more fun! And the miles fly by when you’re chatting and Lululemon cults and marathon movies to watch. We ended up doing 13.5 miles for the first run, because we wanted to run the last half of the marathon route. We started in Queens, went over the Queensboro Bridge, up First Avenue to the Bronx, back down Fifth Ave and around the park to end where the finish line will be. Because we didn’t know our way when we reached Harlem, we looked a little lost standing on the street corner. Then our running angel, Nigel showed up. He sped past us, saying he’d see us in two weeks, but when we all reached the Willis Ave bridge together, we told him we had no idea where we were going. He slowed his typical 7-minute mile pace down to our 9:30ish so he could show us the way. (Runners are so friendly!) We met another friend too, George, who was rocking 18 miles that day and also following Nigel. As Maggie said, we really felt the marathon spirit that day.

We did our last run this past Saturday, doing the bridge again and the strip of Fifth Ave that is so very hard that I am super nervous about it for the race. It’s basically a mile uphill at the 23ish mile mark. (Why do they do that to us?! I’ll be having my family there for support and encouragement.) We tackled it again, though, and ended back at the future finish line, thinking of how good we would feel at that point come race day. WHICH IS IN 6 DAYS!!!

There you have it: the rest of my training. This week is just a few short runs and lots and lots of rest. I’m trying really hard to switch my emotions from pretty nervous to really excited. So I’ll also be working on that this week.

Laurel, Maggie and I also watched Spirit of the Marathon together the other night and I watched Run for Your Life this weekend. Such great pump up movies! Along with this Alec Baldwin video.

I’ll try to check in the night before the big day to report on my week and how I’m feeling about the race. If not, I’ll do a full recap after! YAY!

The Big (Running) Leagues

You guys, I’ve reached the weeks where the mileage gets crazy. The point at which people always talk about when marathon training, mostly because they can’t wait for the taper. It almost feels like I should be running the race like, tomorrow. But I still have a month to go, and to be honest, my motivation is draining a little. I haven’t done as well as I have in the past about keeping my mileage up during the week – or getting at least one longer 6- to 7-miler in between Monday and Friday. But I’m hoping to change that.

I do have a lot to update you on, though, considering I’ve a few runs that were longer than I’ve ever done before…and have told you about zero of them. I’ll start from the top:

The 14-Miler
Way back on August 27, I kicked off my “I’ve never run this far before” mileage. And this one was definitely a confidence booster. I started in Astoria and headed over the Queensboro Bridge – which has become one of my favorite spots in the city to run – and toward Central Park. By the time I got there, I was 4.43 miles in and I got to tackle the remaining 10 with some company: two former co-workers aka friends. I was a little nervous to run with these two: Laurel has done, I believe, nine marathons already. She’s qualified for Boston and when I creeped on her race time on a 10K, she averaged a 7:30. (For some perspective, I’m lucky if I finish a run in under 9:45.) The other lady in training, Maggie, also ran a marathon before and I don’t know for sure, but I think she’s speedy too. I’m not great at pushing through a long run while also trying to push my pace, so you can see why I was anxious about keeping up. But it worked out so well. I felt great through the majority of the run; it only got a little dicey at the end. And we averaged what I think was a 9:37ish. (I can’t be sure because my phone died and Laurel had to tell me when my mileage was up – they both had a little further to go.) I felt so good after, I was excited to get back out to run again. We also celebrated with a pretty awesome brunch, where we all not only ordered our own omelets, but a serving of lemon ricotta pancakes for the table, too. #carboloading #orcalorieloading

My First 16-Miler
And this is where it took a turn for the bad. I literally almost cried out there when I was trekking through Central Park for this doozy. I felt like I was going to puke or pass out or just start sobbing — and doing any of those things in the middle of NYC just felt like something I wasn’t up for. Miles 10 to 13 were the worst, which just made me more sad when I was trying to push through, because that’s not even half the marathon. Granted, the day was super hot and humid. I started later than I should have (considering the heat) and I did an out-and-back run for most of it. (I’ve realized that kind of messes with my mindset; I’m much better at running straight to a final destination.) I was tired, then just getting upset that I was tired and thinking to myself, “this is exactly how I do not want the marathon to go.” I stopped at basically every water station I saw, jumped through the sprinklers at one point to cool down a little and had to take a few minutes to walk here and there. In other words, I was just miz. And then disappointed. And then even more nervous for November 6. The most important thing though: I actually finished. And I finished with a 10:06 average pace, which was wayyy better than I thought I did.

The 12-Miler Recovery Week
I ran the Friday morning before work on the weekend of September 16, because I was headed out of town and knew I wouldn’t run. (Drag 30th birthday brunch = no longer in a physically healthy state to move my body very far out of bed, let alone run serious miles.) I ran from my apartment to work, another one of my new favorite activities. I had to make the route longer though, so I did a half lap around the reservoir in Central Park and then went all the way over to the West Side and down along the Hudson River. (If you’ve never run along this path, you must check it out.) It’s so pretty over there and actually quite peaceful, especially at 7 a.m.

The most important thing about this run was that I came to a revelation: I need to just enjoy the run more. At mile 8, I kept thinking about how tired I was and how I couldn’t wait to be done. But while I was mentally complaining to myself, I wasn’t enjoying the activity anymore and only thinking about it being over. Then, I realized, Mal of course you’re going to finish this run, no matter how tired you are. So you might as well enjoy doing something active outside and take in the awesome scenery. That’s when I decided that I would no longer yearn for the cool-down portion of the workout or the gallon of water or chocolate milk I’d chug at the end. And instead, I actually tuned into the noises, sounds, smells and sights around me and really embraced them. (In other words, I was being mindful. I hope Gabby Bernstein would be proud.)

It’s seriously an awesome thing to be able to see so much of the city by foot and it’s even cooler that my body has carried me through so many miles. Ever since that day, I’ve been telling myself to just breath and take it all in.

16-Miler, Round 2
Hello, Mal, you’re back in action! This run felt great and I was honestly a little giddy going through it, because it felt so good. I only had a few miles (probably more like quarter miles) that I was regretting my life choices, but for the majority of the run, I was just happy and proud to be out there. I took a somewhat different route from Queens to Central Park, this time heading up along the East River. (It was nice to be back on my old turf – I lived on the UES for five years.) I decided this path might be a good option after attending an event about negative splitting a marathon — aka running the second half faster than the first, something only about 4% of marathoners do (you can imagine why). There, I learned that miles 23 to 26 of the NYC marathon are pretty difficult, considering there’s a decent incline going up 5th Avenue. So I decided to tackle that, so at least I would know what I was in for come race day. Mental note: it’s definitely not easy. I was only on mile 7 when I got there, so I can only image what 23 is like. The good thing is now I’m mentally prepared to take it on. And I’m also hoping some cheerleaders on the sidelines will help. I still got through this run with a smile on my face and even a little sprint to the finish (look at me!).

In other news, my appointments at physical therapy are going well. Though I’m still having IT band issues and I’ve started to get pain in my hip (which apparently might be tendinitis, but I’m trying to ignore that), I feel pretty good. I’m not sure my body loves me for putting it through so much stress and I still don’t have the fueling down quite yet, but I’m feeling good! That’s all a girl can ask for.

Tomorrow I tackle 18 miles, and I’m back in Pennsylvania for it. I’ve recruited my parents (or just one of them) to keep me company on the bike. Wish me luck — and I hope to tell you about it sooner rather than later this time!

Running Can Be Tough Love

So, training has taken a little turn downhill — not quite literally, just figuratively. Things we’re going great up until about three weeks ago. I was pretty much enjoying each run and scheduling my workouts the week before so I wouldn’t miss a beat and could still squeeze some group classes in, like Pilates or barre or some hardcore strength training. (I’m still doing this — it seriously helps maintain a full workout schedule and full-time job. One of my fave fitness additions so far was Body Space Fitness, a circuit workout that had my muscles burning.)

However! Three weeks ago, I was doing some sneaker testing for work (I’ll link out to the review soon, so you can see why we test and what for). I got a bunch of running shoes and decided I would wear a pair for my 8-miler to really see if they lived up to other reviews. Now, I’ve always had some issues with my knees. Before my very first half marathon, I started having IT band problems and had to see a physical therapist because I couldn’t run for even 10 minutes without it hurting too much to push through. But ever since going to the PT and switching my sneaks to Asics, I’ve been basically pain-free. (Asics honestly adds a bounce to my step and cushions my foot in all the right spots — they just have that magic formula down.) But around mile 4 of the 8, I could feel a little soreness in my knee which only got worse as I finished up my run. (You should know I have a very hard time not finishing a long run, even if I’m in pain. I know, I know. I’m stubborn.) And now, I still have that ache lingering. Unfortunately, it’s also messing with my mentality a little bit. Mostly because I’m frustrated that my body is the part that’s holding me back, because that’s the part I’m not totally sure how to address on my own.

See, my mind has loved running lately. I honestly wish my body could keep up with how good I feel trekking up, down and around NYC. It’s such a great way to see the city; I love feeling like a real runner and I’m so into how accomplished it makes me feel afterward. But that’s when I get frustrated with my body backing down on me. I feel great mentally — the part that I thought would be most challenging —  and I even feel strong cardiovascular-wise. It’s just my mechanics that are off. I’m pretty sure I’m back to having an IT band issue (it’s in my right leg this time; last time it was the left) and will have to go to the PT again.

This isn’t to say that all my runs since three weeks ago have gone terribly. I ran to work one morning to cover a mid-week 6-miler and headed over the Queensboro bridge from Astoria to Flatiron, and I loved it. I loved that my body could carry me to work, that I got my run done in the morning and that I didn’t have to spend money on the subway or deal with a crowded train. It was just me, my thoughts (or my musics, really) and the sidewalk. I’ve also ran with the Nike+ Run Club crew and Resident Runners at Under Armour. I’ve just been having to give myself a real pep talk before tackling anything over 4 miles, in prep for any aches I’ll feel along the way and just how sad and frustrated those aches make me feel.

I do know it’s a part of the process. I once read (or heard in a podcast maybe?) someone say that all runners are injured; it’s just a matter of how injured they are whether they need to do something about it. But dammit, I want to be one of those people who only deals with a few aches and pains here and there that I can just push through. And maybe that’ll change (I’m hoping tomorrow’s long run goes surprisingly well).

I did back off my mileage this week, because of the pain. I swapped Monday and Friday runs for biking sessions. That way, I still got the cardio in, but gave my legs a break in prep for tomorrow’s 14 miler — the longest distance I’ll have gone in my life so far. The good news: I’m meeting two friends (and Team Asics members) who are going to do at least 10 of those 14 miles with me. Though they are much speedier than me, I’m hoping I can keep up at least for a little while. Wish me luck!!

I also have a chat set up with Coach Andrew Kastor next week, which I’m pretty pumped about. He’s trained lots of athletes, from beginners to Olympians. So I’m super excited to pick his brain and find out what kind of tips he has for helping my body catch up to my mental stamina, and addressing my frustrations too. I promise to report back on how that goes.

Here’s to hoping tomorrow’s long run goes well and I’m back soon to tell you how well everything is going again 🙂

(PS, I would have posted a picture of my view from the bridge on the way to work. But my computer email keeps crashing and it’s late and this girl has to get up to RUN early. So I’ll post some other cool pics next time!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Running (Sometimes in Mud)

Lake and Mich run views

Paupakan Lake in PA (top); Grand River in Grand Rapids, MI

Hey, remember that time I said I would blog regularly? Me too, that’s why I’m back to pick up the pace (pun intended). Since my last entry, I’ve done just a few more long runs (7 miles is the farthest so far; 9 miles coming up this weekend), a bunch of short ones and I’ve seen a whole lot of awesome views. I might say that over the past 20+ days, I think seeing sweet new sights has been my favorite part of marathon training thus far. Besides the seriously amazing sunsets that I get to see over the East River from Astoria Park (pics below), I also got to explore Paupakan Lake (where my fam vacationed this summer in the Poconos) and Grand Rapids, MI (where I attended a (really freaking fun!) wedding). (See pics of both above.) There’s nothing better than checking out a new area by foot, especially when some family members or BFFs, who happen live across the country, get to join you for half of it. An added bonus, of course, is that you also burn off some of those boozey calories that come with R&R and celebrating nuptials.

Astoria Park sunset run views

Sunset views of Manhattan from across the East River in Queens

One thing I did miss this past weekend though: Long-run Saturday. But I did do something a little more adventurous… I tackled my fourth Tough Mudder. This time it was in Long Island, while the previous three were on mountains in New England — Gunstock in NH and Mount Snow in VT to be exact.

Every year since 2013, my brother and I have been doing the 10- to 12-mile obstacle course together. It started with a few other gents too. There were six of us the first year and we could not stop talking about it when we finished — pretty sure my sisters got a liiittle annoyed by how much we discussed each difficult obstacle we overcame and how proud we were of ourselves for climbing up and down ski slopes for nearly five hours. (Can you blame us, though? If yes, then try one.) After that epic day, my bro just wanted to keep the tradition alive. That didn’t quite work out with everyone, but I stuck around because I love a good bonding session with my sibling and Mudders are a damn good time (for the most part!). Plus, you really do feel accomplished after crossing the finish line and getting crowned with your very own orange headband, even if it’s your fourth one and they look the same every year. My dad also came back for round two (when he was 67!!!) in 2015. (He’s going to hate me for spilling his age.)

This year, however, they changed the date of my brother and I’s usual VT trek, so I had to miss it. (Jeremy — that’s my bro — still did it and dominated.) Lucky for me, because I’m a health and fitness editor, I got invited to join a team hosted by Merrell, the Tough Mudder brand sponsor. So just this past Friday I made my way out to Long Island for the run on Saturday. (Over the weekend, I learned how it’s key to call it an event… not a race. Because “no Mudder left behind” is one of their mottos and they really do promote teamwork on the course, which honestly, is probably one of the best things about TM.)

2015 Mudder w Jer and Dad

Tough Mudder 2015 at Mount Snow in VT, with my dad and brother

A little recap on the Mudder action… They had a few obstacles that I’ve never done before. They’ve been changing some up every year for the past few years, which makes it even more fun to go back for more. One of my favorite new, team-oriented obstacles was Pyramid Scheme. If you ever watched the Spartan Race show on NBC, you might be familiar with it. You basically have to stack your bodies on top of each other (meaning one person is standing on another’s shoulders) to get to the top of a slippery, ever-so-steep inclined wall. Naturally, we sent the strongest guy up first by way of another team of men, so he could pull everyone up. Then we created a two-humans-across and two-humans-high ladder, and those not involved (myself included) started climbing our way to the top. When I reached the landing ledge, I also helped pull some people up while also trying to hold onto Mike’s legs (the first dude that went up), so he wouldn’t go sliding down and crash the entire pyramid, leaving only the strong to survive at the top (kidding though; there’s a reason we went first). I have to say, it all worked out pretty splendidly, even if I was straddling Teona, one of the Merrell PR reps, for a little while, basically with my boobs shoved in her face. #bonding #heygirlhey

Tough Mudder obstacles

2016 TM! Clockwise: Falling off the monkey bars; swinging from King of Swingers; climbing Pyramid Scheme (and stopping for a pic)

There was also an obstacle, King of Swingers, where you had to jump off a 15-foot(?) platform, grab a T-bar, swing out and hit a bell. I, like most of the team, figured I wouldn’t even be able to jump far enough to reach the bar (spoiler alert: it’s so much easier than it looks… that part), I didn’t even remember to swing out far enough to reach the bell. But then again, I only saw a few other people do that, ’cause that shiz was far and high and hard. That wasn’t my only mishap, though: I also happened to wipe out simply by trail running (like, on my face, then tucking and rolling on my side) and I did slip off the monkey bars when it came time to grab the swinging one (whomp, whomp). I did that last year too — one year I’ll make it.

There were a few classic obstacles we completed, as well: Arctic Enema (jumping into ice-cold water, which made me scream for my life the first year, but this time seemed a smidge warmer, probably because it was 95 degrees outside and they weren’t constantly filling the dumpsters with ice); Cage Crawler (one of my faves, which basically involves doing a backstroke in muddy water, while holding onto a cage fence; it’s for reals really relaxing) and the signature Electroshock Therapy, which you’re allowed to skip as a TM Legionnaire (aka a crazy person who’s done multiple aka me) in lieu of another, more entertaining and less painful obstacle. Alas, I was called over by another Merrell worker, Sue so I couldn’t turn her down, obvi. But I did dash through it pretty quickly with only a few minor shocks to the bod.

Overall, it was such a fun day with a great crew (check ’em out below). I think everyone should gather their up-for-anything pals and sign up for one. Just remember to watch your step while running through the woods and get ready for some shockingly (ba dum cha) good times and great memories!

TM team pics

The 2016 Tough Mudder Merrell Team!

One last note of my training: I did a 4.5-er yesterday and my foot actually went numb, as in I could not feel it. I knew something weird was going to happen because my calf was so darn tight from sitting all day. But have you ever gone for a run and not been able to feel your foot? It’s basically the strangest sensation ever. My right leg felt half the length of the other. (Yeah, I know, that can’t be good for form or injury prevention. Note to self: Use standing desk more.) I didn’t get the change to ask Dr. Google about it yet, but if I find a legit reason for it, I’ll report back with a new lesson learned.

I’ll be returning to the sweaty (like, really sweaty.. the humidity here in NYC is cray) streets on Wednesday and out for a long run on Saturday. This time, I’ll be sure to share more of my adventures in a timely manner.

 

 

Long-Run Saturdays are My New Fave Saturdays

IMG_5262 [1443389]Today, marked my first really good training run! The kind where you feel speedy, like the miles come easy and you could run forever–or at least do maybe 10 miles instead of six. I’m not sure if it was that I ate a bowl of cereal an hour before I started, had a cup of coffee about 15 minutes prior to heading out or that I actually did a solid warm up of lunges, squats and leg swings. Perhaps it was the gorgeous trail and green scenery of my PA hometown (see above photo) that pulled me through. It could have also been because I went commando in a pair of shorts that didn’t even have built-in underwear, only to realize later that they were on backwards, which explained the serious wedge I had during my entire trek. (Ok, that probably wasn’t it.) While I’m hoping later in my training I can actually pinpoint what works and what doesn’t, right now I’m just reveling in the fact that I finally had a run where I enjoyed (mostly) every step, so that deserves a #virtualhighfive.

See the past two weeks of runs have been kind of difficult. I’ve been in mindset of just wanting to get my workouts over with. Last Saturday’s 5 miler was definitely better than I thought it’d be, considering the amount of amazingly delicious seafood I had the night before and the drinks I downed with a friend who was in town. My fab roommate joined as we jogged along the water in Astoria park, so that certainly helped the time go by. But still, it wasn’t great and I’ve been waiting for those breezy miles to kick in and to get just a little reassurance that the hard work is paying off and I’m actually getting better on myfeet. Granted, I know it’s only week two here, but it was also run seven so that seems like enough time to build stronger steps. I will admit, I skipped my easy run on Friday morning, because I was just too darn tired to get out of bed. I felt super bad about, so I’m thinking that will light a little fire under my butt if I’m thinking about sleeping in again. And anyway, I had a good run today!

I am also looking forward to my new summer weekend routine: A chill Friday night, making the long run on Saturday my b*atch and then having the rest of the day (and Sunday) to celebrate the victory.

Now I’m in full vacation mode and looking forward to getting back at it on Monday, while I’m away in the Poconos. Have a fun 4th, friends! I hope you enjoy all your little victories too!

26.2, I’m Coming For You!

Marathon Confirmation

I always wanted to be a runner. Admittedly because I thought their bodies were pretty sick (hello, almost 0% body fat). But way beyond that, they also have some pretty serious mental stamina… and I’m usually a head case when I’m out on the road. I often think about how I can’t possibly make it longer than 30 minutes or how much I can’t wait to clock that last mile so I can eat a slice of eggplant parm pizza. Perhaps that’s why I decided to take the idea of running 26.2 from “one day” to getting the email confirmation for the 2016 TCS NYC Marathon–that is, to really test my mental strength. I technically made the decision to go for it last year, when I completed New York Road Runner’s 9+1 program, which guarantees entry into the following year’s marathon if you finish nine races and volunteer at one. (One of those included my first half and I did two others after that.) But if I rock the training as much as I hope to–the part that everyone says is the toughest to get through; not race day–I’m pretty sure my confidence will kick into high gear, along with my fitness level.

That brings us to today, Day 1 of Jenny Hadfield’s beginner training plan. Despite laying in bed at 7 a.m. contemplating hitting snooze–a pretty standard reaction for this non-morning person–I laced up my fresh kicks (Asics Nimbus 18, in case you’re wondering my gear of choice) and ran around the ‘hood. Lesson #1 I learned today: Always check your training plan before heading out. I was actually supposed to run for 40 minutes (Hadfield’s plan is based on time, not distance, for all days except long-run Saturdays), but I ran for 30. #Whoops. Maybe not the strongest start ever, but I’ll make up for it. And while it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped considering I have been running somewhat regularly for the past few months, it still felt great–and I know it brings me one step closer to the finish line.

So here’s to following that schedule a liiitle closer, enjoying each run a bit more, being consistent (in running and blogging) and sprinting through barriers I probably don’t even know exist yet. My main goal: Just enjoy every mile. See ya on the road… Or the water fountain, depending on the day ;)!