run, run, rudolph!

I started training for my first marathon in 2007. Running was therapy at the time. My life was a bit of a wreck and running gave me something. And I needed something.

Over the years, I’ve continued to run off and on. Last year, I decided to go for marathon #2 here in Tokyo…mostly because my friend won the lottery for it and so I kind of had to do it. I was undertrained and overweight, but I finished.

What I love about running (and I know I’ve written this before), is that no matter how I feel about the way my body looks, I can’t help but appreciate how amazing it is when I’m running. And when I complete 26.2 miles, I can’t do anything but be in awe of it.

So, with the marathon in Tokyo completed, I decided I should probably go ahead an run a marathon on every continent. Africa was meant to be done last summer, but I wasn’t able to finish. I will definitely be going back.

In the past, speed was never really my goal, but as I started to lose weight this past summer, I also decided it was time to change that. I found a great race time predictor that helped me determine how fast I should be able to run different distances based on my marathon time. Since I hadn’t tried increasing my pace ever, this was a good place to start.

So, for the past six months I’ve been working on increasing my pace. My first goal was to see how fast I could run a mile. I used the treadmill to push myself and managed to run a mile in 8m57s. This was achieved after losing about 35 lbs.

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So, based on this, I could run a 5K in under 30 minutes. I didn’t believe it, but that’s what the race predictor said, and I decided I might as well try. It took almost two months, another 10 lbs, and a few attempts, but I did it eventually. Again, on a treadmill.

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Now, if you were to look at the race predictor, you’d see that I should be able to run a half-marathon in about 2h16m55s. That pace seemed super aggressive considering my PR for a half-marathon was 2h24m22s seven years ago. And actually, until I looked it up just now, I thought it was 2h36m…not sure where I got that. Also, there’s a difference between running on a treadmill and running in a road race. In fact, given my last marathon finish time of 5h58m40s, I thought 2h30m00s would be a pretty good goal. With this goal in mind, I needed to find a half-marathon. The one I found was a little one in Arizona on Dec. 20.

I set off from my sister’s house early that morning to make the hour drive to the west valley. It was too far and too early to drag any of my family members there, so I was on my own. Because my goal was 2h30m, I knew my average mile pace needed to be 11m27s. With my Garmin strapped securely around my wrist, I was ready to go. I took my place at the very back of the pack (I prefer to kill rather than being killed) and waited for the gun to fire. (Except in this case, there was no gun, just a guy who yelled something that signaled for us to start.)

I started out at a pace that felt comfortable, doing my best to stay as comfortable as possible. Having run enough races in my life, especially half-marathons, I know to go out slow and not get caught up in the adrenaline and energy that a race can give you. To my surprise, though, when I looked down at my trusty electronic running buddy for the first time, I was averaging 10m43s. This was both a bit nerve-racking and motivating…which I think is how most people feel when they’re set to hit a goal they thought was beyond their reach.

Thinking about how good I was feeling at that pace, but also knowing that pace probably wasn’t sustainable for the full 13.1 miles, I decided to go for an average pace of under 11m00s, which would put my final race time at 2h24m05s or below, which would have been a PR..even against the PR I didn’t realize I’d actually set. I was kind of excited.

So, I ran. And ran. And ran. I took quick little breaks for water and fueling, that was it. I did slow down a little a mile here and a mile there. At one point, I started to think that maybe I could come in under 2h20m00s. But then I checked myself. Sometimes I get a little crazy in moments like this and think I can accomplish crazy things only to completely blow up and not even accomplish my original goal. So, I calmed down and stuck with the sub 11m mile goal.

And I killed it!

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Next up: sub 5h00m00s marathon…and another continent crossed off the list. If anyone wants to join me, I’d love to have a running/travel buddy. Check it out here. It’s sure to be amazing!

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