Ya’ll, I did it. I freaking did it! I had my sweet baby boy eight months ago, and I ran my first half marathon yesterday. A friend challenged me years ago to run a half-marathon at some point in my life, but it was my sister-in law who inspired to me to make 2017 the year. At many times over the past 5 months of training I thought I was ridiculous and crazy and unrealistic. Who am I (a newbie, a beginning runner) to run my first race so soon after giving birth? Yes, you heard that right. This was not only my first half-marathon, but my first race ever. Crazy, right? But I did it.
The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon serves to preserve the memory of the 168 lives who were lost on April 19, 1995 at the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. This is not just an average marathon. “It is a Run to Remember… and a race to show that we can each make a difference and change the world.”
And even though I was too young and lived too far away to be directly impacted by the bombing, I was still running to remember. I ran to remind myself that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to. I ran to show my children the value of hard work and dedication. I ran in honor of my husband who is deployed. I ran to prove that postpartum depression and anxiety don’t control me. I ran because I knew that others were watching.
“Run because you don’t know who or what you might inspire.”
-Michelle Conroy, multi-time OKC Memorial Marathon participant
I was flattered and floored at how many people cheered me on during my training and even during the race. I had so many friends come to me and ask advice. They had decided to run a half-marathon too, lose weight, or find freedom from postpartum depression through exercise. My “crazy” choice matured and manifested into a chain reaction of empowering and healthy choices in others. After posting about a long run with a double stroller, so many people would tell me how strong I am. I’m a solo stay-at-home mom. I don’t have a choice. I take what I have to work with, and run with it. Literally.
But mama, hear me today. You are doing hard things too. Whether by choice or by circumstances, you are being pushed, pulled, and tugged by hard things you are facing. But I will always be the first to tell you that the real battle lies in your mind. Because your thoughts (and consequently your attitude) will determine if you will rip or stretch when life pulls on you.
Once I got to mile 10, people were losing steam all around me. I was exhausted too. It was bitter cold and the wind had been blowing drizzle into our faces for the last few miles. And we still had more than three miles to go. So many people looked absolutely miserable. I mean, we were running a freaking half marathon, so I do not fault them one bit. My legs and feet and life hurt too. But I made the conscious choice to smile and yell encouragements back to all the cheering squads on the sidelines. And let me tell you: the more I smiled and cheered and whooped and hollered, the lighter my body felt. And it was clear that everyone around me felt lighter too. It’s amazing how powerful a simple smile can be and how far an encouraging word can travel.
Now that I conquered my first race, I already have my next half-marathon in mind. I think it’s safe to say this newbie has caught the runner’s bug! I learned a lot as I went along. If you are considering taking up running (in any distance or capacity), here’s the advice I would offer:
Go at your own pace.
Everyone is at a different stage and level. Push yourself, but know your limits. Listen to your body. Can’t run very far? Interval training (during long runs and races too) is great as you build stamina!
Use a coach.
Can’t afford a personalized running coach? There are great – and FREE – running clubs in most cities that can help. There are also great apps out there to track your runs and create a personalized running plan that auto-adjusts based on your progress! If you don’t mind paying a bit, MapMyRun is best with the MVP plan, or Nike+ Run Club has similar features (all 100% free!) and when you post runs on social media, you’ll hear cheering in real-time as people like your post!
Get fitted for new shoes.
I can’t emphasize this enough: it’s not enough to buy good quality shoes. Most running stores will fit your feet and analyze your gait for free. One of your best defenses against injury is to wear shoes that will correct any turn or torque in your foot or ankle. Red Coyote is a great local store that can help.
Learn how to fuel your body.
Find a pre and post workout drink or snack and a gel to power you through during long runs. And don’t forget the importance of protein shakes!
Use a fitness tracker.
The best way to set yourself up for success with a big goal is to make lots of little goals. Daily calorie or step goals is a great way to take active rest days. Many trackers also use badges and have a motivating social component.
Remember that something is always better than nothing.
There were many days where I needed to run a few miles but I didn’t have time or it was too cold to bring the kids in the stroller. So I would run laps around the driveway “chasing” my son. Or take them to the park and use the playground as my resistance equipment. Or run laps around the cul-de-sac during nap time with the monitor in hand.
Find someone who believes in you.
When I was doubting myself and about to give up, all it took was my husband’s unwavering belief in my ability to conquer that fostered a belief in myself. And it was that belief in myself that carried me through training and across the finish line! Even though I didn’t have a running partner, I knew I wasn’t alone in my runs.