So, how did I get started running, anyway?

I haven’t always been fit. I was somewhat fit in high school, but was never a runner. I was a cheerleader, which required hours of cardio in the form of cheering at games and practicing dance routines – but I never ran.

After high school, I started to gain weight. Eventually, it became a lot of weight.  During this time of gaining weight (from 2005-2015), there were several points at which I decided it was time to lose weight, and that beginning an exercise routine was the answer. I tried to begin a running plan a few times. I’d start for a few weeks, but it wouldn’t last. Sometimes, I had already registered for a 5k at the beginning of these running plans, but that still wasn’t enough motivation to complete the training plan. If I’d agreed to do a 5k as part of the plan, I never actually ended up running them. I still did them, but I would walk.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with walking. It is a great form of exercise. But the goal that I had set was to run in these instances. I didn’t stick with the training long enough to complete that goal,  and it was disappointing. In all honesty, I just thought that I probably wasn’t cut out for running.

In March 2015, something started to click with my weight loss efforts. I began Weight Watchers, which was also something I’d tried several times before, but this time it felt different. I wish I could give you a reason that it was so different this time around, but I’m honestly not sure. For some reason, this time, I was mentally ready to tackle the challenge of losing weight and to be persistent in the effort.

Still, I didn’t run. But I began to take a lot of walks. In October 2015, I walked a couple of 5ks. At that time, I had already lost over 30 lbs, and decided to once again try a run/walk training plan. I chose the Ease into 5k program. I think the confidence that I had gained after successfully losing some weight had provided me with the boost that I needed to try and start a running plan again.

And I had the support of my husband. He went on every run with me during the Ease into 5k program. He helped me keep going when I wanted to quit. And because he was doing it with me, it was easier to get up and go for a run. If he were at home, on the couch, I’d have wanted to be there with him too. And while I can’t say for sure, it’s likely I would have lost motivation and quit.

Husband, if you’re reading this, the simple action of doing that 5k plan with me changed the course of my entire life. You’re amazing.

I began the Ease into 5k program on October 19, 2015. Yup, that means I’ve been running consistently for just about one year. But keep reading, it gets better.

Because less than a year after starting a 5k training plan, I ran a marathon. On October 2nd, 2016 – I became a freakin’ marathoner. How is that possible? How did I go from couch to a full marathon in less than one year? Keep reading. I’ll tell you.

When I completed the Ease into 5k plan and ran that first 5k without stopping to walk at all, I started to believe things were possible. I started to believe that I was capable. That first 5k was on December 6, 2015. I was elated to have ran the entire course. After all of those years of wanting to be a runner, I was finally running. But I still wasn’t thinking about anything more than running the 5k distance.

I ran a few more 5ks in December/January. Then toward the end of January, on a whim, I signed up for a 10k. I registered the day before the race. And I only registered because my husband was running it and so I’d be there at the event anyway. Why just spectate when I could participate, right? I thought that I’d just run until I reached the 5k distance, or perhaps a little longer, and finish the rest of the course at a brisk walk.

But guess what? I didn’t – I was able to run the whole thing! I went from a 5k runner to a 10k runner overnight! (SIDE NOTE: I don’t recommend this – I did get tendonitis as a result.) That first 10k was on January 24, 2016.

And then I REALLY believed that I could do more than I ever thought possible. I decided to do something crazy – I registered for a half marathon. A 10k is almost half of a half marathon, right? I knew that with proper training (which I didn’t do before running the 10k), running a half marathon was a realistic goal.

A few weeks later, after my tendonitis got better (see side note above), I began the Hal Higdon Half Marathon Novice Training Plan.  Please keep in mind that this was in February, in Kansas. It was cold – so, so cold. But I was still enjoying myself and my husband was still running with me, so I kept training. As part of this training, I ran a few more 10k races as well.

On May 14, 2016, I ran my first half marathon. It was the Running with the Cows Half Marathon (I live in the Midwest, okay?). I finished the half in 02:27:03. I didn’t run for a time goal, but I ran for comfort level. I wanted to enjoy the experience and run at a comfortable pace. And I did, and I felt so good at the end! I could have kept running!

Then, when I ran the half and still felt so great at the finish…well, that’s when the really crazy thoughts started popping up in my end. “I’m in the best shape of my life,” my brain said. “If you ever want to run a full marathon, isn’t now the time?”, the brain said.

And after many conversations with my husband, who also wanted to run a full marathon at some point, we decided to at least commit to starting a training plan. In the Fall, there are several full marathons, and so we researched our options and picked one that was going to best meet our needs. Despite it being our hometown race, we did NOT want to run the KC Marathon, due to the difficulty of the course (we did still run this race, but we ran the half marathon – 13 days after running our first full marathon). Instead, we picked the MO’ Cowbell Marathon. It was a few hours away from KC (in St. Charles, MO), but it is known for being an easier (mostly flat) course. And since my first half marathon was cow themed — why not my first full as well?

Since Hal Hidgon was so good to us the first time around, we used his Full Marathon Novice Training Plan. I won’t bore with the details of the training,  but it was hard. It was so hard. And it was an 18 week training plan. 18 weeks! All summer, we trained in the miserable heat and humidity for a race that only lasted a few hours.

Finally, race day arrived. And I had the same goal as I did in the half marathon. Run at a comfortable pace, a pace that allowed me to fully enjoy the experience and not feel miserable. I was able to accomplish this without difficulty. To my surprise, I felt amazing for almost the entire race. I had some hip pain at Mile 15, but due to being prepared and carrying Advil on the course, that was a short lived problem.

It was going so well that at Mile 24, I was passing people. I was passing people! I had paced well, and I’m guessing that maybe they hadn’t, but I was still going strong. My husband was behind me, but I could still see him for much of that time, so he wasn’t too far behind. At Mile 25, I became overwhelmed with emotion. I knew I couldn’t cross that finish line without him. We suffered all summer together in training, I couldn’t leave him now.

You see, he had a terrible head cold the entire week prior to the race. By race day, he was doing much better, but he still wasn’t back at 100%. This man ran a full marathon while sick! Amazing! So I stopped at Mile 25 and I waited a few minutes for him to catch up. We took a few walk breaks in that last mile, but I didn’t care because I was so proud of him and so proud of myself. We finished the marathon in 05:05:35.

And there is nothing that I can say that could describe my feelings about crossing that finish line with my husband. We trained for 18 months together, and we finished the race together. For better (that was me), or for worse (that was him) – we were in it together. And it was so awesome. So, so awesome.

It’s really hard to describe the differences in my life between October 2015 and October 2016. Running as changed me in so many ways beyond the physical, but I’ll probably discuss those in another post, because this post does need to end at some point.

I get asked all the time how I went from 0.0 to 26.2 in less than a year.  This crazy journey, and the reason it worked for me, was because of a few things:

1) Consistency (I run 4 days a week, every week.)
2) Building Mileage Slowly (Trust me. If you jump in mileage too quickly, you might get tendonitis.) 
2) Persistence (It gets HARD, you have to keep going.)
3) Support (There are people that will support you. Find them.)
4) Goals (I set small goals along the way. A new/longer distance, faster times, etc.) 
5) Big Picture Training (I looked at rest days, sleep, and nutrition as all part of the plan too.)

I’m no expert. I’ve only run one marathon! But this is my journey, and these are the lessons that I’ve learned along the way. 

I’m a marathoner. And I started from zero. And if I can do it, so can you. A realistic plan, hard work, and a little patience will get you to your goals — running or otherwise.

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