Eat Pray Run

Hal Higdon half marathon training plan pinned on wall

My 2015 goal is to run a sub-2 hour half marathon. I am over halfway through my training, and feel like I have not done enough. I have phantom knee pains, my pace has not improved as much as I would have liked by this point, and I want to eat all things in sight! This always seems to happen to me. Goal is set, heart is all in, but commitment tends to waver with life’s distractions. Why can’t I just be absolved from all of my adult responsibilities and run — Is that too much to ask?

The first culprit: Phantom pain in my right knee. I call it phantom, because the pain is slight, but just enough to annoy me. With only three weeks left until my race, I decided to suck it up and go see the doc. He took a quick look and prescribed physical therapy for strength training. Unfortunately, I knew deep down that this would be the outcome. A few weeks into training, due to time constraints, I started to slack on my strength training only running the minimum to get by. Not a good idea. Cross training and stretching is such an important supplement to running. But, the devil has a sneaky way of twisting things around in our minds forcing us to settle. Even though I followed my training plan, I was getting weaker. I could feel it when I could not run for more than two miles without stopping. This was a shot to my pride and irritating to no end. How did I run a strong 26.2 miles only five months ago, and now I am struggling to get two miles in? 

The second culprit: Diet. During my marathon training, I adhered to my Paleo meal plans and gave up alcohol. This time around…weeell…I give it an E for effort. I have not been making the best food decisions with Sour Patch Kids and ice cream topped with caramel as my nemesis. And let’s not forget the Sunday Fundays in which I partook. As a result, I have been fighting bloating and GI issues. You may be in the best shape of your life, but running with GI issues is for the birds. It will put a halt on your running real quick. 

In addition to my perceived inadequacies, my mind has been cluttered with a whole bunch of junk AKA life: Homework, keeping up with meal plans, work, decisions, things we are praying for, and change. I inherently and unintentionally try so hard to control all aspects of my life, to always have a plan, and it is exhausting. I stress about having enough time to get things done. I worry about the things I cannot see. I am apprehensive about the things I want and pray for. And I am impatient with having patience. 

This morning, I found peace during my run. I was reminded that I serve a loving and faithful God who knows His plans for me, even when I do not. God spoke to me and the tears started flowing. One of my favorite songs was playing, “No Turning Back” by Brandon Heath. I let everything go during that last mile, as He gave me a verse to silence all the noise in my head:

“Be still, and know that I am God.” ~ Psalm 46:10

He reminded me that I do not need to have it all together, because he is always in the background working for my good. He told me that I am enough, because I am His daughter. He asked if there has ever been a time that my prayers were not answered. We laughed about that time I said I could never run a half marathon. We laughed even harder about the time I said I could never run a full marathon. He reminded me of all the people with whom he has blessed my life. We reminisced about the time when I didn’t know Him, but He still knew me and brought me into the light. 

No, my troubles have not disappeared. I am, however, comforted in being reminded and knowing I serve an almighty God who always has my back even when I am a hot mess. Many times, we face challenges, big and small, that seem impossible at the time. Well, that’s because it’s true…”With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ~ Matthew 19:26. Before today, my sub-2 goal was impossible. But now, my sub-2 goal is inevitable and it’s gonna be PR City, baby! Nobody is invincible from worry, but seeking God in everything you do affords you peace from all that fuss in your head. Sometimes, all we need to do is Be Still

Race Day Preparation: 10 Tips for Running a Half Marathon

Runners Race Day

Kansas City’s oldest Road Race and 41st annual Hospital Hill Half Marathon & 10k is right around the corner, which means race day for me. As I sit here reflecting on whether my last few months of training is enough to help me face this challenge, I cannot help but wonder why in the world I signed up to run on a hill that has its own name?

While I try to get my mind mentally ready for tomorrow, I recall lessons learned from previous runs that make good general tips for race day, regardless of distance. Please note, I run to stay active and motivated to achieve one goal at a time (and maybe I also run for medals). If you are a serious runner seeking PRs and placing, some of these may not apply to you.

  1. Apply Vaseline or Body Glide to prevent chaffing. I just use Vaseline, because I have it on hand. I apply it between my thighs and under my arms.
  2. Start slow. So slow that you feel like you are in slow motion. Do not bolt from the starting line looking like Flash DC, and expend all your energy in the beginning. This is the time to set your breathe and get your legs warmed up. Your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, …winds will be that much better.
  3. Use your breath to work through pain. Wherever the pain may be, breathe through it. Your breath is very powerful and can be used to work through any discomfort.
  4. Don’t stop at every water station. For me, it is hard to get going again when I stop. I usually wait until mile 5 or 6 for water. [This may be specific to me, listen to your body!]
  5. Don’t forget to smile. Our bodies follow our facial expression, which has great influence over our mood and tension. Smiling will lighten the mood and release tension.
  6. Use jazz hands to encourage blood flow. A lot of us inadvertently tend to tighten up our arms when running. Give them a break by raising your arms and wiggling your fingers. Treat yourself to some positive energy.
  7. Get your Rocky on. A good tip for running form is to keep your body in one plane, arms and legs. The pumping forward movement of your arms help your legs and momentum. Sometimes, I find that my arms become stagnant, or at least not moving like they should. So I throw a few air punches to get them going again. 
  8. Smile for the camera. There will be a photographer somewhere along the course and at the finish line. Smile big and show your pearly whites. Action photos may be expensive to order, but it is nice to have the option.
  9. Don’t be afraid of high fives. Kids, adults, and volunteers will be available for high fives. Don’t be scared. Have you ever had a high five that wasn’t fun? Heck, even some of the other runners can probably use one. Do not underestimate the power of the human touch.
  10. Try singing out loud. My last two long runs were rather…well…long. After mile 8, it can get challenging and mundane. So, I sang out loud: “because a hustler’s work is never through~we making it because we making moves~work hard~play hard”. That’s my jam! I got few weird looks from my neighbors, but it made me smile and actually sent a surge of energy through my body. People may look at you funny, but who cares.

I know some of these seem silly, but they work for me. What are your lessons learned? What tips do you have to add?

Garmin Half Marathon in the Land of Oz

Becky Lewis finishing Garmin Half Marathon KS

Last Saturday, I did something I said I would never do again. I ran my second half marathon. With a vow to be better prepared for this run, I blew my first time out of the water by 30 minutes, finishing in 2:19. I am happy with myself for giving it another try. But I am extremely proud of myself for setting a goal, committing to the goal, and achieving my goal.

I was very ill-prepared for my first half marathon. I only made it to 6 miles in my training, my diet was awful, and my cross-training was pathetic at best. I arrogantly thought being an athlete would carry me through. Consequently, that thinking lead to muscle spasms in my calves at mile 8, followed by toes curling in with intense cramping at mile 9. While I felt nearly immobile, I managed to run/walk the rest of the run.

I used to be one of those food lovers who thought diets were a waste of time and good food.

In contrast, last Saturday was a completely different story, with a redeeming ending. The difference being I had goals; I trained with a purpose. First and foremost, I changed my diet, something I have never done all my life. I used to be one of those food lovers who thought diets were a waste of time and good food. I have since learned that your diet is half the battle. The benefits far exceed losing weight. It also impacts your energy, health, physical capabilities, and mind. When you start making better decisions about what you eat, the difference your body feels is truly amazing.

Second, I ran! – An important lesson I learned from my first half marathon. The ability to run long distances is not solely determined by how good of shape you are in. The issues I had during my first run had nothing to do with my lungs. I was breathing just fine. My legs were the ones who refused to go on. They were simply not used to going for that long. There is a reason training schedules always follow a progressive pattern, coaching you to slowly increase your miles each week. This allows your legs to get acclimated to the amount of miles you are demanding from them. Progressive training is the healthy way to get your body ready for the run, and minimize the chance of injury.

Third, I took my cross training seriously. Cross training is important, and extremely beneficial to your long distance training. It works muscles that you do not access while running. Strengthening these non-running muscles balances your body by providing more support for the running muscles, which decreases risk of injury. My cross-training included lifting weights, boot camp classes, zumba, yoga, piyo, volleyball, biking, and anything else I can get my hands on.

I am happy with myself for giving it another try. But I am extremely proud of myself for setting a goal, committing to the goal, and achieving my goal.

Running can be very intimidating, but realize that the majority of the challenge is mental. As with anything else you do, you have to get your mind right and do it with a purpose. Set goals, and commit. I told myself for many years that I could never run a half marathon or full marathon. Well, I proved myself wrong once, and I plan on proving myself wrong again later this year.

What are challenges you have overcome with running? Lessons learned?