A number of people thought I was a little crazy for attempting another half marathon just one week after the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, including my physical therapist… though he understood and supported the endeavor!
I have to say that under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t have seemed crazy. I wasn’t planning on running a race pace for either race. It was more like training run pace. When I was training for the marathon-I-didn’t-run, my mileage was 13+ miles every weekend! In fact, I think it went a little something like 12, 14, 12, 16, 13, 18, 13, 20, 13 for my weekend runs until I had to stop training. BUT, I’m not in that shape now and this was not normal circumstances. This was after nearly 7 months of injury, physical therapy, and sporadic mileage.
So maybe it was a little crazy… but there was NO way I was going to miss my sister’s first half marathon!
My sister was there telling me how crazy I was when I ran my first ever half marathon… but she made signs, cheered, and watched her son and mine get really muddy while they waited to see my run by!
My sister was there for my second half handing me fuel when I ran by… (she may kill me for these pictures, but they are hysterical!!)
I wasn’t going to miss this for her.
She started with a 5k, not long after quitting smoking! It took us 2 tries (not to any fault of hers! The first 5k was only 2 miles long due to a volunteer directing runners to the finish early!), but she got it done in July 2011.
After a few more 5ks and inspiring some friends of her own to run, she started to think maybe I wasn’t so crazy. She started to think maybe she could do this crazy half marathon thing. It still seemed too big. It was really, really scary. But on New Year’s Day she decided, this was her goal. She would run a half marathon in 2013.
I helped her pick a plan, a race, and assembled a half marathon training survival kit for her! She trained. She juggled a busy work schedule, being a mom, and everything else. She pushed herself. She ran an 11k race when she thought she could only do the 8k option. She stepped out of her comfort zone. She joined a running/training group. She started thinking about how to fuel her body for the run and how to care for it so it could do what she was asking it to do. Hard to believe that before this all started she was a smoker. Not now!
And just days before the race, her son got a stomach bug. She was up in the middle of the night with a sick kid, terrified of getting it herself. But she got through it, and finally we headed to the Expo on Saturday!
We got our bibs, saw a friend, and came home with super cute sweatshirts for our little “Future Runners” who were home with Mema! (Thanks Mema for taking care of the kids so I could support Jen! And thanks Aunt Kristie for my kids’ shirts!)
Race morning came early. Poor Jaxon, my nephew, was up throwing up in the middle of the night, but that wouldn’t stop Jen today! After some coffee and oatmeal, we were out the door just a little late. We hit traffic and ended up missing the running club photo which was a bummer, but we hit a hotel bathroom on the way to the start to avoid porta-potties and made it to the start with plenty of time.
(Thanks to Paula’s husband Dave for these pictures!)
We found Kristie! Kristie is who got me started down this crazy running path and was a great support to Jen on it, too. She is the Nutrition Coach for USA PhillyFit, the group Jen joined. She hadn’t planned on it, but she ended up running most of the race with us!
The race was great. It was chilly at the start, and Jen was full of nerves. Once we got started it got a little bit better. Right around mile 2, I stopped off for a porta-potty with a long-ish line. I was so glad that Kristie was running with us so that she could stick by Jen, and I didn’t have to worry! It took me about 2.5 miles of way-faster-than-I-should-have-been running to catch up with them, but I did. Jen was still feeling good. Her pace was good. Running through the city was awesome. At one point she said, “I hesitate to say this, I don’t want to jinx anything, but I am actually having fun!!!” It was great to hear, and it was so much fun!
We saw an old friend from our days working at summer camp spectating which was a nice surprise. Jen said she hadn’t seen her in more than 10 years, how crazy! I offered that she could go back and catch up, but she declined. Go figure – hehe.
The crowds were amazing. The sights were awesome. Running down South Street, Jen remarked that she had never imagined herself running down South Street! I drank half a beer offered to me by the Drexel fraternity boys which made everyone laugh! The miles just kept ticking along. Water, gu, run some more. Every so often she would just exclaim, “this is so coo! I’m doing it!” She needed a porta-potty stop but all the lines were so long. Finally, we ran past a Cosi restaurant and I urged her to run in and use the bathroom. It cost her a few minutes as we had just past it, but it was worth it!
We said goodbye to Kristie at mile 9 to finish her own race as she was nursing a sore shin. We came up on miles 8-10 which are the only real hills of the race. They aren’t anything crazy, but they are late enough in the race and they are long enough that you definitely feel them. The downhills were pretty harsh too, so it was not much of a relief.
This is where she dug in. It was hard, but she kept pushing. She can do hard things too. I offered that at this point that if she was going to walk, an uphill would be an okay place. It wouldn’t affect her pace much as we weren’t able run that much faster than people who were walking. But she did not walk. She ran the ENTIRE race. She was a rockstar.
By mile 10, I was feeling it. My few fast miles early on trying to catch up after my potty stop had taxed my legs, and I really felt those hills. My plantar fascia kept cramping on the down hills (I haven’t felt pain there for weeks now so I was worried.) My glutes and hamstrings were screaming. But Jen was going strong, hurting yes, but pushing forward. At mile 11, it was time to pick up the pace and she did. She held back just a little and at the mile 12 marker, she gave it all she had. It felt like such a loooong mile, and with the way the course turns you don’t see the finish line until you are right there. But she kept picking up the pace, and I kept weaving in and out of people to stay by her side. Once she saw that finish line, girl.took.OFF! I sprinted around people to keep up with her, and finally with her last push I knew I couldn’t get by her side but finished right behind her (same exact finish time).
She did it. She ran a half marathon. If you had asked her a year ago about running one, she would have laughed at you. If you had asked her two years ago about running at all, she would have laughed at you. But she did it. She finished 2:45:15. If you take out the minutes she lost with the bathroom stop, she met her goal of running at a sub 12:30 pace. And she looked and felt amazing pretty much the entire time, but she also pushed hard. It was pretty much the perfect first race!
After a little bit of recovery, she said and I will continue to quote this, “to be completely honest, I would totally do that again!” SUCCESS! Even the next morning with muscle soreness fully setting in, she was saying that she couldn’t wait to recover to do it all over again. I am thrilled for her. I love that she got to experience the satisfaction of doing something so hard and so scary that she never thought she could. I love that she’s found a love for running and pushing herself. I love that she made this commitment to HERSELF, not her job, son, or family. It was all about her. The journey, the growth, and the accomplishment are all hers!
The Philadelphia Marathon’s theme this year was “Redefine Possible” and it could not have been more fitting, and it was most certainly one of the “best times” of her life! I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes next, and I look forward to running many more miles by her side. Congratulations again, Jennifer Lee!
As for me? I finished my 5th half marathon. Well technically, it was my 6th, but I don’t really count the one where I drank beer the entire time (even though it was so much fun). I didn’t have stomach troubles like last weekend. I felt pretty good the whole thing until the last few miles when my legs were d.e.a.d. But that’s to be expected with inconsistent training and two back-to-back half marathons. My left lower back, hip, IT band, and foot are all giving me a little trouble since the race. I had physical therapy on Monday, and on Friday I’ll go back for a new gait analysis and to really look at where I am. I have gotten a lot stronger in a lot of areas, but some are still not strong enough while other areas are showing a need for strengthening. So it’s time to reassess and refocus. I am grateful for the miles I ran and the race experiences, but I am ready to get back to low mileage, more strengthening, and building a base without the pressure of a race coming up.