So this year I finally decided to try the Hansons Marathon Method. I had looked into the plan several times after seeing the success of so many of my running idols, but I was always intimidated by the amount of weekday miles it included and the absence of super long weekend miles. I was very skeptical, only because it was not what I was used to.
Now, it should be noted that I have never been formally trained by a coach, never been given a “training plan,” never run for a team, etc. For the first five years of my running I scoured the internet for training plans, read books and articles, and experimented with my running. My training consisted of a hodgepodge of various training plans leading up to my first three marathons. And, every time I went out of a run, I was trying to see how fast I could go. I did not have “easy run” days or true “speed workouts.” How silly I was! Varied workouts with different goal paces is the way to go.
It wasn’t until this past training cycle that I not only decided to fully commit to training the Hansons way, but I also joined an advanced marathon training club where I was instantly surrounded by coaches and other hard working like-minded runners. Again, this was different than what I was used to. I completed nearly all of my runs solo before joining the group, so this took some getting used to.
I very quickly began to love the camaraderie and support I received from my coaches and newfound training partners. Before too long, I considered these people close friends. I can honestly say now that I would do anything, within reason, for them.
The main thing I learned through my training this year is the thing I read over and over, but never really followed:
Don’t go out too fast.
It’s so simple, isn’t it? Ease into it, then go fast at the end. Use that energy you’ve been saving up to blow through that finish chute and throw those arms up as you cross that finish line!
Doesn’t that sound fun? It really is.
You see, I have learned, through my personal running mistakes, that you can sort of “fake it” with shorter distance races. 5Ks, 10Ks, even half marathons. You can go out a little too fast with those and still salvage your race. But the marathon, that is a beast of a race. Those that are walking or barely jogging at the finish line are most likely doing that because they started out too fast, left nothing in their tanks, and are now suffering. I know that’s what happened to me at the conclusion of my first three marathons.
So, all of that being said, I chose to reflect on my marathon race with the Hansons “Assessing Race Success and Determining Future Direction.”
Was I able to complete all of the training as scheduled? If not, did I run more than scheduled or less?
- Yes and no. Yes, except when I had the flu. Yes, except when I was out of town, got turned around, found my way, and chose not to risk losing my way again and skipped a couple of miles. So, I guess this is a no. Can it ever be a true yes? Maybe I can find out next year.
Was I able to hit all of the prescribed workout paces? If not, were there specific workout types that gave me trouble?
- Yes and no. Yes, except for when I almost passed out after taking too many salt pills. Why was I even taking salt pills? I don’t even sweat that much. There’s an example of me trying something unnecessarily and then suffering. Stick to what works. Stick to the plan! No one told you to take salt tablets! So, let’s try for a resounding yes on this one next year.
Did I run any of the workouts, easy days, or long runs faster than prescribed?
- Yes. I’ve already been yelled at about this. I get it now. I won’t do this again.
Was this training cycle at a higher level of weekly mileage than usual? Higher than I’ve ever done?
- Yes, and hell yes!
Was the goal pace faster than I’ve ever run? Was goal pace too aggressive?
- Hell yes! Not too aggressive. I finished right under my goal time. Yay!
Were my goals appropriate relative to recent performances and fitness?
- Yes. Even though it seemed lofty, my goal was right in my wheelhouse.
How well did I execute my race plan? Did I start too fast? Too slow?
- Excellent. I started out easy & opened it up after mile 20 for the last 10K. I can finally say that I did NOT go out too fast! I’m so happy to report that I trusted my training & ran according to my plan. Everything fell in line perfectly.
Did I have people to race? Was the crowd support good?
- Interesting question. For the first 20 miles I ignored everyone around me and concentrated on my goal marathon pace and not going any faster. I sort of put blinders on, as I am ever so tempted to pass people in the beginning. As far as racing people during the last 10K, it honestly wasn’t even like that. I’m so happy to report that I was simply finally able to open it up and drop below my goal marathon pace, and that just meant I passed everyone around me. I can’t even count how many people I passed during that last 10K. The crowd support was amazing. Houston never disappoints.
What was going on in my life during this training cycle?
- Just life. The same old, same old. Full time job, married, two children who participate in extracurricular sports and need help with homework, transportation, etc., household chores, shopping, strength training. weight lifting, cross training.
Was my life more stressful or less stressful than past training cycles?
- I would say it was the same amount of stress as past training cycles.
What was my pre-race routine like compared to past cycles?
- It was the same. I like to get to the convention center early, check my bag, use the restroom, and attend Mass.
Did I get sick during this training cycle?
- Yes, with the damn flu. It was horrible.
Was I dealing with any injuries this training cycle?
- Nope, but strangely enough every year in the past I did. I ran more miles under a more aggressive plan, and stayed injury free. I’m going to give all the credit to the Hansons plan. That was the only thing I did differently from past years.
What was my sleep like this training cycle?
- I’d say it was about the same. I went to bed a little later on Tuesday and Thursday nights, but still got my requisite 6 hours of sleep a night.
What was the weather like this training cycle? Did I adjust for weather?
- It was standard Houston weather. Muggy and hot for most of the training cycle. I de-rated for humidity as suggested by my coach.
Last year’s post marathon reflection was sad for me. I missed my goal … by a lot. I regressed from the previous year. It was disheartening, but I learned a lot from it. Had last year’s marathon not happened, would I have trained as hard as I did this year? I’m not sure.
This year was different. This year I ran my fastest time yet and managed, by 21 seconds, to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This gave me a tremendous boost in confidence and made me realize that my dream of one day running the Boston Marathon might be closer than I thought. Could I run 2-3 minutes faster and creep into Boston Marathon acceptance? I’m going to try my hardest to find out.
As I embark on the 2018 Chevron Houston Marathon, I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about my running.
This whole running journey I’ve been on for the last five years has been a wonderfully difficult ride. The first year was spent building a base for running. In that first year I really wasn’t expecting much out of myself, for my goal was to run a 5K. For a non-runner, running a 5K is a monumental feat. The first six months were very tough — I truly thought that I might have to give up on running. I made slow progress, though, and I stuck with it.
At some point I gained fitness, conditioned my body, and I started to believe I could do this whole running thing. As time went on, I’ve made bigger running goals and achieved them. There was a period of time there where I was improving at a very rapid pace and it was wonderful. Now that I’ve done quite a bit running wise, I am experiencing diminishing returns — I am not enjoying big improvements, only slight improvements. I know, realistically, that I cannot continue to expect huge gains, and I simply need to be patient and concentrate on how far I have already come.
This made me realize that I am at the point where many runners burn out and quit. I can’t let that happen. I must remember why I started running and why I continue to run.
So, in order to better do this, I made a list of the runner principles with which a runner should abide:
1. Run for yourself.
Remember that you are living your own story and it is a great story. The famous Teddy Roosevelt quote “Comparison is the thief of joy,” holds true here. When we compare ourselves to others we discredit our hard work. Competition is great, but instead of fixating on those that are better or stronger than we are, we should focus on beating our own best records. The magic is in each one of us runners, not in our paces or distances. It’s in us. Each one of us.
2. Don’t forget to love running.
Remember that you do not run for a living and it is okay to make mistakes and take your time with your running. This is a hobby. This is for physical fitness, recreation, and mental health. Sure, focus on your form and technique. Do your speed and hill work. Complete your long runs. Practice your mental toughness during runs. Do all of these things, but don’t forget to love the run. Enjoy the wonderful running community. Enjoy the beautiful scenery during runs. Love the childlike feeling you experience during runs. Love the freedom. Do what you love. Love the run.
3. Don’t put yourself down.
Don’t discredit your hard work by telling people you aren’t fast or strong as a runner. You are fast to many people. I think when we say to people “I’m really not that fast,” We’re telling them that because we don’t want them to be intimidated by us, and we also don’t want them to expect anything spectacular from us. Even if we are average, but we don’t quit, that is amazing. That’s truly what makes a great runner. This is spectacular and we should be proud. We should all be proud of our running.
4. Accept advice, praise and motivation from other runners.
Remember that runners are pretty fabulous people. They don’t judge other runners, for they know, all too well, what it feels like to fall down. Runners struggle on a regular basis. It’s either the humidity, or the snow. An injury, or a lack of motivation. A hectic schedule, or a life change. It really could be any number of things, but the point is that we struggle and we support other runners. Take advantage of the community.
5. Don’t get discouraged.
Don’t think about how far you still have to go to reach your ultimate goals, think about how far you’ve already come. Every day is a test. Will we be strong enough to continue fighting? Every day that we continue to fight we are stronger. Focus on that. Don’t be discouraged by a long term goal and how insurmountable it feels. Keep crushing those smaller goals.
6. Don’t quit.
Please don’t ever quit because you feel like you are not progressing fast enough. Be patient. So much of our running success is dependent on our confidence and positive attitude. Accept that you will have bad runs. Accept that you will not always be excited to go for a run. Accept that you will lack inspiration and motivation at times. Accept these things and just keep going. Just don’t quit. Keep running.
So, as I gear up for another Chevron Houston Marathon, I am taking the time to commit these runner principles to heart.
Keep running, everyone.
So I just completed another overnight relay race and it was wonderful. Was I sleep, hygiene, and sanity deprived? Yes. Did the lack of sleep and frequent running make me weary and light-headed? Yes. Did I bond with like-minded runners exploring new terrain and learning a lot about myself along the way? Yes. Yes, all of that happened.
My husband and daughters greeted me at the finish line and my husband said what he says each time I do this: “I just could never do that. I would go crazy without sleep and a shower.” I can certainly appreciate that sentiment. I mean, sleep and common creature comforts are what help to make the world go round. It is truly the little things in life that make us comfortable and secure. One thing that strikes me as incredibly interesting; however, is that when we take ourselves out of our day-to-day existence and deny ourselves of our beloved creature comforts, we learn more about who we truly are as people and what is important in life.
So, since I’ve been back from my relay race, I’ve been thinking about what it is exactly that appeals to me about a race of this magnitude, and the following is what I came up with.
It’s like an adult sleepaway camp or some sort of spiritual retreat.
I don’t want to say that an overnight relay race is a spiritual retreat exactly, but it really kind of is. Think about it. You’re out communing with nature, devoid of excessive technology and creature comforts, focusing on your passion and your community with like-minded people. You are learning about other modes of thought and perspectives and there’s really no way you can walk away from an experience like that without feeling inspired and transformed in some way. I believe this, right here, is the single most important reason I love participating in the overnight relay race.
You are offered a unique experience.
Participating in an overnight relay race affords a runner unique opportunities. You get to do things you wouldn’t typically get to do at home. Run down the shoulder of a highway at 2:00 a.m. with volunteers present and a van full of supporters? How unique is that of an experience? Run a prepared course that takes you through some really interesting areas full of history and beauty? Yes, please. All of the legwork has been done for runners all so that they can have a special experience. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
It forces you out of your comfort zone.
Were you all snuggled into your comfort zone? Well, this will get you quickly out of it. First and foremost, you’re out of that normal day-to-day grind that you are so accustomed to. That load of laundry, sink full of dishes, carpool drop off, etc.? That’s all being handled for you. You’re nowhere around. Being away from home and with new people allows a runner to focus solely on running. Additionally, there is no home court advantage. Runners are all thrown in this together and must work together exploring new territory. This intimidating setup gives you confidence to try new things, and I believe confidence is a key component to living a fulfilled life.
You get to act like you’re 12 years old again.
It’s so much fun to get to act like a kid again. No responsibilities, nowhere to jet off to, you really are only responsible for yourself … not your children, not your spouse, not your animals, not your home. You are FREE! There isn’t the hectic schedule to adhere to. Runners get to be totally selfish and it’s wonderful.
You are having old fashioned fun.
A race set up like this takes away a lot of the distractions. It disconnects you a bit from technology and puts you in touch with good old-fashioned fun. Looking at things from an unconnected perspective can have a profound impact on how we approach things in life and it allows us to be more open to learning new things. But, above all that, hilarious conversations and one-liners among teammates abound an overnight relay race, and it is fabulous. It is so much fun to be silly with other runners, and being around other runners as they share their experiences is a great way to learn new tricks of the trade, and I am always most appreciative of this aspect of the relay race.
You make fast friends.
I would venture to say that relay runner friends are friends for life, experiencing a connection like no other. It’s a deep engagement forged through shared experiences. The experience is unique not only because of the quantity of time with which a team is together, but because of the quality of the time teammates enjoy. Again, this is time away from creature comforts and the day-to-day grind, so it’s uninterrupted bonding time and it’s wonderful. I so enjoy the friendships created on an overnight relay race, and even though I may not be able to visit with these relay friends in person that often, I enjoy a connection through social media with them that I cherish.
Self-exploration is inevitable.
An overnight relay race is a chance for you to really explore yourself. To stop being so hard on yourself and to truly think about how you can grow as an individual. It opens you up to different possibilities. My goal is always to take home things I learn along the way, and every time I do this. I learn a lot from my fellow travelers and I learn to relax and trust my intuition and to just be happy. Above all, be happy.
So, what’s not to love about an overnight relay race? If you’ve never done one, it’s time to change that.
I will run my third marathon Sunday and I’ve decided to dedicate each of my marathon miles to a specific person or group. I have many people that are very important to me in my life. These people support me and offer me inspiration and motivation and taking the time to think about them during my race will force me to keep pushing. This will be my first year to try this, and I am very excited about it.
When exhaustion sets in, that’s when I feel hopeless. That’s when that horrible part of my brain tells me I simply cannot go on. I’m feeling physically and mentally exhausted, and all I want to do is collapse on the pavement and dissolve into a pool of tears. I just want to curl up into the fetal position and sob. Like an embarrassingly loud, guttural, primal sob. A flat out temper tantrum. Naturally I won’t do that, but boy have I fantasized about doing that a few hundred times! This is where this bracelet with mile dedications will come into play. This is that moment when I need to remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place. This is where I remember that I should be grateful that I am running this marathon right now. This is when I need to acknowledge that there are many people in my life that are rooting for me. There are people that care about what I am doing. These people want me to succeed. These people are important to me and in this weak moment, I need to honor them. I’m not only running for myself, I am running for all of them.
I won’t publish my dedication list here … that would just be weird. Kind of like admitting my political affiliation or religion. Obviously, as evidenced by my blog, I am not afraid to share some of my deepest, darkest thoughts, but they are my thoughts that affect me. I shy away from writing about my political beliefs, church involvement, or specific people in my life. It seems rude. For some reason publishing the list seems too personal, too. But, I will tell you some of the obvious mile markers, just in case you are curious.
Of course my husband, each daughter, mother, and father are on the list. These people are my biggest cheerleaders. Naturally, at times they resent the time I put into my running, but they are the very first people to brag about me to anyone who will listen. They are proud of me. They believe in me. They make me better. Then there are my dear friends. These people aren’t family … they don’t have to stay loyal to me, but they do. They ask me about my runs and offer me encouragement and support on a regular basis. I don’t have a long list of friends, but these people are quality people. What I lack in numbers, is made up for in quality, for sure. There is the cross country coach and the cross country girls. These people are like a family of sorts for me. No words could really ever express the gratitude I have for these people. There are all of my social media friends that inspire me to pursue my passion and cheer me on. There are my coworkers and the student body at my school. I love my job and I consider the people I work with a work family. There are the companies and organizations that took a chance on me and allowed me to serve as ambassador for them. These people opened many doors for me and created countless opportunities for me to become truly connected to the running community. Then, of course, there is me. I will run the last .2 for me and only me. It will be a mad sprint to the finish and I will be smiling the whole way. I will throw my arms up as I step on that finish line as I always do.
I honestly can’t believe I never thought of this idea with my first or second marathon. I believe doing this will remind me to keep fighting. It will remind me to push past my feelings of inferiority. It will force me to focus on what is important to me rather than my shortcomings. It will remind me that even though I am feeling woebegone, I can ignore that emotional aspect of the discomfort I am feeling. It will give me that eye of the tiger I need. It will make me fierce.
When my beloved hometown marathon, the Chevron Houston Marathon, advertised that they were accepting applications for marathon ambassadorship, I promptly began work on my application. Anyone who knows me knows that I love all things Houston, running, and the Chevron Houston Marathon. There is something so magical about the way the entire city of Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S., comes together on marathon weekend. I feel a part of something so much bigger than myself on marathon weekend. I feel connected to my city and to my fellow runners. It’s really an inexplicable feeling I have on race weekend. The best way I can describe it is that it’s magic.
So, I poured myself into the application process. I carefully considered each portion of the application and thoroughly enjoyed contemplating each question. The questions on the application reflected ideas that I often ponder and write about. Things like, what inspires me to run, what are my main running goals, what is it about the Chevron Marathon weekend that appeals to me, how important is the running community to me, etc. These questions are at the core of why we all run, aren’t they? For, the split times, form, breathing, foot strike, heart rate, etc. is the actual running and we pay close attention to those things in an effort to improve, certainly, but that’s not what keeps runners running, is it? No. It’s the community, It’s how we are inspired. It’s our desire to inspire others. It’s the overwhelming sense of togetherness we feel on race day. It’s our desire to improve ourselves. It’s the satisfaction we feel when we accomplish our goals. It’s the feeling of being fit, strong, and capable. It’s the mental toughness we gain from doing hard things. It’s the satisfaction of pushing past where we thought our limits were. It’s our desire to cheer others on, for we know how hard running is. It’s the way we tear up when we think about running. Excuse me for a moment, I need a tissue.
So, I submitted my application, and I waited. And waited. And waited. In reality I only had to wait about a month, but it certainly felt like an eternity. The website informed me that I’d be notified one way or the other on April 11th. Good. I had an explicit endpoint to my waiting. I marked the date on my calendar and I tried not to fixate on it. Until the 11th, however. On the 11th I checked my email a record amount of times. I just couldn’t stop myself. I busied myself with my work and I pushed the application out of my mind whenever it entered that space. Then, lo and behold, the email came. I nervously opened it and was thrilled to learn that I had been selected to serve as a 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador. Me! They picked me! Words cannot express how excited I am. It is also worth mentioning here that I applied last year and was rejected. The rejection letter was very well written, I must say, and it urged me to try again the following year. Which is what I did. I also took a careful look at what makes a good ambassador. I saw, very quickly, that I simply wasn’t ready to serve as an ambassador for the 2016 season. I hadn’t immersed myself into the running community yet. So, I set out to do just that. I put all of my thoughts into writing and started this blog. I followed other runners’ journeys through social media and immediately gained inspiration and motivation from them. I became a part of the running community and words cannot express how fortunate I am to have found the running community. Had I not been rejected ambassadorship in 2016 would I be this connected with my running community? I think not.
As an ambassador, I am most excited about becoming even more involved in the Houston running community. I get so much inspiration and motivation from my running connections on social media. The local Houston runners that I am connected with through social media are particularly special to me, as we take part in many of the same races and we feel privileged to run our hometown Chevron Houston Marathon. I look forward to making even more running connections through my ambassador platform. The running connections I have made over the last year are truly what help motivate me during the training season and throughout the entire year. I have said it many times in the past, and I am certain I will continue to say it on a regular basis, but the running community is simply the best. Runners are the most positive, encouraging people on the planet. Runners help other runners up when they’ve fallen, for we know, all too well, what it feels like to fall.
So, it is with great enthusiasm that I wholeheartedly accept my position as a 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador.
This weekend I ran a 200 mile relay with wonderful people who started out as strangers and became friends. The Texas Independence Relay is a “200 mile journey [that] traces the route of Sam Houston and the Texian army, beginning in historic Gonzales (home of the Come & Take It skirmish) to the site of the storied final battle for Texas’ Independence at the San Jacinto Monument.” The race consists of 40 relay legs of various lengths, totaling 200 miles.
I found my team through my running club’s Facebook page. As I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with my running, I find myself wanting to stretch myself even more. The notion of a relay race across Texas really appealed to me. So, I joined the Texas Roadkill Search Team. Brothers John and Jack Barfoot are captains of Texas Roadkill Search Team I and Texas Roadkill Search Team II, respectively. Team I had 13 members and Team II had 11 members. I was on Team II. Each team split their members between two vans. I was in Team II’s van 1. This meant our van started the relay with legs 1-6.
Jack ran our first leg, passed off to Stuart, who passed off to me for the third leg. The third leg of the run was entirely on dirt, well more like a rocky, road. 5.35 miles of running to the middle of Nowhere, Texas … God’s country. At this point we were in Shiner, the cleanest city in Texas. Shiner is special to me not only because my husband and I love Shiner beer, but also because we participate in the Shiner Beer Run each year. This particular run is important to me because it marks my progress as a runner. The inagural 5k & Half Marathon in 2013 was one of my first 5K races. I went back in 2014 & 2015 for the Half Marathon and I plan on going each year to come. The race is a sort of “racecation” for us and we love it. We like to stay in Gonzales and then we spend race day in Shiner. Is there a better way to spend a weekend? I think not.
I started this 5.35 mile third leg at 9:11 a.m. The sun really started to come out during this leg and I was glad I had my sunglasses on. Everyone thought it was so funny that my sunglasses perfectly matched my running outfit. I told them it was honestly just a coincidence that I owned sunglasses the exact same shade of mint green as my running clothes, but I vowed to try to make this my “thing” from here on out. I mean, why not? It’s always fun to find something fun to relate to my running. This leg of the relay stands out to me because this is where a fellow Houston runner and instafriend cheered me on while he waited on his own teammate. This made me tear up and once again remember why I run. It’s that … it’s that instant connection that exists between runners. It’s the understanding that we need to build each other up and cheer each other on. We are all better when we support each other. The running community is the best.
Next up was Moulton, Flatonia, and Schulenburg for legs four through nine. Our sixth runner passed the baton off to the first runner of the second van for legs 7-10 and we went on to Schulenburg to grab a nice sit-down lunch at Frank’s Restaurant. I had a delicious chicken fried chicken steak, mashed potatoes, and salad. I was so hungry and it really hit the spot.
Next we took the baton back from van 2 for legs 11-16. My teammates ran through Weimar and Borden. Then it was time for another one of my legs. Leg 14 in Columbus. This 6.72 mile leg started at 5:46 p.m. I ran by the Pride of Columbus, Columbus High School, downtown residences, and ended my journey in the commercial district of Columbus. Nothing particularly stands out to me about this leg as I sit back and reflect on it. This was the halfway point for me. I had run two of my four legs. I was dreading how I’d manage to sleep in the van for our two hour sleep break. Would I be able to fall asleep? Stay asleep? What if I needed to pee in the middle of the night? Once I opened the van door all of the lights would come on. “Oh well,” I told myself as I finished my run. I’ll worry about all of that later.
Next we ran through Altair, Eagle Lake, Wallis and Orchard. This is the point where we passed the legs off to our second van of runners and we had the opportunity to grab a quick bite of fast food, park our van near our baton exchange station, and catch a couple of hours of shuteye before leg 23 in Simonton. It was hard to really sleep in the van, but it was nice to at least stretch out and rest our bodies. The alarm clock went off before we knew it, though, and it was time for our first runner to don his head lamp and safety vest. Oh, and if you’re curious, I didn’t have to pee in the middle of our sleep. I woke up, if what I was doing could actually be called sleeping, most happy about that, I must admit. But I digress. We would be running in the dark, in the wee hours of the morning, on little to no sleep. This was going to be a challenge. We got our acts together; however, and drove the van to leg 23 so our first runner could start. At this point we shared a lot of laughs. By this time in our journey we had gotten to know each other pretty well and that, coupled with the fact that we were sleep deprived, made for some hilarious conversations. Legs 23 and 24 went smoothly and then it was time for my leg, leg 25 in Fulshear. I began this 4.73 mile leg at 3:15 a.m. This is where I knew I was in suburbia moving towards Houston. This leg ran through a new subdivsion and finished at a newer elementary school there on the outskirts of Katy.
The next couple of legs took us through George Bush Park as the sun came up. After leg 27 we stopped for breakfast at a Panera Bread and I’m pretty sure the guys working there thought we were bums. Before we left the restaurant I was excited to use an actual toilet. It had been porta cans and bushes for me for two days, so an actual toilet was such a treat. I guess I was kind of bum-like at that point.
By 12:28 p.m. it was time for my 3.74 mile leg 36. My last leg. This took me through a Houston neighborhood and a pedestrian bridge over the busy I-45 interstate and finished at Chavez High School. I struggled in this leg. I was tired from lack of sleep and all of the running. During my leg I came upon a woman and ran beside her. I told her that she was doing a great job of pacing me. She told me to pass her, as I had worked hard to get there beside her. I told her that I wanted to run with her, not pass her, because I was struggling. She told me that she’s never been a leader in a run and I said, “well, you are right now.” We ran together for the last mile and I gave her a big hug once we’d passed off to our teammates. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the running community is simply the best.
Legs 37 through 39 flew by taking us closer to our finish line at the San Jacinto Monument. Our final runner completed leg 40 and we were there to greet her and run with her for the last half mile to the finish line. There we received our medals, took pictures, and glowed in the glory of our accomplishment.
200 glorious miles from Gonzales to Houston. What an adventure for a nearly 40 year old librarian, a man in his late 50s, a 19 year old college kid, a 25 year old newlywed teacher, a 22 year old graduate student, and a nearly 40 year old man. Our van held teammates of varied ages and stages of their lives. I had delightful conversations with each and every one of them and I am so happy I had this awesome experience.
I did it again. I completed the Chevron Houston Marathon and I even managed to shave 23 minutes off of last year’s time! I am truly so happy with my performance. I learned a lot from my first marathon and I made the appropriate changes in my training before this marathon. Now that this one is done, I’m reflecting on the things that I think I need to work on and change for next year’s marathon.
Naturally, one of the first things I researched post marathon was how to recover properly after a marathon. I read about my nutrition, physical activity, soothing remedies, etc. I also kept reading about this notion of “marathon blues.” This is when you feel sad that this event that you’ve been planning for, dreaming about, and just generally fixating on for months and months, is finally over. I am not feeling that way at all. I’m actually really excited that I get a whole year to train for my next marathon. I worked really hard after my first marathon to implement changes that would make me stronger and faster. I reaped the rewards of my hard work. The whole marathon felt better to me. I felt more in control of it. I still had those nagging thoughts of self-doubt and I’m thinking these will be permanent fixtures for me, but I shoved those negative thoughts away and kept fighting. The only thing I am feeling is satisfaction. I set out to improve myself this past year and I accomplished my goal. I honestly could not be more happy with myself. Instead of giving in to the negative thoughts that crept into my mind, I shoved those thoughts away and forged ahead. Me. This girl. This girl who always questions her strength and her running ability. I am nothing but happy with my performance.
Marathon weekend is special from beginning to end. It starts with the 5K on Saturday that kicks off the entire race weekend. This is where I get to cheer for my husband and daughters as they run their hearts out. My oldest daughter won 1st place in her age group this year. She was so proud of herself and I was so very happy for her. What a gift for her to stand up and receive 1st place. My wish is for everyone to have that feeling at some point in their lives. My youngest daughter got 6th place in her age group! Not bad for a girl who claims to be a “horrible runner.” Then there was the 65 year old man who won 1st place in his age group with a time of 18:38. 18:38! That’s amazing.
Then there was the Expo. The Expo is to runners what Disney World is to kids. I had so much fun there. One of the best things to come out of the Expo for me was meeting the people I’d been following and training with through Instagram and Twitter. What a wonderful support system social media is for runners. There is a wonderful running community on Instagram and my involvement in this community really helped to motivate and encourage me this training season. Additionally, the marathon committee selected my story to feature in the “Why I Run” section of the race program. What an honor! I still can’t believe I was featured in my beloved hometown marathon’s race program. I will cherish it forever.
Lastly, there was marathon day. It began with meeting in person marathon ambassador Bryan Kreitz whom I’ve been friends with on Instagram. He talked with me for awhile and really helped to put my mind at ease. I truly believe his encouraging words and the good vibes he sent me that morning stayed with me throughout the race. Next, I was able to attend a wonderful Mass with a moving homily. Finally, it was time to line up to run. I felt strong and capable throughout my race, but I’d be lying if I told you that those ugly thoughts of self-doubt didn’t creep into my mind here and there, particularly after mile 23 where things get really tough. The volunteers and spectators along the course helped me through those last miles. The “Nice work, Dendy!” “Keep going, Dendy!” “You’re doing awesome, Dendy!” shouts are truly what convinced me to keep going. I am tearing up as I think about this. It is utterly amazing that these people were thoughtful enough to cheer me on in this way.
There are no marathon blues for me. I had a wonderful marathon weekend and I look forward to having a year to train for my next marathon. I am especially looking forward to continuing the relationships I have forged with other Houston runners as we train for the 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon.