Training for Louisville's Mini Marathon... where do I even START?? I have been regularly going to our local YMCA with my husband for the past year. I never really had any workout goals or anything that I was shooting for, so I pretty much did the same thing every single time:
-Attempt to run 1-2 miles on the treadmill for some cardio
-A few squats with the bar
-Planking and ab focus
-and honestly...that's it.
When my friend Lauren asked me a long time ago, I don't remember the time frame at all, if I would run the Mini with her, I laughed out loud. I've never been a 'runner,' and the furthest I had ran in my life was three miles. And then one random day at the gym, I wasn't collapsing after my third mile on the treadmill, so I kept running. I got to mile four, my husband cheering me on next to me on another machine, and the thought entered my mind: "Maybe I could do this?"
That was in February. I told Lauren that I would attempt an outdoor run with her, (Lord knows I hadn't ran OUTSIDE in YEARS), and I would just see how it went. My goal that day was to go more than four miles, and sure enough, we went six. It was exhilarating. I felt like I had just conquered the WORLD for running that distance. I told myself I'd see how the next FEW runs went, because I didn't want to commit, and fail.
During that six mile run, my ankles were killing me. I had on a pair of Nike shoes that I had received for a past collaboration, and I knew nothing about GOOD running shoes. I continued to run, and the pain continued. Duh. But I decided to bandit run the first race of the Triple Crown run with Lauren, which was a 5k. (She was already signed up for all three races AND the Mini, but again, I have a phobia of commitment.) I remember we did pretty well, but that we were tired during it. That morning was extra cold and "just three miles" felt like a lot longer. But we kept at our training.
I decided to visit our local Fleet Feet stores, where professionals sized my feet, watched me run around the store and on a treadmill, and two employees explained to me how bad my ankles pronate. I was super anxious about doing something 'wrong,' and decided to go with a medium support shoe AND a shoe insert, for extreme support. The next day, I ran SEVEN miles. My left knee had started to experience pain before the new shoes, and after the run, it had tripled. I was anxious, and constantly overanalyzing every single move I made. I then ran the second race with Lauren, the 10k, and during it, I actually felt GOOD. My knee didn't hurt, I got tired around the fourth mile but then quickly snapped out of it and we finished strong. I continued to increase my mileage and the day after my 29th birthday I ran nine miles. I learned before this, that I probably didn't need the insert in the shoe, so I had removed that and ran without it. Surely I'd be able to do the LAST race (which would be April 1), a ten miler, right?
WRONG. The week prior to the ten miler we did our normal training. I had been wearing a knee brace on and off. I had seen a physical therapist at ProRehab who told me I definitely had a minor knee injury, but I couldn't afford to go back. Lauren and I ran 4 miles on a Tuesday and decided to do "just three" Wednesday, but those three involved hills. I had my knee brace on for that one, and as soon as we stopped I felt a loud POP. The pain seared through my left knee and pardon my french, but the word, shit!, screamed in my head. I went about my day as normal, doing chores and playing with the kids...but going up and down stairs was hard. I went to bed Thursday (the next night) and was woken ALL throughout the night due to the pain, which had never happened before. There went my over analytical panic....! All day Friday, back and forth, I went dialoging with my husband, texting friends for prayer, asking my physical therapist friend for advice and ultimately, I knew the answer: "You can't run the ten miler," I told myself. I sat on the kitchen floor and cried, and told myself that I still shouldn't sign up for the Mini Marathon because if I couldn't run ten, Lord knows I couldn't run THIRTEEN.
I went on vacation with my family and took an entire week off from running. I sincerely doubted that I'd be able to run a long distance again, I was just so freeking scared of permanently damaging my knee. There weren't too many runners I talked with who HAD knee injuries or problems, which instilled even more doubt in my mind--maybe I was doing something wrong?
We got back from vacation on a Friday and I told Asa I wanted to try to run 7 or 8 miles on Saturday. No one was available to run with me that morning so I set off on my own. I remember after the second mile I realized, "My knee doesn't hurt!" and I wasn't even wearing the brace. I set out and reached the fourth mile; I was tired and my legs felt heavy, but and the house was still four miles away. I made my way home and I hit six miles, seven, EIGHT, and I thought, "I can run my OWN ten miler!!" I texted Asa from my Apple Watch (so cool right?) and told him I needed prayer. "You can do it! Keep running!" he responded. I got to 9.3 miles and was near the house, so I decided to finish at our park. "Can you bring the kids outside to cheer me on?" I texted. Sure enough, they all joined me at the park and my son and daughter and amazingly sweet husband clapped and cheered as I finished my very first TEN mile run. That was when I knew.
I want to do the Mini.
Lauren and I ran a great eleven miles the week before the race, and my body felt so strong. I was pretty much in constant muscle pain; my shins, calves, IT band, thighs, butt, you name it--ALWAYS ached. But not in a dangerous pain. I felt ready! Well, true to my normal self of not checking deadlines far enough in advance, I actually missed the registration for the race. Luckily, there were numerous people who knew friends selling their bibs for the Mini so I pretty easily obtained one. Lauren and I ran three miles Tuesday and another three Wednesday and took Thursday/Friday off completely. My brother and his wife came in to town Friday night to stay with us from Nashville, and I was actually excited to run. "If I can run 11 miles, surely I can run 13," I had been telling myself. And tons of people reassured me of that too!
The race went from a start time of 7:30am to NINE a.m. due to potential storms. My adrenaline got completely burned up, and I was getting SO hungry. We took selfies at the start line and in my head, I still felt like BECAUSE I had ran 11 miles just a week prior, doing 13 was really not going to be much different. Except it was...the weather was completely different. During my 11 miler, it was cold and rainy and I honestly think that's my favorite to run in. The temps were only increasing by 9 a.m. and it was humid as heck. Literally two miles in, I started to panic. Our miles were quicker than our regular training pace, and I was out of breath, ALREADY. Lauren and her roommate Mary didn't seem phased, and I began to panic even more. Asa and I's friend Tim had decided to also run, and he was keeping in stride with me. I walked through the water stop around mile 5, and I told Lauren to go on. I think she did her best to turn around and check on me, but then I would feel even more guilt for slowing her down when she was doing SO good. The crowd completely overwhelmed me. I think for many people, being surrounded by thousands of individuals is an adrenaline rush? But for some reason it just freaked me out. I looked up and saw MILES of people. "There is NO way you can run THIRTEEN miles," I told myself. We were on the way to Churchill Downs and all I could think was that it was SO far away. I would never get there. It was too hard. I couldn't breathe. I didn't want to do this. By mile six, I literally wanted to give up.
I remember telling Tim that I didn't think I could do this. I used ALL the water stops as my reason to slow down, walk, and to splash water in my face. I saw my family and kids at mile 9.5 and I just wanted to sob. "I can't keep running, Asa," I said when I saw him. He ran beside me. "Yes you can!" he said.
It's kind of crazy to me that as I type, I am reliving all of the emotions I had. I am on the verge of crying here, folks. Yikes!!
Tim and I kept going. At one point I had to stop and tie a shoelace, which also discouraged me. It literally was not UNTIL the tenth mile, when we were nearing downtown Louisville and I could see the sky rises, that I caught my breath and felt like I was in a good rhythm. Tim's knee had been giving HIM problems, and he stopped to stretch it out. I stretched my toes on a pole and told him, "I am fine to go even slower. I didn't sign up for this race to collapse or hate myself or to get sick on the course," and we kept going. I told him that when I had my knee injury, it hurt worse to stop, and he agreed that his was the same. "Just keep jogging," I told him at mile eleven. At that point I was SO relieved, we only had TWO more miles and we would be DONE with this!! We neared the finish line and hit the twelfth mile. "Just ten more minutes," I told myself. "Ten minutes max, and I'll be finishing the Mini." Encouraging words from my supporters started to replay in my head. "Do this for YOU. This is YOUR race. Feel the Lord's presence. HE is with you."
And then there it was. In all of it's beautiful glory, the finish line. Tim and I looked at each other and smiled, soon I heard the shouts coming from my husband, our kids, and my brother and his sweet wife. I waved and threw my hands in the air. Crossing the finish line I grabbed about four more cups of water, and received my medal. "Keep walking," I told Tim. I thought that because I had felt great after the 11 miles from the last week, surely I'd do okay with this one.
Wrong again. I saw my daughter Reese on my brother's shoulders and I grabbed her from him and just started to sob. So loudly came the tears and the weeping. "Why are you crying, Mommy?" the kids asked. "It was just really hard, Baby," I said. "Mommy, I missed you while you ran," my son said. "I missed you too, honey." I hugged my friend Lauren who had already crossed the finish line and laughed a little. She had always said she'd be the one to cry once the Mini was done and here I was, just uncontrollably sobbing.
I wanted food, so I started to walk, and I also wanted to poop. (If you're a runner, you KNOW this feeling!!) I headed into a Porta Potty and sat there a while. I started to feel lightheaded and dizzy, weak and just NOT good. I couldn't go and couldn't even PEE (what the heck?!) so I continued my walk towards food. And then it happened. ALL the vomiting. And I couldn't stop...every few feet I had to sit down, puke, and at one point, my husband put me on his back. I puked on a bench, on some trees, on the sidewalk, and once in the car, opened the door at every stop light. And then the chills came and I couldn't stop shaking. I wanted to cry again but didn't even have the strength to do that. My poor brother, who sat in the trunk of our car, and his wife Beth, who sat in between the kids, had to listen to me gagging and barfing the entire way home from the race. (I'm SO sorry, guys!!!)
Once home I wrapped up in a blanket and said, "I could just die instead?!" Everyone told me I needed to try to drink, and Beth set a timer on her phone to remind me to take a sip every five minutes. I managed to get a five hour energy drink down [hopeful the B12 in it would help replenish me], as well as sprite. Two hours on the couch and I still wasn't able to eat a thing. I tried right after the race but my mouth was so dry and it tasted so GROSS, I just couldn't. Finally I made it my status about Zofran or any other anti-nausea med anyone close by may have. Luckily one of my dear sweet pregnant friend's (also hair dresser) had some and she lives just a couple of miles away. Soon I had taken half a pill, and was at that point nibbling on oatmeal. The kids woke from their naps and I was strong enough to get up and walk. Within minutes I felt strong enough to shower and then the feeling of starvation hit. I was finally craving food and actually felt good enough to go OUT to get it!!
At the finish line I had grabbed my husband and ugly girl cried into his chest. "Don't EVER let me do this again," I pleaded. Here I am, two days later; my body actually feeling way better than it ever has with ANY of my long runs. And yesterday I think I gained the two pounds back that I had lost in the first 24 hours [eeek, I know] because I had seconds of EVERYTHING from our dinner. And guess what? My husband literally sent me another race signup TODAY, for three races, the last one being a mini marathon in October.
Not today, Dear. I am not committing to ANYTHING yet for a while...I think I'll have some PTS from this whole thing anyway and I definitely know I'll have a fear of running that long of a distance.
But I did it. Through all the muscle aches, knee pain, doubt, fear, insecurities, disbelief, and LONG hours spent away from my family training...I learned a lot. I'm stronger than I ever knew I was, and that's saying something because I birthed two babies. I wish the Mini had gone differently for me-that I could have gotten my breathing figured out much earlier on and that I could have actually enjoyed it, but it's done. I ran 13.1 miles and am SO glad that I did.
I want to thank Tim for running those thirteen miles with me. As one of our very best friends, and the guy who on a drop of a hat, would always be there for us, he definitely proved that to me. And thank you to my friend Lauren who trained with me the whole two months that I did. I'm so thankful for your friendship and am so proud that you literally kicked BUTT during this race! Thank you, Noah, my brother in law, for running my *first* eleven miler with me, and helping me believe in myself when otherwise, I would have just stopped. (And for being such a huge support system period throughout this whole journey.) Thank you Sean, my big brother, for driving to Louisville for the whole weekend. Your support and belief in me means more than you'll ever know. Thank you Beth, my brother's wife, for taking these beautiful photos, and for also ALWAYS believing in me! Thanks, Mama and Dad, for your support from afar. I felt your presence throughout the run and also ran this for you. Thank you, sweet Asa, husband of mine, for loving me, choosing me, supporting me, and being mine. You are an incredible husband and father, and because of you, I finished.
Photos Courtesy of Bethany Renee Photography
Here's the video my brother Sean with Hey World Productions created. He definitely captured every ounce of my emotion!