Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking ahead

Well, it's New Year's Eve. A new year, and even new decade are sitting out there on the horizon. I know many of you have been reflecting on the past year and setting resolutions for 2010. My friends and I have all been working on our 2010 race schedules. Below is what I have been throwing around in my head, pending time and finances of course. (Except for Florida, all of the races are within a couple of hours drive and at most require one night in a hotel.) The main goal after the Disney Marathon is to keep my long run mileage up in the low teens so it won't be too drastic of a jump in mid summer when I need to start training for the Marine Corps Marathon. So, what better way to do that then sign up for a bunch of half marathons, right? ;) Obviously some of these will be nice, slow, steady "training runs" rather than an all out race.

There are some 5K's and a couple of 10K's in there, too. Those are mostly a chance to play with speed, however, the majority are for causes I care about and want to support as well, thus the heavy focus on police charities and women's races. The women's races are part of the Maryland RRCA's Women's Distance Festival Series. The WDF races are alot of fun, and I enjoy spending the time with the other members of the Striders' Joe's Girls Grand Prix team.

Hope to maybe see you at some of these!

01/10/10 WDW Marathon*
02/07/10 Superbowl 5K
02/13/10 Annapolis Striders Valentine's Day 5K
03/07/10 WDW Princess Half*
03/27/10 Marine Corps Run to Register 10K*
04/11/10 Cherry Pit 10 miler
04/24/10 Ocean City (MD) Half
05/02/10 Frederick Half
05/15/10 National Police Week 5K
05/16/10 Marine Corps Historic Half*
06/06/10 Zooma Annapolis 10K
06/19/10 Baltimore 10 miler
06/27/10 Baltimore Women's Classic
07/04/10 Arbutus Firecracker 10K
07/10/10 Annapolis Striders Women's Distance Festival 5K
07/11/10 Howard County Striders Women's Distance 5K
07/??/10 Rileys Rumble Half
08/??/10 Frederick Steeplechasers Women's Distance 5K
08/29/10 Annapolis 10 miler
09/12/10 Howard County Police Pace 5K
09/19/10 Rock N Roll Philly Half
10/03/10 Annapolis Striders Metric Marathon
10/16/10 Baltimore Half
10/31/10 Marine Corps Marathon
11/21/10 Cold Turkey 10K
12/11/10 Rehoboth Beach Half
12/??/10 Celtic Solstice 5 miler

(*Notes races actually registered for at this point)

And yes, a 2011 list has started as well. ;)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

And so taper begins

With the prospects of nearly 2 FEET of snow arriving on the same weekend as my last long training run, I took Friday off with the intent of getting my last 20 mile run in. I knew I could do the 20, but since it had been about 5 weeks since the last time I did it, mentally I needed to do this before taper hit. Snow two weeks earlier interfered with my attempt to get 22 miles in, having to cut the run short about 17.5. I was disappointed, but at the same time knew that accomplishing that distance in those conditions was no small thing either. Last weekend, cold and very wet weather made even accomplishing 5 miles difficult, and again caused some doubts in my mind about what I am trying to do.

With so many other Disney runners hoping to get their last 20 in this weekend, I was extremely lucky to have the company of both of my marathon partners, as well as a couple of my friends from the Striders. We weaved all over Annapolis - back and forth over the infamous 450 bridge, around the Naval Academy, and through the streets of Eastport and West Annapolis before calling it quits around mile 13. The temperature was quickly beginning to drop and the cold and rough hills and bridges had taken their toll on us. While we were slightly disappointed not to get our full distance in, at the same time we knew the smarter thing to do was to listen to our bodies and not risk injury. We also knew that that run was more about quality over quantity. We found hot soup, and cheered that taper has begun.

Taper is when you scale back your mileage before the big race, typically for a couple of weeks, in order to rest your body. For some "taper madness" kicks in as well - doubts start forming about the months of training you've done, you worry about injury/illness/etc., etc., etc. I'm hoping to avoid much of this and generally stay calm. As many of you who know me though, this is not typical of my personality at times though. I keep reminding myself that I truly have done everything possible up to this point. And, I have the most amazing support system that will make this an experiece truly to never forget.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

40 days and counting

40 days to go til race day....WOW!

Training has been chugging along and been mostly uneventful. Early in the month I took part in the inaugural Gynecological Cancer Foundation half marathon in Washington, D.C. This was my 4th half, and unlike the others, I did not train specifically for it, but rather used it as training run for a larger goal.

The following weekend was my biggest test to first 20 mile training run. As seems typical with many of my runs, it started off with rain. Fortunately it didn't stick around for too long. Katie was with me for support, and we enjoyed Kelly's company for awhile, too. At the end, I found myself ready for more...maybe not another 6.2, but easily another mile or two.

With that first 20 under my belt, I feel like anything is achievable now! And in 40 days I'll have a medal around my neck as a reminder of that.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Another one bites the dust

October has come and gone in what seems like the blink of an eye. Also gone...another personal best, this time for my 10K.

While friends were showing incredible strength and determination last weekend in the Marine Corps Marathon, I took part in the 10K. I had not run a 10K since May, and this was only my 6th ever, so I wasn't really sure what to do with it. Unlike a 5K, you've got to find a happy balance between giving as much as you can while still keeping stuff in the tank for later. Just figured I'd go out and see what happens. A PR would be cool, but hey, whatever happens, happens.

One thing became quickly apparent, this was going to be a FAST race. We started out next to the National Mall, by the Smithsonian Metro stop, and wound our way to the 395 bridge - the same bridge the marathoners would be seeing at mile 20 and trying to beat the pace requirement for. I ended up stuck smack in the middle of the pack and couldn't easily navigate to the side in order to get out of the way and do my intervals, so ended up running the first half mile nonstop. I was at a comfortable pace though and felt good. I just hoped I hadn't gone out too fast and would fall apart at the end.

I was able to start my intervals once we got to the bridge. All I could think is, wow, this is a really long, boring bridge, and began to think of my friends who would be getting to it in 4+ hours. If I felt this way and I was only 2 miles into a race, what must it be like after 20? I suddenly began to struggle, and worry if I was already losing the mental game, how was I going to make it through the second half of this race!?

As I trudged along, suddenly out of the quiet were two people standing on the jersey wall and cheering everyone. I was like "wow, people are out here already." Then I had the wonderful realization that it was my rooomie S and my training partner M. They were my people!!! I was so excited, as I had not expected them to make it out onto the course in time for the 10Kers to come through. I navigated to the side so I could say Hi as I ran by. I got my head back together and was back into it! :)

We kept going, winding our way around Crystal City and towards the Pentagon. I looked at my watch...5 miles in 58 minutes. I was in disbelief. Surely this can't be right...I've never done 5 minutes in under an hour!!! Then "math on the run" took over in my head, trying to figure out when I might finish. 1:16 maybe? I've never been good at math, thus why I'm an historian. If I kept this pace up, I would not only be breaking my 10K PR, I'd be obliterating it!

With the Pentagon to our left, we passed through a water stop, Marines and volunteers cheering everyone along the way and a DJ playing music. We were in the home stretch! As I kept going, Marines were lining the road, generously giving and receiving high 5's. I turned the corner, and then I saw it...the UPHILL finish line. Seriously!?!? And again, I thought of my friends reaching that final hurdle at mile 26, and how they'd feel.

I charged up, convinced I could conquer it with all of the momentum I had. Bad idea. 2/3's of the way up, I burnt out. Then all of a sudden I worried I wouldn't even be able to muster enough energy for the last 500 feet! I picked up my pace and crossed the finish line, wondering how much time I lost thanks to that stupid hill and trying to push too hard. My final time, a surprising 1:14:53. I broke 1:15!!!! My 10K PR, just set in May, had been 1:20 and change...I'd beaten it by OVER 5 minutes!

I collected my medal from the waiting Marines (what a great job they had that day!), and met up with the rest of the Loopers doing the 10K. We made our way to the Metro, and found S&M up on the bridge. They had positioned themselves in the last quarter mile or so of the bridge, about mile 21.5 of the course. With them was a wagon and cooler filled with goodies for all of our friends, Loopers and folks from

Yes, we were there to support a specific group of people, but in reality, we were there for everyone. Our cheers for them were no less heartfelt than for those of our friends. It was amazing to see people's faces light up, and paces even pick up as they heard our cheers. We shared our goodies with those who were really struggling, hoping that would help them get to the next water stop.

It was truly an inspirational and emotional day. I watched people of all shapes, sizes, and ages go past. What got to me most were the soldiers...amputees in handcrank wheelchairs, the one walking on crutches with a support crew of friends around him, including one with a wheelchair in case he needed a break, and ones running in fatigues with full packs on their backs. Lots of people were also running with the names and pictures of fallen soldiers, many family members, on their shirts. I was on the verge of tears many times.

As we cheered we waited in anticipation for our friends to come through. Whenever they did, we erupted in huge cheers, and hugs were abounding. We knew if they'd made it that far, then they would definitely make it to the finish. The pain on some faces were clear, and we did our best to pump them up and encourage them to get through those last miles.

As the time clocked down to the bridge cut off, we were on a constant look out for the last of our friends. We knew they'd be cutting it close, but we knew they could do it, and tried to telepathically send them as much energy as we could. Finally, my training partner K, the last of the Loopers, was coming down from the crest of the bridge. I jumped up and down, and Margaret and I ran up to her, gave her hugs. Everyone beat the bridge!

With everyone well on their way to the finish line, we stayed at our post, cheering for the rest of the Back of the Pack, not leaving til the last runner came through. They were certainly no less deserving of cheers and support than those who came through first.

Yes, I will be running the Marine Corps Marathon next October. As emotional as the day was for me primarily as a spectator, I cannot even imagine what it will be like as a participant.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Irresponsible Journalism

The duty of care of journalists may seem like an odd issue to take up in a running blog, but sadly is a reality.

Over the summer, Time magazine, perhaps one of the most respected publications in our nation, published a cover story entitled "Why Exercise Won't Make you Thin." It was full of poorly researched "facts" and misrepresentations and was ridiculed, rightly so, by many health and exercise professionals, my personal trainer included. Yes, some people use exercise to justify their eating habits, we're all guilty of this, but if therr statement were true, then how I have lost at least 10 lbs while building muscle over the last year?

Yesterday, the New York Times, again a highly regarded publication, published an article by Juliet Macur on its front page entitled "Plodders Have a Place, but Is It in a Marathon?" In it, Ms. Macur interviewed marathoners who feel that slow runners, and those incapable of running every single step of the 26.2 miles do not belong in the field and take away from the accomplishments of those who can. While Ms. Macur interviews well known runner John Bingham (aka "The Penguin"), who defends the slow and average runners, her thesis and intent is clear - if you can't complete a marathon in 4 hours or less, you don't belong there and shouldn't be trying it in the first place.

Both of these articles are examples of irresponsible journalism especially in an age where the obesity rate in our country continues to climb. As has been pointed out on the most recent season of the Biggest Loser, the contestants from season to season keep getting bigger, not smaller. Rather than acknowledge the effort and personal accomplishments of individuals who strive to better themselves, Ms. Macur is depicting the running community as elitist and unwelcoming. Forutnately, my experience has shown this to be far from the truth.

Yes, I am a proud "back of the pack" runner. I work out 4-5 days a week, and still my body will not let me maintain a sub 13 minute pace on long runs. Is this my fault? No. Have I ever been criticized for it? No.

Yes, I run as well as walk in races of all distances, from 5K's to half marathons. I plan to do this in January's marathon as well. Following Jeff Galloway's run/walk intervals has made me a better runner both mentally and physically. If I continued pushing myself to the limit as I had back in June 2008 when I was diagnosed with a stress fracture, who knows how many injuries I would have had to date. Walking during a race is good for you. Don't forget, Galloway is a former olympian, so he knows a thing or two about running.

Yes, I'm sure there are marathon pureists who look down on me for doing the Disney Marathon, and who probably don't consider it a true race given the location, etc. That's exactly why I chose it for my first marathon, I was looking for a complete experience. I try not to take myself too seriously at times, so why should this be any different? I want to enjoin it. I don't want to have such a negative experience that I would never want to do a marathon again. And yes, I am considering a second marathon next fall, one that is more of a "traditional" one. My experience at Disney though will be the building blocks for making it through that one. You only have one first marathon.

Most of the time while I am in the final stretch of the race, I am passed by people wearing their finisher's medals/or premiums and walking in the opposite direction on the way back to their cars. They have finished the race, enjoyed the post race festivities, and are heading home, all while I am still toiling away. Knowing this can be hard when I see them, but as they walk past me, do they shout things like "What do you think you're doing?" or "You don't belong here."? No, they offer nothing but support and encouragement, which is more than often greatly needed as your body and mind are ready to quit. I once even had someone who had finished the 5K course we were doing run the final stretch in with me. He and his buddies had all finished long before me. He had no reason to be standing by the finish line at that point other than just purely wanting to support everyone coming in.

This is the true nature of the running community, and one in which I am proud to be a member of. My involvement in this community began long before I ever started or even considered running. I started as a volunteer, primarily at the B&A Trail Marathon. Despite the harsh weather conditions in March, we would never close down our water stop (usually the next to last one on the course) until that last runner came through. When he/she came through, we all stood and proudly cheered for them, hoping our spirit would help carry them on to the finish.

What bothers me most, and is the most insulting, is the insinuation that the "plodders" don't take these races or training seriously. Ms. Macur writes, "Slow runners have disrespected the distance, they say, and have ruined the marathon’s mystique." Really!?!? Yes, I will admit there are some people who think they can do a marathon, sign up for it, and then do nothing before race day. This is a fraction of a percent though. The rest are like me, following thorough training plans, and documenting every step over the 4-6 months before race day. They're like me, getting up at 4:30 on a Saturday morning after a long work week, trying to beat the sun in the summer and bear the cold in the winter for hours at a time.

I want to know if Ms. Macur has ever run 18 hilly, winding miles in 40 degree wind chills in the pouring rain as I did this past Saturday. If she had, I guarantee she would not have written that statement. It was perhaps one of the hardest things I've ever done, but pure grit and determination, and the support of my running family, pulled me through. Not only did at least one person stay with me during those nearly 4 1/2 hours, but when I made it back to the parking lot, they were there, honking car horns in celebration for me. I nearly cried, as if I had I just finished an entire marathon. If I can do 18 miles in those conditions, 26.2 is completely achievable.

This Sunday, I am running the 10K that is taking place in conjunction with the Marine Corps Marathon. After my race is done, I will meet up with friends and proceed to the marathon course. I will stand there for the remainder of the race, and I will be cheering for all. Everyone has a story and a journey that has brought them there, and it deserves to be acknowledged.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Under 100 days

Race day is now officially just under 3 months away! The nervous excitement continues to build, and training is plugging along quite nicely. :) The last 5 weeks have had lots of fun and great accomplishments.

September 13th was Howard County Police Department's annual Police Pace 5K, a cause close to my heart. I did the race for the first time back in 2007 during my first year of running. I registered for it last year, but decided not to do it since I was still trying to build my mileage back up following the stress fracture. This year I was determined to go and give it my was my first 5K since July, and the last for the foreseeable future as I focus on high mileage. (I was supposed to do the 9/11 Run to Remember in Baltimore two days earlier, but due to downpours, decided not to participate.) The result of a couple of extra days of rest, good training, and lovely weather....a 37:14 time, a new PR! And, almost a minute faster than the PR I set in May on what was for the most part a significantly easier course. Also time was nearly 8 minutes better than two years earlier! While I didn't win the free cruise, overall it was a great day!

The 5K was a good taper weekend in prep for the Philadelphia Distance Run, a half marathon, on Sunday the 20th. This was my third half marathon, and in my third state! This was also the largest race I've ever done. The organizers did a great job keeping all of the corrals separated and spacing people out on the course. Each group got their own start countdown and all, too, which I thought was a nice touch.

I headed up with the BWI crew on Saturday morning, very excited about our awaiting adventure. We made it to the expo for packet pick up and shopping, and met up with Philly friends from (R0TE) before heading for a good carb load lunch. The Goofy Gals from the Striders made it up later in the afternoon, and after some delays/issues at our hotel, we headed out for a lovely dinner where we were convinced the owner/manager must be in the mob! Then off to bed in prep for the big race.

For the most part, I was oddly calm leading up to race morning. I had no set goal/time in mind, and that might have been a big help. I was there to have good fun and just enjoy the experience. K and I planned to run the whole thing together, and it was her last chance to try out her race day strategy in prep for the Marine Corps Marathon later this month. The goal was to keep about a 13:30 pace. We started out conservatively and just chugged along watching the miles go by and enjoying some of the music along the way. We kept going along and picked up the pace a bit, doing negative splits all the way to the end. We met up with E for the last mile or so, and helped push one another over the finish line. The result, just under 3 hours...a few minutes off of a PR, but I wasn't trying for one anyway. (More importantly, per our Garmin's, our average pace was about 13:21.) It was faster than my first half marathon, and again, I did it on what could be considered a more difficult course. Afterwards, we met up with the rest of the ROTE crew, took pics with the Rocky statue near the finish line, and then did the mandatory run up the art museum steps. A great day, and a great I would definitely do again! I must plan on some more visits to that fun city!

The Philly race fit in perfectly with my training, as the Galloway plan had 13-14 on the chart for that weekend. I was surprisingly sore for the days immediately following the race. I went out with the 10K class group on Tuesday evening, and felt every single footstep. All I could think was, OMG, is this even a hint of how bad I'll feel after Disney. The training plan had 8-10 miles for the next weekend. If 2-3 hurt, how would that good. Fortunately, I loosened up as the week went on, helped in large part to a deep tissue massage, and a couple of easy runs.

The crew was meeting up on NCR Trail on Saturday morning. I knew the crushed gravel would be a good surface and friendly on the body. The goal was 8 miles, but go for 10 if everything was going well and I was feeling good. I was slightly anxious as I had not done 10 miles by myself for sometime. I ended up having a great 10 miles...things just clicked and given everything going on in my life as of late, I think the solitude gave me a good recharge as well.

We returned to NCR the following weekend. This time, I had 15-16 miles on the chart. For the most part the highest mileage I'd ever done before was 14. I was anxious, but knew K would be with me every step of the way, and the crew would be out there, too. Like the previous weekend, everything clicked and went so well. The miles just kept adding up as we continued on our way. 16 miles was done, and I felt awesome, like I could have kept going. Wow, perhaps I'm doing everything right?

After another "short" week (9 miles), I've got 18 in store this weekend. This will be out on the good 'ole BWI Loop. Haven't been there in awhile, and hope the hills won't be my downfall, but I'm up for the challenge, and should hopefully have some nice Fall weather to help me out, too.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

One Month Down...

Tomorrow marks one month since I registered for the Disney Marathon. So, where am I at in this endeavor? What have I been up to? Fortunately, I've been running. :)

For the month of August, my total mileage was just about 60 miles, including a great 14 mile run yesterday north of Baltimore on the NCR Trail, one of my longest training runs ever. This was the highest mileage month I've done since the Spring. Even before registering for Disney, I had planned on having a fairly low key summer after the Baltimore Ten Miler in late June. This allowed me to focus just on some maintenance long runs (about 6-8 miles each), as well as participate in some of the Maryland Road Runner Club of America Women's Distance Festival, a series of about a dozen women's only 5K's in the MD/DC/VA area. Right now I'm exactly where I should be in prep for my next half marathon, the Philadelphia Distance Run on September 20th, and am actually even a bit ahead of the game as far as marathon training goes.

I've also been spending time trying to figure out exactly how I'm going to do this thing. As a fan of interval running and Jeff Galloway's training methods, I immediately picked up his marathon training book. I'm following many of the basics of his "To Finish" program since that is exactly what I want to do. I have no grand illusions about a finishing time...just finishing and finishing well is the goal. I've also been finalizing my fall race plans, and how they can fit into and help my training program. I've been lucky to craft my schedule so that most fit into the mileage I need to accomplish that week, especially in the case of the Metric Marathon (26.2K/16.3 miles), it'll be more of a course supported training run for me than an all out race.

Here's what my fall race calendar is beginning to look like -
9/11 - Run to Remember 5K
9/13 - Howard County Police Pace 5K
9/20 - Philadelphia Distance Run (13.1)
10/4 - Annapolis Striders Metric Marathon
10/25 - Marine Corps Marathon 10K
11/8 - Race to End Women's Cancer (13.1)
11/22 - Annapolis Striders Cold Turkey 10K
12/13 - Annapolis Striders 15K Anniversary Run
12/20 - Celtic Solstice 5 miler

I also did some non-running things in August, such as getting onto a bike for the first time in at least 10 years, and even participating in a bike tour in Galena, MD. I also completed an intensive group training class at my gym. The group training was a great way for me to do some good basic core and strength training. I had horrific doubts about my ability to make it through the class after the first session back in July, but by the last class I was able to completely 100 abdominal crunches! I'm hoping to work with the same trainer and some of the same classmates once a week for eight weeks this fall.

So, with the end of August already here, I'm looking forward to hopefully cooling temps and lower humidity. September will mark one year since I was back on my feet after my stress fracture. I have run consistently every month for the last year....something which I had not done in my first two years of running. The Striders 10K training class will be starting soon, and this year I will be a mentor rather than a student, as I have been for the previous two years. Hopefully I can help others with some of their goals, as so many people have done for me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jumping in with both feet

I turned 32 on July 31st. Three days later, I registered for the Disney Marathon. "Why," you may ask. Truthfully, I'm not sure and am still sorting all of that out. Last week, my first response would probably be "to prove I can," but I think I'm quickly changing my tune to "because I know I can."

I started running December 31, 2006, seven months before my 30th birthday. Yes, that is important to note. I had been mostly sedentary for the first 29 years and 5 months of my life and decided to do something, even though I wasn't sure where my journey would lead me. I started with the beginning runners program through my local running club, which I first found out about from my roommate. She was going to do it, too, so if I did it, we'd both have a running partner in the cold, dark winter months. Why not give it a try, it would only cost $15 for the club membership and the cost of a good pair of running shoes. At the time I cringed at the thought of spending $120 on anything, let alone just a pair of shoes. Now, it's become a fact of life. I also had the support of an awesome next door neighbor, who had done a few marathons, which I thought was nuts, but loved her for it nonetheless. ;)

Suddenly, February 10th arrived..."graduation" race day. It was a balmy 26 degrees out with perhaps an even colder windchill, as I embarked on my first 5K. The goal was simply to finish. I lucked out at the beginning and ran into a guy I had met a couple of times before...we'd eaten crabs together following a singles event one time and crossed paths here and there. The day I met him, he kayaked several miles AFTER running the Baltimore Marathon course earlier in the morning. Another one of those crazy runners I told myself at the time. Still, it was nice to see a friendly face, and he got me through the first half mile. I kept going, still not sure what I was doing. The cold burned my lungs and I became more miserable as time went on. Tears bubbled in my eyes, and motivation waned. I finished though, and even managed not to be last. There were people waiting for me at the end who knew I could and helped get me there.

Still not convinced about this running thing, but not quite ready to throw in the towel, I did another 5K a month later, then repeated a beginning running program in the Spring. Fall came around, as did the club's 10K class. I'd completed about eight 5K's by the point, so it seemed like the natural thing to do. I wanted people to run with and this seemed like the next step, but I never intended to run the "graduation" race in November. I met a great group of people who were mentors and coaches in the program and truly wanted to see everyone succeed. I made a couple of friends in the class, too. I convinced myself to sign up the race, not an easy one given the hills. The practice run of the course the week prior went horrible thanks to shin splint problems that plagued me throughout. How my roommate ever put up with the bitchness I had in some of our runs and races together I'll never know, but for which I am grateful. Somehow though, I made it through race day with no problems. The pics of me coming into the finish area can't hide the exhaustion I was feeling, but I finished. More importantly, there were people waiting for me at the end who knew I could and helped get me there.

I muddled through winter and spring. A women's only 10K was going to be in my beloved town. I'd done one 10K and had many more 5K's under my belt by then, no big deal, right? Shin pain, shin pain, and more shin pain followed as I pushed myself harder and further. As race day got closer, I feared something serious was going on, but I was so close to my goal I wasn't going to stop. Race day arrived, I pushed through the race and decided to rest for the next three weeks before a women's 5K I was registered for came. I'd do the race and if I was still having problems, I'd know. A mile and half into the race it was apparent. I finished the race and called the Dr. on Monday morning. A week later, a tibial stress fracture was diagnosed. Six weeks in a soft boot cast. This did not help my mood going into my 31st birthday.

I came to a crossroads....clearly my body did not want me to run, but my mind was still pushing me along. I knew people who did interval running. I researched it and decided what did I have to lose. I signed up to do the Striders' 10K class again, and decided to do intervals this time. The class had alot of the same faces as the previous Fall. We pushed through everything together, became closer, and had fun at the process. I felt stronger and calmer. Maybe I liked this afterall? The graduation race came. I took nearly 4 minutes off of my time from the previous year. And there continued to be people waiting for me at the end who knew I could and helped get me there.

What to do next? My strategy had always been to sign up for races as a motivation to keep going, but there aren't alot in the MD/DC area in December and January. The next race I really knew anything about was a half marathon on the local B&A Trail. D, the head coach of the 10K program was also the race director. I talked to her about it and she said I could do it. It was just a matter of convincing myself I could. She said if I signed up for the training class through the club, she would run with me during the week and get me to where I needed to be. How can you say no to someone who would run in the dark and cold with you in January and February? With her support and that of L, who I had met in the 2007 10K class and who was also signing up for the training class, I sent in my registration form.

Late December rolled around, and I started training for my first half marathon. It was nearly two years to the day since I went on my first run. It quickly became apparent that L and I were the slowest in the group, and likely the only ones doing intervals. By the time we finished our runs, the rest of the class was gone, and the coaches packed up not long after we checked back in. I didn't feel the warm fuzzies I had in previous groups, but I knew I had to stick with it.

L mentioned in passing that she had met a group of other runners online and they were all planning to meet at another trail and that I should come along, too, as most were training for a half around the same time as mine. There would be a couple of others I had met through the Striders there, too. We all instantly clicked. It was a warm and encouraging environment, which I needed if I was going to get through this thing. I stopped going to the training class, and stayed with them. Two weeks before the race, I did a 12 mile run alone, and ran nearly the entire course. I had this, and was starting to believe it.

As I scraped ice off my windshield on race morning, I thought to myself "this is by far the dumbest thing I've ever done." There was no turning back though. Just like with my first 5K, I found a friendly face to run the first half mile or so with. When I split from her, I started my intervals and went on my way, reminding myself I had this in the bag and striving to finish in about 3 hours. Friendly faces emerged along the way, most of them training partners. The offered much needed encouragement along the cold, desolate course. I struggled through the last mile or so, wondering why in the world someone would want to run twice this distance. My parents were waiting at the finish. A friend from the 10K days was volunteering at the finish line handing out medals, and a couple of other friendly and familiar faces were announcing runners and they crossed the finish line. I crossed the fine in 3 hours and 2 minutes. I was happy and yet again, there were people waiting for me at the end who knew I could and helped get me there.

In the months since then, I've continued with my friends from the trail and the Striders. I even managed a second half marathon, this one nearly 10 minutes faster than my first. Then they all started talking about training for races at Disney World in January. Should I do it, too? I'll be running with them all anyway? I'll have people there to help me through those long 20 and 22 mile training runs. About the same time K and I began to run together. She decided to do this interval thing, too, and we run about the same pace. It occurred to me I would potentially have someone to help me through what would likely be the longest 6 or so hours of my life. The morning after my birthday, we had a great 10 mile run together. The next day I bought a marathon training book. Monday morning came and I registered. Tears of nervous excitement began to fill my eyes. I CAN DO THIS!

26.2 on 1/10/2010. It'll be here before I know it, but in the end, I know people will be waiting for me at the end who knew I could and helped get me there.