Road to Trenton: My First Half Marathon

Super2013Last year I was asked by my sister-in-law if I would run the Disney Princess Half Marathon with her in February 2013. I had started running a few 5K’s here & there but was never really interested in running anything long distance, but she talked me into joining her. Unfortunately, I ran into several issues with my left leg and even ended up spending 12 weeks in a boot. I had committed to my first obstacle course race (OCR) in June 2012, the Warrior Dash at the Pocono Raceway. Boot or no boot on my foot, I decided that I was going to do it even if I had to walk in-between the obstacles. I completed it & it was such a great rush (and ultimately started my love for OCR racing) but I will never forget the pain as I limped back to my car, washed off my leg, & put my cast back on. I then signed up for my next race, the Spartan Super in Vernon, NJ in September 2012, so I had a few months to have my leg recover before my strict half marathon training. I had my boot removed and was starting to get back into running slowly and kept modifying in my kickboxing classes, however at the Super Spartan, I twisted my left knee at approximately mile 10.  At that point, we were all running scared in the woods during the lightning & downpour that ensued with the surrounding tornado warnings. Because of the severe weather, the Spartan was forced to shut down the race and although I crossed the finish line, the timing chips had been turned off. The Spartan organizers offered us free entry to the Spartan Beast just a few short weeks later. I decided my foot & knee would be ok by then if I took it easy, so arrangements were made & we were off to the Beast in Killington, VT!

Upon arrival, I had no idea what I was in for but I knew that this race was NOT going to be easy and I worried that with my injured leg, how would it be able to withstand the grueling 14+ miles up and down this ski slopes? Well, I was here & not going to pull out now! 4 miles into the race my foot started to hurt pretty badly and at mile 7 my knee completely gave out and was in so much pain, I almost couldn’t go on…but I somehow found the strength to fight off the pain and go on to cross the finish line. I could barely walk for a few days after the race, but I had also already committed to 2 other 5K’s & Tough Mudder…how can I not do them? I figured I would take it easy, and I did, but during the MelJuliefirst 5K I did after the Beast, I did with my daughter who has Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) and her legs started to hurt her. I ended up walking most of the rest of that 5K with her on my back, limping across the finish line. Next up was Tough Mudder. I could barely jog at this point and felt like such a weak link on my team. Every step was extremely painful on my left side, but I knew that I had to fight it & push through. If I could finish this, this would be the last long distance I would have to endure for a while. I crossed the finish line, got my headband, and was at this point dreading my next 5K.

The morning of my last 5K of the season, I remember how nervous I was. One for the pain I knew that I was going to feel and the impending fear of Hurricane Sandy was supposed to strike that evening. I taught 2 kickboxing classes in the morning & headed to the 5K where I would meet my Enterprise team for an early afternoon start. As we began, I couldn’t even make it ¾ of a mile without feeling the excruciating pain in my left knee. It took me over 50 minutes to complete this race and it was such a disappointment and a reminder of how broken I was. Despite this, I decided to go for my Spartan Trifecta by completing an obstacle course race in Fenway Park, the very first one of its kind. I had only 2 weeks to rest up for it, and I did. I figured this was November and even if my leg was in pain, I only had to make it 3 miles with not as much running since it was an obstacle course race in a ball field. Wrong! They had us running up & down bleachers, at some point even with 60 lbs. sandbags. There was much more running than I anticipated and by the time it was over, as happy as I was to have completed my first Spartan Trifecta, I knew that the road to recovery was going to be a long one, one that would not allow me to successfully run a half marathon. This would have been way too much of a financial investment to not even be sure if I could walk it, never the less run it. I felt frustrated & defeated for not being able to achieve this goal that I set for myself.

I rested up & slowly started to put mileage back on my legs. I started trail running and then alternated that with road running. I also found that running with a partner helped push myself. At this point I still did not consider myself a runner at all; I was just trying to not be the slow turtle that always held everyone else up all of the time. No matter how cold it was, if there was snow on the ground, if there were hills to tackle, I pushed through. The cold bothers my lungs so I typically spend the first mile coughing and cursing under my breath wondering why I am running when I could be warm in bed, but then I think about my goals and/or I look to see my running partner and don’t want to let them down so I push through.

My legs were starting to feel much better at this point. In March 2013 my Enterprise team got together for the St. Patty’s Day 5K in Morristown, NJ. This would be my first official race since my knee/foot injury so I set a goal to finish the course in less than 30 minutes (I had run this course before so I knew it would take me about that long since I did it in 28 minutes the year before). During the pre-race commotion, I managed to separate from my team and was forced to begin the race on my own. The air was cold and now I had to run on my own, but I found my groove & when I passed the first mile marker, I discovered that I was pacing a 7 minute mile. I was amazed with myself and suddenly felt like I was the runner I wanted to be! I pushed through and finished in 0:26:31, a personal record and I ended up coming in first place of my entire team!

The rush of how well I did made me want to continue to run. I would mix up my trail and road run, realizing the importance of having a different shoe personally fitted for each type of surface. As the weather became warmer and my new season of OCR races began, I decided to keep my training routine and would go out every Saturday morning that I could, even if that meant running at 6:30am. Whether I ran alone or with others, each experience was different, miles, terrain, weather, distance all varied each BornToRuntime. A friend of mine recommended that with my new passion for running I read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and so I did. Finding time to read with my busy schedule was difficult, but I was glad I did as it was a great read, inspirational and I highly recommend it to anyone that is interested in running.

I finally started to consider myself a runner now and while I had several OCR races planned; I really wanted to take my running to the next level and try a half marathon. I knew that I could incorporate my OCR training to help prepare for running 13.1 miles, but I wanted to ensure that I stayed healthy before tackling this big run. So I put off the half until after my OCR season was over. A friend of mine was training for her first full marathon and told me about the Trenton Half Marathon on November 9th.  That’s all I needed to hear and I quickly signed up.  It’s been a long, but very rewarding journey thus far.  I’m on the verge of FINALLY achieving my goal and completing my very first half marathon.  I’m nervous, excited and confident. I know that I’ll succeed. I got this! Feet & knees don’t fail me now!

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