A Non-Runner's Half Marathon Story

Yesterday I arrived home from Disney World after an amazing week with my family.  Our trip was filled with lots of heartwarming moments, in between the long lines and temper tantrums, of course.  But I'm so grateful we had the opportunity to go and enjoy each other's company in my favorite place. 

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We arrived on Saturday afternoon and early Sunday morning, I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  I never thought I'd be able to say that I ran 13 miles or honestly, even one mile. But I did it.  

Why I Call(ed) Myself a Non-Runner and How I Changed My Mind

When I say that I was a non-runner, I'm not kidding.  I know some people won't believe me, because some people have only known me for the past few years.  And in the past few years, I've taken small steps that have led me in the direction of confidence and have helped me to overcome my self-limiting beliefs.  But there was a time that I would have done almost anything to get out of running or exercise in general. 

In high school, I dreaded gym class. I mean, I really really hated it.  I especially loathed running, because I felt ashamed of how out of shape I was. I remember faking sick to avoid the dreaded "beep test." And one time, when we were told that I would that if we missed the mile, we would have to make it up after school. Ugh.  That time I actually attempted "training" so that I wouldn't be quite as humiliated.  Of course, when the time came, there were other students in the same boat as me...  Pushing through the pain and embarrassment, heaved over like they were going to be sick. 

I never played sports, but I know if I had, these experiences would have been extremely different. A surprising bat of courage found me when I was 20 or so and I signed up for a martial arts class, all on my own.  I really came to enjoy Tae Kwon Do.  There's something about breaking a board with your own strength that empowers you.  Slowly but surely, I began to think a little differently about myself.  Maybe I wasn't destined to avoid physical activities with others forever.  Maybe I could do hard things.  Maybe I could surprise myself. 

Regretfully, I ended up quitting TKD before I ever got my black belt. I was slightly distracted by other things, like getting married and starting a family (you know, minor details).  After my second baby, I was shocked by the body I was left in.  I didn't recognize myself and I was determined to do something about it.  

Through the years I had started and stopped many different exercise programs and/or diets.  However, this time, when I ordered a DVD from an infomercial, I set myself on a path to transformation.  Transformation of my mind and of my body.  Completing that first program, something I also never thought that I would successfully do, told me that there was no reason I could not do it again.  There was no reason I could not finish anything I put my mind to.  

Maybe I didn't have to be out of shape forever.  Maybe I could actually be disciplined. Maybe I could actually be fit.  Maybe I could actually be proud of my fitness level. 

All I had to do was decide.

Fast forward a few years.  I have now successfully overcome many self-doubts.  I have completed multiple at home fitness programs at this point, but I have still not overcome this running thing.  Part of me still believes that I never could be a runner.

But...there is some, more rational part of me that knows that if I would simply go for it, I could do it.  I could be a runner. It is this part of my brain that decides, "I'm going to run a half marathon." Someday.

On May 2nd, 2017, a close friend tells me she has signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  

This is it.  If I'm really going to do this, this is my chance.  A princess-themed half in DISNEY.  If I'm ever going for it, this is the race I would choose. The race isn't until February, so I have plenty of time to train. So, although I am 9 months pregnant, I sign up.  
 

Training

That summer, I ran my first mile with my friend in Atlanta. It. Was. ROUGH.  I huffed and I puffed and I struggled my way to that first mile.  I'm pretty sure it took close to half an hour.  I started to think that maybe I had made a mistake.  

The voice of doubt is often relentless.  It still isn't worth listening to.

I didn't start training until the Fall.  I didn't want to start too early, but I was terrified of starting too late.  Every beginner's half marathon training plan I could find said that you should have some basis of fitness before starting it.  So, I decided to start slow with the Couch to 5k app.  

Week 1, I was running 60 second intervals.  By week 9, I was able to run a 5k.  

If you follow a program and trust the process, results will follow.  The problem for most people is that they give up too early. Or maybe it's that they never start. 

After I finished Couch to 5k, I started a half marathon training plan.  It was a simple one I found online.  A few days a week, I ran about 3 miles.  On weekends, I ran a long run that got progressively longer.  Two weeks before the race, I ran 12 miles.  It felt a little bit like a miracle. 

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible." -Walt Disney

 

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Race Day

Two week before my race, my friend who had signed up with me broke the news that she wasn't going to make it.  I would have to do this alone.

But I had done all my training alone anyway. And I wouldn't really be alone.  My family was going to be there to cheer me on as I ran with a few thousand other crazy women (and as it turns out, quite a few men as well). 

I told myself, "I have not come this far to only come this far." 

When race day arrived, I was feeling pretty good.  I had trained enough that I knew I could successfully complete the run at the required pace. I believed I could run the entire thing, because I had proven to myself that I was capable of that.

The race started at 5:30am, but to my surprise, I didn't get to start running until after 6:30. I didn't know anything about corrals.  (If you're a beginner like I was, find out how your race works, so that you can be prepared.) 

My first three miles were a little tough, but miles 4 to 8 felt pretty good. I got to run through Magic Kingdom, which just so happens to be one of my favorite places in the world, so I was intent on enjoying it. 

The last five miles of the race, my body started talking to me.  I wasn't surprised, because it did the same thing during my training. My feet hurt the worst, but my ankles and one hip wasn't very happy either. But I kept pushing through and I finished. My time wasn't anything to write home about, but I didn't care.  The point, to me, was finishing it. And I did.

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My Tips

If you are looking to start running, here's my advice: Expect it to be tough.  But be tougher.  Expect hard days. Anticipate your doubt.  Anticipate bad weather. Anticipate oversleeping.  Be ready for all of it and don't let any of it derail you.  Keep your eyes on your goal.   You got this.

Other tips:

Commit to a race.
Start slow.
Start training early (in all, I trained for 21 weeks).
Follow a program.
Buy running shoes.
Download fun running music.
Find a friend to hold you accountable.
Share your goal with others.
Have a backup plan for missed runs.
Don't let excuses get the best of you.
Finally, give yourself some grace. (You'll need it.)

♥,
            Mandy