Why I Run: A 46 year old mom of 8’s story of couch to half-marathons

RUN MORNING OF FOX CITIES HALFWhy do I run? The quick answer is because I like how it makes me feel.

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Running makes me happy. It excites me. I run because running is fun. I love the beauty of the sun coming up in the morning, reading the sign on race day and even being inspired by the those pushing special needs or handicapped persons.

RUN INSPIRING

The long answer requires me to explain how a 46 year old mother of 8 children that never ran before suddenly signed up for a half-marathon and then did four more over the course of a six month period. Ya, I am kind of intense that way. Well really it came as a challenge from a high school friend who was fighting breast cancer but had started running half-marathons and I was like “If she can do it, so can I!”

Me my first time on treadmill in January of 2015

RUN FIRST TRAINED

By the I ran those half-marathons almost back to back  but I am not an athlete, on the contrary I am out of shape and over weight. I had no idea what I was doing so I used the internet to try and help me figure out what to do and how to do it.

I suffered from huge welts under my DDD breasts because I didn’t know about friction till ran my first long run. It would take me a year (and many experiments with options I read about online) before I discovered I could put Kineseology tape on my bra line to protect me from the rubbing. I came up with that on my own (your welcome large breasted runners).

I  learned the hard way you have to have good shoes. I thought I had good shoes, but I was wrong. I discovered pain in parts of my body that I didn’t realize I had muscles in.  The first few weeks I had horrible knee pain and almost gave up. I had no idea what a pace was and was constantly frustrated with my times and with being to tired to run. If I hadn’t taken the advice of my friend and signed up as soon as I decided to train I probably would have quit.

My first race was the Oshkosh half-marathon. My daughter signed up to run with me. We arrived almost a half hour late because I did not understand the race day schedule. I had us start late and run anyway cause I did not work that hard to go home now!  I ran the entire way because I thought that running a half-marathon meant I had to run the whole way. I knew nothings of intervals and would not learn about them till about 8 weeks ago which is almost 2 years into running. At the completion of my race I cramped up so bad I could barely bend my legs to get into the car. For almost a week after I could barely walk. I learned to stretch after running and to not stop running completely but make sure in the days following a race some movement even if only a mile or two walking is necessary to keep things limber.

Because I am stubborn (and because I registered for three more races upon the advice of a friend who said if you don’t register you will give up) I started running again, well, once I was able to get moving again that is.

RUN ROCK AND SOLE

My second race was the Rock and Sole in Milwaukee. I had a woman loss consciousness in front of me at the last mile marker. They were giving her CPR. She made it but just a head of me a 20 year old boy from the University of Oshkosh dropped dead after crossing the finish line. My husband asked me if I was sure I should do this after all, I was a just a 45 year old woman, out of shape, past my prime and I had no idea what I was doing. I learned during this race that if you have long hair ( and especially if it rains)  it is best to braid your hair or it will ball up into a nasty knot. It took me two days to get out all the knots.

At my third race was the Hilbert Cheesehead Race. It is close to my house and it had a cool medal so I signed up. I had decided since I am in so much pain and discomfort after a race I shouldn’t do races far away because I am practically immobile after. I now realize that my lack of proper training is why I was so miserable after my runs. At the Hilbert race I learned that just because they give  you water doesn’t mean you should drink it. I was worried about getting dehydrated so I drank at every water station plus I had my own two water bottles. I had to stop and go to the bathroom so much that I really struggled and at one point I was miserable as there was no bathroom for quite some time. I learned how much I usually will need to run and to stick with it.

I ran a few 5k’s during the summer as well but there is just something about the challenge of a half-marathon that made me keep signing up for them.

My fourth race was the Fox Cities Marathon. I remember learning that you could walk a half-marathon when a number of elderly people WALKING at pace that even my slow jog could not keep up to, PASSED ME!  The word “Walker” was on the back of their shirts.  It was quite depressing as I was “running.” I made several mistakes at this race. The first was changing what you do on race day. I guess that is like the number one rule but being self trained I missed that one. At about mile 6 they were passing out oranges and apples as well as water and gel.

RUN WALKER PASSED ME

 

I remembered watching iron mans on TV and seeing long distance runners saying you need to eat during the run to keep the energy up. While a half-marathon is not an iron man I thought the logic sounded good so I ate some oranges and apples. Remember I still knew nothing about intervals at this point but I did notice some people were walking and then running. I would pass a lady and the next thing I knew she passed me. For several miles the same people would pass me and then I would pass them till they finally disappeared in front of me. I couldn’t figure out how people that were walking then running pass me when I ran the whole time! They then disappeared because they had more endurance I kept getting slower.

Out of frustration I decided at mile 11 to walk. I thought I would walk for a mile to gather my strength and to rest my body so I could run hard the last mile. Well, remember how your not supposed to change something on the day of your run? Around mile 12 my stomach became very ill. In fact, I began getting the worst stomach cramps of my life. I had to walk the 13th mile because there was no way I could start running again. I managed a little jog for the last few hundred feet because of course I thought I must look pathetic walking across the finish line. The other reason I made myself jog is embarrassing. I had to google it to understand why it happened.

Sudden onset explosive diarrhea.  How could that have happened you ask?  It began the night before. It seems you have to eat well the night before a race, usually high carbs like spaghetti dinner or other pasta dish. Not me, I  had Mexican food the night before with a couple margarita’s. Not the best choice. It also seems that when you run for so long the blood gets diverted to the extremities and away from  your digestive system. When you stop running the blood goes back to the main organs and fires ups the digestion system. Combine the Mexican food, the oranges and apples signaling to my body that we are no longer running but eating as well as me coming to walking pace rather than running pace and you get explosive diarrhea that keeps you in a porta potty for an hour after your race.  I learned not to change your routine on race day.

RUN MADISON

My fifth race was at the University of Wisconsin Madison. I ran this with my daughter Sarah. She was much faster but it was fun having someone to sign up with.

RUNMADISON COURSE

We were there to explore the campus that my daughter Elisha was going to attend the following year. I figured as long as I was there, I could run the half-marathon. I had become addicted to medals. I still am addicted to medals.

 

This should have been my best race but was my worst. I had to walk almost all of it because I barely ran leading up to it because I was suffering from horrific shin splints and a stress fracture  that had kept me up nights with throbbing pain.

RUN OLD GUY PASSES ME WALKING

When I was passed by a 70 year old man I got pretty depressed.  I did the run but was really unhappy about my time. I also was depressed because I still had not lost a single pound even though I had begun running on a weekly basis. I went from the couch to running and did not lose any weight. I finished my half-marathon in 3 hours and 10 minutes which was my worst time ever. I don’t think I learned anything on this run. Instead I just became depressed and gave up.

For the next 3 months I did not do anything and gained almost 20 pounds. How did I do that? No clue. I was pissed. I decided to start training again for the Oshkosh half which is in April every year and started preparing in January. My shins starting acting up right away and the leg with the stress fracture got really bad really fast. I hate cross training and I hate lifting weights cause I have no idea how to do it) so I spiraled downward.

RUN1

I ran maybe twice a week knowing that my April run was going to be rough. The week before the Oshkosh half-marathon I had horrible chest pain that radiated down my left arm. I did not go to the doctor. I ran the Oshkosh half but took what I had learned so far and applied it so it was not so bad. I finished over 3 hours but at least I finished. My daughter was going to run with me but ended up having to work. My nephew (pictured) literally decided the night before to take her spot and ran (show off) so that the money for the registration was not wasted. The next week I went to the doctor’s and found out I had an arrhythmia and high blood pressure. I was signed up for the Green Bay Cellcom run but had to miss it because of my blood pressure. I was signed up Hilbert and missed it. I was signed up for the Fox Cities Marathon and missed it.

It is not like anyone would miss me. It was very lonely running because I did not have any companionship and no one knew me. My husband usually just showed up at the end to clap and take me home. I was always very envious of all the people who had signs for them encouraging them at different mile markers or those who had running buddies. I had asked a couple of people I knew that ran if they would run with me but they had their own buddies already. I was very depressed about not having any support and with these new issues I just quit. I gained more weight. Got more depressed. I started to drink more cause “why not?”

January of 2017 I decided that if I wanted my blood pressure to get better I had to lose weight. If I want to lose weight I have to exercise. The only exercise I actually enjoyed was running. Why do I enjoy it? First of all I forgot how much I love music. I used to listen to music all the time but then I had 8 kids and there was always so much noise in the house the last thing I wanted was music blasting. I have made myself amazing playlists of music that moves my soul and encourages me and makes me cry when I am running. It is like the music helps me to quiet the thoughts in my mind and helps me to feel and meditate and pray and contemplate my life and the hardships and joys and everything in between. I never have time to honor that expect when I am running. I also make so many excuses as to why I should not give myself that time. There is always laundry, housework, shopping for groceries cooking or other things that have to be done so to say “I am going to go for a run” was super hard for me to justify. I felt guilty for doing it.

I was finally able to overcome this when I saw a post on facebook by Fleet Feet about a program called “Winter Warriors.” It was a program through the winter to encourage running and training. I was terrified to sign up, what if they know I am not really a runner. What if they are all friends and I am just alone? I was signing up because I needed help and motivation to do the thing I love but cannot justify giving to myself. The other reason is laziness. I need accountability because sometimes staying on the couch in winter when it is 15 degrees out sounds better than running. Do you know what is crazy? I actually love running in the cold more than running when it is hot. I love seeing my breath in the night air and the colorful light up vest I wear energizes me.

Out of the 10 weeks offered about 3 or 4 were cancelled for below zero temps and I skipped about 4 others only coming to two or three. The first night I went I was the very last person and it made me feel really inadequate.

My self talk tapes were on full blast and screaming to me about how out of my league I was and how I should just give up being a wanna be runner. It was really intimidating to see everyone who already seemed to know everyone and have buddies and all seemed to have great paces and I was just clueless. I signed up and paid for registration for a 10k but because I did adequately train I changed it to the 5k. The morning of the event I did not even go. I felt like I was not really apart of the group and would feel left out or awkward trying to tag along.

Then I got a jacket. The group all received a running jacket.  That jacket meant a lot to me. When I picked up my jacket from Fleet Feet and saw the Winter Warrior logo on it I felt like I had the possibility of being a part of something. That jacket means a lot to me. I decided to sign up for the Spring training and continue making a regular commitment. So what if I missed almost all the previous runs at least I went to some and was trying. I could keep trying.

I signed up the Summer training and met a young woman who was also new. She had only run a 5k. We ran together that night. She told me I helped her push herself, me! She told me she would see me on Saturday and I was like, ok now I have to come. This is what I was looking for, accountability. We ran together on Saturday and it was awesome! We ran 4 miles and it was getting easier for me because this new group I was running with who called themselves the “Back of the Pack” taught me about intervals. I found I could run farther and faster than I have ever run using intervals! Right now I like 2 min running and 1 min walking but I am thinking of changing the walking to 45 sec and then maybe 30 sec but not sure  yet.

My desire is to run a marathon. Right now it seems like a unattainable challenge but somehow I think If I stick with this group I am in they will help me meet my goal and succeed in this challenge I have set for myself. I know this because they have already helped me so much.

I run because the person I have been created to be has gotten lost over the years in the roles I have to play in my life. I am the counselor, the friend, the speaker, the mother, the wife and running allows me to spend time with Christina. I have time to think about what is going on in my life. It gives me a runners high and a feeling of accomplishment especially when life is so stressful. Running is something that has also allowed me to feel valuable and helps me to make healthier choices. I keep running because I am excited about the next challenge in front of me that won’t tear me down but will build me up. Usually challenges in our lives have the capacity to hurt us or create added stress in our lives but running only adds to it. The challenge to shave time or run farther pushes me to accept the next challenge and I have such pride in myself when I am able to do meet those challenges. Running makes me happy. It excites me. I run because running is fun. All I  need is cheer leaders on race day.

RUN CHEAR LEADERS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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