Tuesday, June 14, 2011


on running.
lately i've received some questions about running so i thought i'd tell you a little about my experience in becoming a "runner" over the past several months. feel free to skim or not read this at all. if anything, i just wanted to write this out for myself because i still can't believe i can actually run. but i can!

in the beginning.
it all started in january. my friend (mustard) signed up for the remembrance run in september. it's a 5k run in honor of fallen iowa soldiers. anyway, after some arm-twisting from mustard, i signed up too! even though i am so not a runner, i thought i could probably be ready to run 3 miles by september.
when i told my dad about it, he teased me a little ("9 months to train for a 5k?!") and said that i needed to sign up for the dam to dam (a 20k in june). he said he would do it with me if i signed up. so, not wanting to look like a wimp (and having always envied runners' bodies) i decided to do it.
when i first started "training" i literally couldn't run a single mile without stopping. after a few weeks of hitting the treadmill, i could run/walk about three miles at a time, but would usually stop there. around that time, my dad sent me an e-mail kindly saying that i either needed to amp up my training or i wouldn't be prepared come june. (it was written with the best of intentions. he just didn't want me to feel like i had to do it and didn't want me to be in over my head.) i knew i had to either commit 100% or bail. so that afternoon i went to the Y and ran 5.5 miles without stopping. i ran slowly (11 minute mile), but i never stopped! that proved to me that i was capable of doing this.

learning to run. 
i found a beginner's training schedule for a half-marathon (which is a bit longer than a 20k) and followed it closely. i had to make certain sacrifices (including blog time) in order to get all my runs in, but each week i slowly gained confidence. this may sound dumb, but at first i was really nervous to try running outside. i guess because i'd never run outside by myself before and i didn't really know where i'd go, where i'd stop, if i'd look dumb, etc. (is that just me? anyone relate?) i started running on an indoor track which i found way more enjoyable than the treadmill and eventually made my way outside.
i learned to work through boredom, tiredness and even pain. i learned to play mind tricks to keep myself distracted and i did a lot of self-talk to stay motivated on longer runs. ("you're doing freaking awesome!" "you're gonna rock this!" yeah. my inner voice is a nerd.) i also bought some new music to stock up my ipod. (favorites include: m.i.a., kesha, mgmt and robyn's new album, body talk is the. perfect. running music. love it.) i learned to stretch right, eat well, and hydrate properly for each run. i bought a new pair of shoes (i'm a die-hard mizuno girl now), a few shirts, some shorts and a pair of capris that i love. i've learned it's definitely worth it to spend a bit more to get quality gear. especially on longer runs--staying cool and dry can make a huge difference. plus, you don't need a lot of clothing, you can literally wear the same pair of shorts over and over and if they're decent quality, it won't matter.

just doin' it.
my dad and i generally ran on our own throughout the week and ran together on saturday or sunday. it really helped to have that accountability in each other. i remember the first time we ran six miles. it was a huge accomplishment for me. i also remember the weekend we were supposed to run eight miles. i was out of town and didn't run over the weekend so i was really nervous about getting it done. i thought my dad had already done his 8-miler, so on monday i went to the Y to get it over with. i literally had butterflies in my stomach as i drove there. about four miles in i thought, there's no way i can do this. i shouldn't have tried to do it by myself. i shouldn't have taken the weekend off. but, while i was trying to talk myself into quitting, i kept running. and all of a sudden i had another mile under my belt. i was over halfway finished, so i figured i might as well get it over with. and i did! when that 8 miles was over i literally wanted to cheer out loud. but...i held back. another big triumph i had during training was running "the Big Block." i live on a fairly busy street that makes one side of a 6-mile rectangular route. ever since we moved here i've wanted to be able to run that block. so one sunday afternoon--we did it! i felt awesome. so excited to have accomplished that mini goal.
at some point, it started to get easier. i still got nervous before longer runs, but going out to run 3 miles became no big deal. and then going out to run 6 miles no longer intimidated me at all. on one of our last weekends of training before the dam to dam, we decided to run the Big Block. twice. that's just over twelve miles. we took it pretty slow and took a few pit stops, but we did it! i couldn't believe it. it was four miles further than i had ever run before. that's when i really began to feel confident about the dam to dam. i finally believed i could really do it.  

race day.
the friday night before the race, my dad and i went downtown to pick up our race packets. it was fun seeing a huge crowd of people who would all be hoofin' it the next morning. it was also cool for me to see all types of people there. in my mind i had this picture of what a "runner" looked like, and it was cool for me to see that anyone can run. it was sort of a final confidence-booster for me. that, even though i don't necessarily look like a runner, i can still run.
that night, the girls and i spent the night at my parents' house so my mom could drop us off at the race site. we did not go to bed early enough, which made it rough to wake up at 5:30 a.m. but, once i got up and moving, the adrenaline started kicking in and i felt pretty good; excited to finally get this show on the road!
once we got to the starting point, i was in awe of all the people. 7,000 people! it was incredible. i'm a people-watchin' fool, so it was like a dream come true. ha! we peed in the woods (rather than wait 25 minutes for a porta-potty) and slowly made our way to the starting point. we stretched a bit and, before i knew it, we were running! the weather was perfect--overcast and not too hot. it was pretty humid, but it was great to not have the sun beating down on us. in the beginning i was so distracted by all the people--it was great. so many times i said, i wish i had my camera! it was incredible to look down the road to this sea of people. i've never had an experience like that. except, maybe at the iowa state fair. but...that's not quite the same.
we kept a steady pace and never needed to stop and walk. we only separated once when my dad made a pit stop. i kept going thinking he'd catch up in a minute, but the line ended up being fairly long so we were apart for about a mile until i took my own potty break. luckily i spotted him again shortly thereafter and we continued on together. i remember seeing the six-mile marker and realizing i was halfway done. i felt really good! i couldn't believe i wasn't tired yet so we picked up the pace a little. i overheard someone call out to another bethany near me, so i started chatting with her. she pointed out that every mile-marker had a homemade sign on it saying, "go B!" or "run B run!" after that i started noticing them everywhere and, even though i knew they weren't for me, it was really encouraging. i also saw a friend on the sidelines a couple times and that was a great little energy-booster. (thanks, michelle!) when we got into des moines i had a false sense that we were almost done. i guess technically we were, but around mile ten i started to finally get tired. two miles out of twelve doesn't seem like much, but for some reason i started to hit the wall. the sun came out and it started to get hot. there were great bands every quarter mile or so, which was fun. but i started to slow down quite a bit. my dad pulled ahead for a while, but i always had my eye on his bright yellow shirt. i wished i had my ipod. it's amazing how upbeat music can really give you an energy boost. those last two miles seemed to take longer than the entire previous ten. but halfway through mile eleven, i had another cheerleader encourage me to keep going. i never felt like i needed to stop, but i knew i wasn't going to make the time goal that i had set for myself. my dad & i found each other in the crowd again and he pointed out the bright green finish line banner. i remember there was a really tall guy in front of me, so i couldn't even see it yet. but just knowing it was there...wow. as we got closer i heard loud music (maybe rihanna?) and a drumline, there was a dance troupe which was a great distraction for a few steps. on the last few hundred yards, my dad grabbed my hand and we ran each step together. i started to feel stronger and knew we were almost done! i heard my name called and my dear friend alana was there, cheering us on. it's amazing how those little things can really help your feet take those next steps.

the rest is history.
we crossed the finish line and i almost couldn't believe it was over.  even among 7,ooo finishers, i felt so proud and...amazing! we finished at 2 hours and 12 minutes. i was hoping to get in under 2 hours; but looking back, i know i did my best. here were my stats:

place: 1474 (out of 7,031)
class place: 333 (out of 789 female finishers, age 25-29)
10k time: 1:01
20k time: 2:05
final pace: 10:08

 i took a few days off to recover, but have already gone back to regular runs throughout the week. my dad and i ran in a 5k fundraising race on saturday night and i ran faster than i ever have! it felt really good. (despite the glaring sun and uphill course.) i now turn to running as a stress reliever. when something comes up or goes wrong, the first thing i think is, i want to go run this out. and i have to say, it feels a lot better than a glass of wine. ha! i'm toying with the idea of the des moines marathon in october, but just the word marathon makes my stomach flip-flop! we'll see...

anyway, if anyone's actually still reading, i just wanted to write this to show that you can be a runner! it's okay to start slow. it's okay to be nervous. it's okay to walk when you need to! just remember: every step counts.


  1. What a great post! I rode my bike from Seattle to Portland over 2 days a few years ago and it was one of the most amazing experiences. "Amazing" doesn't really do it justice. I may not be able to find the words but I know what I felt that day and reading your post reminded me of that moment in time when I was unabashedly proud of myself. Cheers to you!

  2. thanks, bethany! i am taking baby steps to being a "runner." i never believe people who go from not being a runner to being able to run, so this is good motivation!

  3. You are AWESOME! It was my New Year's resolution to do a 5k race this year, but 20k... wow. I did my race in May, and I think it might have addicted me a little. It feels so amazing to have worked at something that felt really difficult at first and to get better and better, even surpassing my goal. It still feels weird to call myself a "runner", but I can do it!

  4. Wow--you rock! I'm still plugging away at 5K training. There's one point in my intervals training plan where you switch from 8 minutes of running/5 minutes walking/8 minutes running, to 20 minutes of running with no stopping. That's always the part where I get hung up. But, I have a new pair of Tom's wedges in the mail as motivation to do it...and those babies were too expensive for me to flake out!

  5. Amen! I did my first half-marathon in January, and I feel like we had the same experience, minus the sweet Dad and cheering friends! I did it by myself, and I was so happy to just finish. Great job! I feel the same way about the marathon word. Maybe next year for my 30th birthday??


  6. I recently completed my first half-marathon and realized how much I enjoy running. It was challenging at first to get into but once I did it became such a stress-reliever for me!
    I used to think 4 miles was a long run and now 6 miles seems like an easy run! Funny how perspective changes things.
    Congrats and keep us updated on any marathon plans in your future!

  7. Congratulations! What an accomplishment! I ran my first half marathon last month, and my training story was sooo similiar to yours! After signing up, I thought to myself "you idiot, you will never be able do to this." But I did, and it felt great. I've already signed up to run another in October!
    You should be SO proud of all the work you did to accomplish this goal!

  8. This was such an awesome post!! I too have always longed to be a runner. I have done two 5K's with a 10K planned in August! I remember getting teased for taking 9 weeks to train up for my first 5K! This was such an encouraging post and I found myself nodding along to your story; I have always been apprehensive about running outside and what I look like doing it ..!!! Way to go!

  9. This was awesome!!! It completely gave me motivation that I was lacking, so THANKS!!!!

    I used to love running and I want so badly to get into a routine again...but with our treadmill on the fritz, I too have major anxiety to run outside, I dont know why! But glad I'm not alone and I just need to get over it and do it.

    Seriously awesome, keep it up!!

  10. Wow! You smoked the 20K. A wrote a post very similar to this a few years back when I became a runner and completed my first half marathon. I always thought short people weren't meant to run but like you, I found that I had to decide what "running" meant to me. For me, it's getting out there and going. Finding my pace was the biggest battle but since I found it, I can say with confidence that I am a runner. It's a great feeling! Congrats and keep it up!

  11. this was really inspiring, motivating, and encouraging! thank you!!!

  12. I'm so glad you shared your journey! I was supposed to run Dam to Dam, but, I just didn't have the time, nor the motivation- but after reading your post... I know that I can get back out there and get running again! Too bad we we're closer- I prefer to run with someone... keeps me motivated and holds me accountable!

  13. Hooray! You should be so proud of yourself. I love running too. It's the best.

  14. Thank you for sharing this! I have just started running and am feeling stuck at 3ish miles and scared to run outside. Hearing how you did it is a great encouragement to me!!

  15. You are a great writer, but moreso a superb storyteller. I love reading your blog. I am trying to make the switch from hiker to runner, so this came at the perfect time for me! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Congratulations!!! You totally rock!! Your post was really inspiring... thank you so much for sharing. PS - You are lookin' fantastic! The running is totally paying off! :)

  17. I was thrilled when I saw this post. You gave me the motivation to continue with the C25K program. Thank you for inspiring me!

  18. OMG. I love this post. I've been running for about 6 months now off and on (nursing school makes it hard to keep a schedule) and I've been trying to get past the "runners wall". I just want you to know how inspiring your story was. I totally started tearing up at the end. Keep up the great post.

  19. ah, robyn: body talk...love that cd:)

  20. You have inspired me to jump back on the running bandwagon! Thanks for the suggestion for the capris and shoes. How about for shirts, tees or socks?

  21. I love this! I started running about 6 months ago and I went through the same types of struggles. My fiances father is a runner and gave me a book called Chi Running, its amazing! It taught me how to run properly and it really helped with all my joint aches.
    I haven't done a race yet, I am still a bit nervous and not allowed to run in the heat (dr's orders) : ( Hopefully I can find one this fall!
    Thanks again for writing, it always helps to know other people go through similar struggles!!

  22. Thanks for writing! I am just starting to run again, actually doing a 5K this weekend. Where did you get your shoes? I have heard great things about Fitness Sports and was planning to go there.

  23. Great story! how do you find time to run with your girls?? i wish I would have done more exercising before i had our son!!


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