Full Throttle for a Half Marathon

Growing up, I hated running. I detested running the mile in gym class. I think a good portion of us did. But, later, when I wasn’t forced to do it for a grade, I learned that I did not mind running as much.

My relationship with running hasn’t been as great as I had envisioned. You know those women they show in commercials, not a hair out of place in a high ponytail, comfortably running in a sports bra looking serene?

Yeah, that is the opposite of me of when I run. I will be grossly covered in sweat, often wearing a hat because my pixie cut gets weird and gross and my face will be a deep red.

That doesn’t mean I hate running though. There are definitely times where I hate running while I am running. But, man, afterwards, I just feel great. I may look exhausted and sweaty and whatever else, but I feel good.

Unfortunately, there have been things that have prevented me from running as often as I’d like. I have plantar fasciitis. While I would like to call it a pain in the ass, it is actually a pain in the foot. The heels, specifically. I have decent control over mine currently, but it was not smooth sailing. Every time I took a step, I felt like a knife was being driven through my foot. Exercises, steroid shots (these suck, they hurt like no other. Blah.), a night splint, a massage ball, and making sure to wear good shoes – all of these have helped me. Generally, I can only buy good shoe brands. Shoes really aren’t my favorite part of fashion, so paying anywhere between $150-200 for a pair of regular black flats is mind-boggling to me…especially when they do help. But for tennis shoes? I have four different pair. Two I alternate for regular activities, one for running, and one just for working out like strength training. It is nuts. But a better alternative to the foot pain.

Another problem that I’m still working on is I keep getting cramp-like feelings in my legs when I get about 30 seconds into a run, maybe a little less. I do intervals with run-walk usually, and it gets worse the more I run. I stretch, I warm up, I do some basic exercises or yoga poses to get my calves going. But they still want to cramp. Even with wearing a compression sleeve. Right now, this is my greatest hurdle towards running a half. I’m going to talk to my doctor in a couple weeks, but I’ll take any suggestions!

So, yeah, I don’t think that this is going to be the easiest accomplishment but there is a part of me that thinks I have a shot at this. So I signed up for the Pittsburgh Half-Marathon on May 5th, 2019. Signed up. Committed. Here we go.

You might be think what the hell? You might say, Tori, you haven’t even been running, what are you doing?

Well, I found a training plan that basically takes you from zero to hero (I hope that Hercules reference is appreciated). So that helps. It’s really just a couch to 5k, just add about ten miles to the 5k. I have until May, this is December, no biggie.

I had to drop out the first time I wanted to do the Pittsburgh Half a couple years ago because of the plantar fasciitis. But we’ve moved on from that. I also found a way to tape my heel to provide support when I run. It worked great when I did it! In high school, I considered becoming an athletic trainer and was a student athletic trainer; working primarily with football. I’m ten years removed from that which is weird to say, but those taping skills I learned still come in handy! I feel more confident about overcoming that particular hurdle this time.

The cramp thing – there’s got to be something out there. Not counting myself out yet.

I’m thinking about changing my gym membership and buying a basic treadmill. I prefer running outside, but it is Pittsburgh and Snow Miser likes to spend his winters here. It is going to get freaking cold.

That’s not to say that I haven’t thought about these same things and wondered what the hell do I think I’m doing? I’ll be honest, I am freaking terrified. I don’t know what I’m doing. It seemed like a good idea. I can also say I’ve said that about a few things before that ended up not being a good idea at all, but we’re going to be optimistic here.

Originally, when I was considering signing up for the half and trying again, I was thinking I wasn’t really going to tell anyone. I decided against this (obviously), and I’m already really glad I did. I already have a variety of people who said they’d go on runs with me, and I have gotten plenty of suggestions and tips. By having people who say they’ll run with me, this will make it harder to not train. I won’t want to let people down, so I’ll be there. I can’t say how well I’ll do at all, but I’ll be there.

I am also looking into joining a running group – I can use all the support and help I can get! It is also never bad to meet new people too, so that social aspect will be fun. Pittsburgh, it seems, has a good running scene. Kind of ironic when you consider the amount of hills.

You still might be wondering why I feel that I need to run this half. And yes, I will use need here. This is something I need to do. To me, it is more than a bucket list item. There are many benefits to running that I’m going to get into later, but it is more than that.

Running is great for your physical health. Duh. It is also great for your mental health. I will take a two-for-one any day.

I have various physical goals to meet with working out, but my cardiovascular endurance sucks. It really sucks. When I was younger (Like 18), I found out I had sports-induced asthma but I’ve gone at least five years without an asthma attack, likely longer. But sometimes I do wonder if it makes it more difficult for me to build up my endurance. I know intervals and HIIT help with this, but I’m also getting a good vibe about throwing some old-fashioned running in there. I’m thinking my run-walk gradual training plan could be really good for me in that aspect. The better my cardiovascular endurance becomes, the more it’ll help me with HIIT, boxing, and weight lifting – all things I love that can kick my ass right now. Especially these boxing classes that throw core and cardio into the mix. Great workout, really killer though.

I know I can get better when it comes to this.

The better I run, the more my potential will grow.

I don’t want to limit myself.

It will also make me a better firefighter. I have no plans to ever run a half in my turnout gear. But the better I get physically, the more effective I can be. I don’t think I need to emphasize how important this is to me.

Running is also good for mental health. I can believe that just based on how I feel after a run. Or even after a good workout. By committing to the half, I committed myself to working out regularly again. By working out on a regular basis, I get those good feelings that can help against the bad guys. That’s definitely a win. I know working out is good for treating my mental illness. But now, I really don’t have an excuse to not work out. I have a race I need to run. I really do like the idea of being able to run on the treadmill first thing in the morning at home. That would be really beneficial to me, I think.

I definitely can be my worst enemy. I need to prove to myself that I can do this.

And, yes, my mental illness is already starting to whisper to me that I can’t do this and that it is not going to work. I guess we’re going to see which part is stronger. This part isn’t fun.

I have gotten some great suggestions and tips so far on creating a running plan:

  • One of the most important ones I have heard would be to buy properly fitted shoes. I know there are places that also analyze your running stride, so I’m definitely going to check that out. It can be an investment, but I’m used to
  • Logging miles on an app – There are so many for this. Right now, I’m actually playing with three: RunKeeper, Strava, and Nike+. The one running club I’m looking into uses Strava. I’m also hoping to get an Apple Watch for the various Apple health benefits, but all three apps can integrate with the Apple Watch. So I’m going to see which one works best. I’m also not opposed to paying for premium on running apps.
  • Running Socks – My goal is to keep myself as warm as possible when I’m outside. I hate cold feet. But good running socks will also help with blisters which suck.
  • Good Playlist – I am ALL about this. I have followed a ton of workout-related playlists on Spotify, and I made two of my own workout playlists. One is specifically called “I am Training for a Half-Marathon.” Half of the Rocky soundtracks are on my playlists. I have no shame. Gonna Fly Now and Eye of the Tiger always help me during a workout. I have a variety of rap, rock, pop, country, and soundtrack – even a couple from Hamilton. I have told some people that I want to hear the music that plays when Rocky wins the match in Rocky II as I finish. Finishing my first half marathon will definitely be an “Yo, Adrian!” moment (As I write this, I just had a “Holy shit I’m trying to run a half marathon moment.” Craaaaap. Or another, more colorful word).
  • Run what you feel comfortable in – I keep seeing this one come up too. As in, do NOT try run in any new gear on race day. Personally, I’m going to keep it simple. Oddly enough, I already have my shirt picked. So I will run with that one underneath my hoodies and jackets at times throughout winter. Not sure what the best kind of yoga pants or running leggings would be. I also am looking into getting running specific gear, like a jacket or gloves especially to protect from the wind.
  • Hydrate and take nutrition into account before you think you need to – As I mentioned before, literally the last thing I want are cramps.  I’m pretty good at drinking water; I drink it the majority of the time now anyways. I am going to put together some type of diet to follow. I don’t want to call it diet, but plan to eat in the way I can get the most benefits. I am looking forward to carb loading the night before the race!
  • Experiment with what works and what doesn’t – I have a training plan. But it is more than just how long or how far I run. I think terrain and environment are both important to consider, as are social runs for solo. I’ve heard of running meditation, and I definitely think I’m going to look into that. I also plan on doing a variety of cross-trainings and yoga. I think that this is a big thing to experiment with and how it makes me feel. Feeling versus thinking is something I need to get better at when it comes to myself. Training for this half has a lot of potential for self-discovery, which wouldn’t be a bad thing for me after the last few months. Maybe it is something I need. This also goes to when you workout and why. For a long time, I was working in the mornings before work because I thought it would suck working out after work. I found out that both actually work for me, but the ideal would be in the morning before work at home which is why I’m considering a treadmill. Also, what is your motivation for this run and workout? Motivation is a huge component in training.
  • Make the mind run the body. When you’ve gotten to the point you feel you’ve hit the wall and out of gas, in reality you have about 60% left – Self-explanatory. This is great though. I wish I would have heard this a long time ago, actually. It goes back to the overthinking, I need to stop doing that. Make the mind run the body. That could help me with a lot of different aspects of my life. It is also where meditation and mindfulness come in, so that’s cool how that’s all lining up.
  • The runner’s high comes after you run not during – I hate running while I run, I love it when I’m done. Boom. Even when my runs suck. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who experiences this.
  • Help other runners, be supportive and thank volunteers on race day – Also self-explanatory. For an activity where technically all is you need is yourself and a pair of shoes, running can be really social which is good because it provides support. And, yes! The volunteers! So much would never get done in many areas if there weren’t volunteers. These people get up really early to watch you run and help you run and make everything run as smoothly as possible. Major props to that. Also, don’t forget about your first responders! I am really, really hoping not to have to utilize emergency medical services during the race but I appreciate them big time. I also have friends who work this event, and they’re awesome.
  • ResourcesFor Pittsburgh, there are training runs and running groups. Take advantage of it. When people say they’ll run with you, ask. I know I will have to because it will keep me on track. You also can get different perspectives. With the running group, I think the one I’m thinking about joining is too good to pass up. Like I said, I need all the help I can get.
  • It is literally a marathon and not a sprintPace yourself. As in, small steps and goals. This will be something I struggle with and I need to remember that all progress is good progress. And not to be too hard on myself. These are all important. (Thanks to everyone for the tips!)

But that doesn’t mean my spirit and drive won’t be at full throttle.

As per my usual, I’m going in a different direction with the post as I had originally planned. I blame Sylvester Stallone. I love the Rocky movies, and today I saw Creed II and loved it. There were some tidbits that hit a little close to home. I was actually surprised that I got emotional at some parts. The movie is about more than just boxing; it looks at identity, expectations, and legacy.

This is where it hit me kind of strong and made me do some self-reflection. At one point, Rocky tells Adonis Creed he needs to ask himself what he’s fighting for. That is a loaded question, and it takes Adonis some self-discovery and literal hits to figure it out. Adonis also talks about fighting for himself versus his father’s legacy, the expectations of being a Creed, and his father’s legacy. Through this, Adonis finds who he is. It might sound corny, but I get it. There is actually a quote by Adonis that perfectly sums up living to legacy and finding yourself in a few sentences, but I can’t find it and it is driving me insane.

I have struggled a lot over these last few years, including considering who I am as an individual. I am a self-imposed perfectionist and overachiever. I’m trying to get better at it, but it is still my nature. I also have felt distorted the last couple years because of dealing with depression and anxiety because I know that makes me view myself in ways that simply are not accurate.

Who am I?

What am I fighting for?

Some of these long runs might be a good time to work that shit out.

It isn’t like I have Olympians in my family, so yea, it’s not the same as Adonis versus Apollo. But I am definitely trying to prove something to myself in all of this. Deciding to do this is terrifying to me.

Can I do it?

People will tell me that I can, but can I, really? I don’t know what is holding me back, but I know there is a chance of failure. And I can’t “just not” think about that.

If I fail, who will I disappoint? How will I handle it? I know I’ll disappoint myself.

I have to look at the why. Why am I doing this?

Who am I fighting for?

There are a lot of things I want to gain from this. I know, I know how great of an antidepressant running is supposed to be. While I’m hoping for that, I can’t put all my hope in that. My treatment is more like a puzzle, and I’d be okay with running as a piece. But I can’t expect it to complete it.

I do turn to the wisdom of Rocky and Yoda during these times.

Judge me by my size do you?

It doesn’t matter how it looks to other people. If this is something you gotta do, then you do it. Fighters fight.

There are going to be a lot of Rocky and Star Wars quotes running through my head as motivators the next few months.

I don’t believe it. That is why you fail.

That is why you fail! We’ve talked about this before. Luke failed because he didn’t believe in himself. It took me 26 years of watching The Empire Strikes Back to realize this.

I am, hands down, my worst critic. The amount of times I don’t believe in myself probably is not good.

Why am I doing this? Who am I fighting for?

Right now, in this moment, I really don’t know if I can do this. I’m probably leaning more towards no right now. That doesn’t mean at all that I’m not going to try. It’s only December, the race is in May. I have time.

I don’t have concrete answers to those questions right now. But they are definitely ones I am going to work through. I think the more I work this stuff out, the better off I will be and it will probably help me prepare. I have gotten a lot better over the last few months with stuff, but it has also opened my eyes to how bad it was – worse than I thought. Maybe it is time to face all my demons.

I do have one motivator right now. I’m running to raise money. I’m running to raise money for my fire department, something very, very near and dear to my heart. I love being a firefighter and being part of that community. That brotherhood. I’m still working on getting the site up to donate. It is a cause that means a helluva lot to me.

I hope you all won’t mind more posts about my running journey. I think that it will be something. At least, I hope.

I’ll work on those motivators. I’ll work on learning more about myself. And I am going to just hope that on May 5th, I make those 13.1 miles my bitch (sorry, figure of speech).

Adrian Balboa actually said it best in Rocky II. It was pretty simple, too:

“Win.”
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