What I’ve Learned While Training For (And Running) A Half Marathon

Hey, let’s catch up, shall we? #7: Run a Half Marathon. Done.

I’m not a fan of that picture of me. But, it’s all I’ve got. Check out that sweet medal, though! (Ty’s mom called it a “woodal.”)

There’s not much to say about the actual half-marathon. It was a well organized race in memory of a local state trooper who was killed a few years ago. (His name– and the name of the race– is Paul Richey, if you care to Google.) It was long. It was slow. But we did it, and I got a mini cupcake when it was over. The race organizers were kind enough to put water stations at every mile, which was a blessing because I didn’t have to be burdened by my Camelbak or the thought of how many miles were left to run. We just had to take it one water station at a time.

Here are a few lessons I learned while pounding the pavement.

1. Most obviously: I don’t actually LIKE to run. I’m not sure anyone truly does. (And if you do, I don’t really want to hear it.) I don’t think there was a single second during a single run where I wasn’t using all of the Jedi Mind Tricks available to me to keep myself from quitting running. Talk to Ty about anything and everything unrelated to running. Count my steps. Mentally outline my thesis. (That’s BAD when the thesis is the desirable option.) Sing the entire Tortoise and Hare song we were learning in chorus over and over and over like some sort of a mantra.

Run, Bangor, run Bangor, Bangor, run run. Run Bangor, run Bangor, run, run, run. 

2. What I do like– other than finishing running — is being able to run. I like the feeling of having completed a number of miles that I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be able to run. I like talking about running. (Makes me feel cool.) I like reading Runners World. I like free t-shirts. I really like being able to support worthy organizations by paying to run a few miles. And I LOVE when my friend Julie asks if I want to be on her team for the Pineapple Classic 5K in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and I can wholeheartedly say: “YES!”

3. Unfortunately, I hate practicing, so training was a bit of a stretch for me. I hate practicing anything. Even things I like to do. I can pretty easily guarantee that if I’m still horrible at something after 3 tries, I’m not ever going to do it again. Don’t ever ask me to: play soccer, do algebra, draw or paint, speak Spanish, dance…

4. Good gear is good. When I started this project, I was running in old blue basketball shorts from 13 years ago when I was playing basketball (actually, not playing basketball so much as spending a few hours on every bench in every school gym in Westmoreland County), and any one of a number of too-big-for-me free cotton t-shirts with the words “Camp Lutherlyn Staff” or “Geneva College Student Ministries” printed on the front.

Once, when the weather was a little chilly and I stopped caring what I looked like to passers-by, I put on some leggings and a salmon-colored not-cotton shirt from REI, and I felt like maybe I had put on a superhero costume instead. The difference in comfort and sweat and aerodynamics was enough that most of my poor t-shirts have been demoted to hair drying duty, and will only regain their dignity when they are cut to bits and sewn back together as a quilt.

5. Good partners are good. I have to admit, I would quit running if I didn’t have Ty to drag me along kicking and screaming. The few times I’ve tried to run alone, I could barely get myself out the door, and didn’t have the mental fortitude to finish my whole run. I’m pathetic. (Or maybe I just don’t like running!!) Thanks for running with me, Mister!

6. I would not be running if it weren’t for Peer Pressure. (Thank God my friends are positive influences. Lord knows what I would be writing about if my friends weren’t upstanding individuals.) Let’s just look at the numbers here for a moment. To keep it simple, we’ll just look at the girls who will be in my wedding. 4/6 have run 5Ks. 3 have run half-marathons. 2 have finished marathons. And 1 sucker just ran-swam-biked a triathlon, last week. (That doesn’t include other close friends, people at church, and a whole bunch of people rubbing it in my face on my Facebook.)

I’m not sure how this happened. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of them, but also very confused. I guess I was so confused that I figured I should probably be running, too. (That’s the only explanation I have, anyway.)

7. My shoes are awesome. Seriously. They’re the best. I had to jam my feet into a pair of real sneakers, yesterday. I felt like I was walking around with cement blocks on my feet. Yuck.

8. Something I really appreciated about our half marathon training was visible progress. (Keep in mind, we are measuring progress in miles, here, not pounds.) If we were diligent about running, and we followed the plan, we could run 13 miles. Every week we thought we had run as many miles as we could ever possibly run. There is no way we are going to be able to run 8 miles next week. I’m sure we aren’t going to be able to run 10 miles. We are definitely not going to be able to run 12 miles next week. 

And, every week we did.

Which makes me think that…

9. Long/Crazy/Impossible is relative. In high school gym class I thought my teachers were cruel and unusual for making me run ONE mile. (And I effectively refused to do it… along with one of my bridesmaids who ran her first 5k a few weeks ago.) Once I started running 5k races, they became totally reasonable and I thought the people who were running 10ks were insane. Why would they bother with 10k races, when they could get the same t-shirt for running the 5k. Once I got to 6 miles, I thought it would be nuts for me to double it for the half-marathon. After finishing the half, I wonder what would ever possess a person to run a full marathon. Or an ultra-marathon.

Seriously. Those people are truly crazy. 

10. One thing that isn’t relative? Poop. There’s nothing that can derail a good run as quickly as poop. Poop doesn’t discriminate. Poop will shut you down. And I like to think that’s the case for runners of all distances.