Why My 6th Half Marathon Was the Best and Worst Run of My Life

Alright.

It’s been two weeks, I think it’s time to talk about it.

Back in April I wrote a blog post telling you guys I was training for my sixth half marathon and that Caitlyn (my running buddy) and I set our first time goal. Our fastest time for finishing a half marathon was two hours and 20 minutes, and this time around we wanted to finish in two hours and 15 minutes.

May 21st rolled around and we found ourselves at the starting line and eventually crossing the finish line BUT…it was the worst run I’ve ever been on, but the lesson I learned from it is why it was also the best race of my life.

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Here’s a rare photo of me smiling out on the course, clearly it was before I thought I was going to die.

We didn’t finish in two hours and 15 minutes, but we did finish in two hours and 18 minutes which means we still broke a personal record, just not the one that we wanted. On the bright side, our splits were pretty impressive compared to our other races. Our first two miles were under 10 minutes and for the rest of the race we remained pretty consistent, staying between 10:06 and 10:30. So that’s not exactly why it was a flop. 

Let me start off by saying, I didn’t train properly for this race and man my body was not very forgiving out there on the course! I’m typically really strict with myself when it comes to a training schedule but this time around I had more on my plate than I could balance. Between my wisdom teeth removal, finishing the last month of my college career, graduation and the attention required for car shopping and moving to another state…well let’s just say my runs were very far apart and not very long at all. In fact, the farthest I ran in my training was 7 miles, which isn’t very close to running 13.1 miles.

During the first two miles, all I could think about was how long this race was going to be. I knew I would finish, but I also knew I wasn’t going to finish feeling strong. I ended up being right, but that mindset didn’t provide any kind of help for me.

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By mile five my ankles and feet were starting to hurt, which for me is a really bad sign considering that pain doesn’t kick in until usually mile 10. As soon as I noticed the pain I thought “Well aren’t we in quite the pickle?” And I’m allergic to pickles, so it didn’t end well.

Nonetheless I kept running as fast as my body would let me and while it was tough, I didn’t get a taste of just how impossible finishing seemed until mile 10.

It was a downhill slope and I crashed to the bottom.

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I think Caitlyn was happy enough for the both of us when I started crashing!

Usually Caitlyn hits a wall at mile 10 and I cheer her on for the remaining 3.1 miles to the finish line, but the roles reversed this time. She had the big smile on her face and I had the scowl.

My entire body hurt and with every step I took I felt the urge to vomit growing stronger. I was angry and incredibly disappointed with myself for not following through with my training plan. For the last three miles I was telling myself I could do this on one step, and that I couldn’t with the next.

I’d like to say crossing the finish line put a smile on my face, but it didn’t. It only made me more annoyed because I realized I didn’t break the PR I wanted and I knew it was my own fault.

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Can you tell I was dying and Caitlyn was fine?

What made this even more difficult to swallow was everyone waiting for us at the finish line. Usually the only person waiting for me is my dad, but, two of my friends and my boyfriend were there this time as well.

There’s something more unsettling about failing in front of other people as opposed to failing when no one’s watching. I’m embarrassed to say it, but this gave me even more of an attitude and made me feel annoyed that they were there.

I just want to make this point so we all understand how unreasonable I was being. These are people that have never made me feel that I needed to impress them. They have always accepted me at exactly where I was. Did any of them care that we finished in 2 hours and 18 minutes? Obviously not. They were just excited to be there supporting us and thought we were total badasses.

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Look at my friends not caring that I didn’t run as fast as I said I was going to!running a half marathon, never-mind six of them!

I was a little snippy with everyone for a while. This is awful, but I didn’t even thank them for coming until 20 minutes after crossing the finish line. After we ate I perked up the tiniest bit and was tolerable to be around again.

Sorry for being a jerk, friends. I love you for showing up on race day and every other day.

I’m still so embarrassed about my time that I’ve put off writing this. But I learned a huge lesson from this last race.

Not every run is going to be a success. They won’t all leave me feeling new again and ready to take on the world. Expecting every run to be better than the last is just setting myself up for failure at some point. Instead, you should expect to always show up and work your absolute hardest and give it your all. Life happens and it can get in the way of training.

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Check out that sweet medal!

Running is hard sometimes, and so is life. What I experienced during this race was incredibly human. I did the best I could at that point and I still finished with a PR.

It’s necessary to be disappointed in ourselves sometimes. You learn an incredibly important lesson from it and it’ll make you work even harder the next time around. So don’t be afraid to fail, okay?

Get out there and give it your all. No matter if you fail or succeed, you’ll grow either way. That’s what life’s about. Don’t forget that.

Well that’s all I’ve got for you today! Stay connected with me on Twitter and Instagram so you can watch me win and fail, sometimes with grace and sometimes without it.

Talk to you guys soon!

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The Superhero Half Marathon

If you told me when I was in high school, or even four years ago for that matter, that I would become obsessed with running and that I’d run a half marathon I would literally laugh in your face and call you crazy and proceed to skip gym class. I am so uncoordinated and off-balanced I almost have no business running, but I do it anyway.

Here I am though with not one but five half marathons under my belt, all of which I’ve ran in a year and a half time span which is super crazy and I’m really proud of.

What’s even more exciting than that is I’m doing it all over again for a sixth time! Caitlyn and I are running Morristown’s Superhero Half Marathon on May 21st. Seriously, we love you Morristown and you’re our favorite place to run. This is an exciting one because it’s my last race in New Jersey before I finally move to Florida (another blog post for another time!). 10294484_1000010790063606_1491567970831890772_n

This is my last race with Caitlyn for a while. Probably until we run our first full marathon during Disney’s marathon weekend in 2019, so we’re going all out for this one. We’ll be sporting super cute and sassy Popflex outfits and for the first time ever we’re setting a time goal! We finished out last half marathon in two hours and 20 minutes. This time around we want to get to the finish line in two hours and 15 minutes. All we have to do is hold about 10:15 pace per mile which sounds like no big deal right?

Wrong! Here’s why:

Race day is less than five weeks away and I’ve hardly trained aside from my usual three to four mile runs three to four times a week. Bad Kerry.

There have been some setbacks in the training period this time around.

  1. I’m in my last semester of college (!) and that alone has been the biggest time sucker for various reasons that make my head spin.
  2. I had my wisdom teeth removed! It was tragic and awful and kept me from running for two and a half weeks. I have no pain tolerance and have never had any kind of procedure/surgery before so I pulled out all the theatrics for the occasion

I’m sharing this with you for accountability purposes of course. I can’t skimp out on trying when I’m telling you all my goal.

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The face of a runner that held race-day pace for 5 miles!

Since race day is rapidly approaching I added an awesome countdown on my side bar so we can count down together! Feel free to message me something like “Hey, enough of the Cadbury chocolate! You have 10 days until race day!” or “Run like your student loans are chasing you!” or “If you hit your time goal I’ll buy you Hamilton tickets!” at your leisure.

I especially like that last one. While I’m out there running like my life depends on it, someone please make that happen.

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Finding the Perfect Training Plan

The most confusing part of training for a half marathon for me was picking a training plan. I thought it was going to be as easy as googling “half marathon training plans” and I’d be out on the road running in no time. But to my dismay, there were a million plans that came up and none of them seemed identical. They were complicated and intimidating, telling me to run 20 minutes at a 10:20 pace, run for 3 minutes, walk for 1 minute and finish off strong by riding a unicycle for the last mile upside down using your hands.

Okay, I’m lying about that last part. But they might as well have said that because it was all the same to me! My eyes rolled to the back of my head, I fell over and died right there and that’s it.

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My brain when looking at training plans.

Just kidding again. I’m alive and well.

I eventually figured it out, but it took an entire afternoon of sifting through training plan after training plan and a migraine. I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the thought of following any of these and I felt completely out of my league. If you have no idea what you’re doing (me, anytime I do anything), just looking at all the plans out there can be very discouraging and might even be the reason why you quit before you even start! And that’s total B.S. to me. Just deciding to get out there and run and try to form a habit when being active has never been part of your life before is hard enough, there’s no need for training plans to screw that up.

But have no fear, I’m going to make this real simple for you because I just want you to get out there and start running without being discouraged.

Before you start looking at training plans there are a few things you should consider:

  • Do I have a time goal for race day?
  • Is my goal just to cross the finish line?
  • How far can I run comfortably right now?

When I decided that I was going to start training for a half marathon I was already capable of running three miles. I spent an incredibly boring amount of time on the elliptical to help me build enough aerobic endurance to make that a possibility. I knew I didn’t want to have a time goal for race day, which would actually make picking a training plan simple for me after I looked at every training plan on the planet. I ended up committing to this 12 week training plan for beginner runners from halfmarathons.net:

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What I loved about this plan was that it was fool (Kerry) proof. There was literally no way I could screw up. I just had to put one foot in front of the other. I could feel out my pace during the week and build up my endurance for the long runs at the end of the week. The other great thing about this training plan is there’s no cross-training ingrained into it, which is great for those of us that don’t have a gym membership or a bike (especially those of us that crash into things on bike rides).

You can switch around what days are your rest days, but it’s incredibly important to make sure you only run three days in a row without a rest day and that you also have a rest day the day after your long run. Trust me, your body will need it! Don’t be stupid like me and try to run four miles the day after you ran 12. If you’re in the same place I was before training for my first half marathon and you don’t have a time goal, I highly recommend this plan. It doesn’t get more simple than this!

Halfmarathons.net is the only place I recommend new runners to go to when it’s time to start training because they make it SO easy. Depending on how new you are to running and how far in advance you want to start training, they have individualized plans lasting from eight to 20 weeks long. They’re completely straightforward and a life-saver to beginner runners. Seriously, zero brain power is necessary to follow it.

If you are completely new to running, running coach Matt Forsman created the perfect training plan for you on Competitor. If you’re unsure if you’re able to run three miles at the beginning of training or want to incorporate cross-training throughout your training, this is the plan for you! Matt incorporated cross-training twice a week to build up your aerobic endurance without making you or your joints feel like you died and it can keep you from getting bored.

There are a lot of snobby runners out there that think they’re too good to cross-train when they’re training for a race. Don’t be one of them! I had that mentality when I first started running, but there’s no shame in cross-training. I thought I wasn’t earning that medal if I didn’t run the entirety of my training. That simply isn’t true and it doesn’t make you any less of a runner.

I’ve made a million mistakes when it comes to running and I’ve done a lot of stupid things, so I hope I can help prevent you from making the same ones through these blog posts. So go through all of these training plans and pick the one that aligns with your goals and let me know which one you chose below!

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13.1 Reasons Why You Should Run a Half Marathon

Deciding to register for a half marathon when you’ve never ran one before and your version of exercise is getting up to check if anything new has appeared in the fridge is understandably intimidating. But despite what the fear inside your head is telling you, running a half marathon is an achievable goal. 

In case you still need convincing here are 13.1 of my favorite reasons why half marathons are the best:

  1. The Training Won’t Consume Your Entire Life

Don’t get me wrong, training for a half marathon is quite the commitment. But compared to the typical 16-20 week training period for a full marathon, most half marathon training plans are only 12 weeks long. Even better, it only starts to become slightly more time consuming during the last three to four weeks when your long runs get really long and your recovery runs aren’t just three miles anymore.  

  1. Your Bank Account Won’t Curse You

This might be the best part about training for college students (or anyone that’s on a tight budget!). While you do need to put in the effort and time into training for a half marathon, it’s fairly inexpensive. Aside from the $30-$100 registration fee (the earlier you register, the cheaper it’ll be) and $50-$120 running shoes there’s no recurring fee that comes along with training for a half-marathon. Who needs a gym membership when you can just lace up your shoes and enjoy the outdoors while getting your training run in? Trust me, it’s way more exciting than running on a treadmill!

  1. Athletic Wardrobe Upgrade

My favorite reason of them all! You’ll be exercising five times a week when training for a half marathon. That means you need at least 5 outfits you can work out in depending how often you do laundry. While completely unnecessary, training for a half marathon is a perfect reason to update your athletic wardrobe if this is something you are going to see through. As the number of races I’ve run has grown, so has the number (and quality!) of athletic wear I own.

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Only check out Popflex’s Instagram if you want to look cute out on the course!
  1. Aerobic Endurance of Steel

If there’s another type of person that has better aerobic endurance than a half marathoner or marathoner, I’d love to talk (and potentially work out) with them. When you’re out there running five times a week and increasing your mileage for 12 weeks there’s no getting around that increase of aerobic endurance! This increase is valuable because it will translate to any other workout you do. That H.I.I.T (high intensity interval training) workout your friend wants you to do with them might seem scary but you’ll make it through. You’ll even recover much faster than you would if you weren’t a runner!

  1. The Racing Environment

Some days you might not enjoy running out there by yourself. Come race day you’ll be surrounded by hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of runners that share the same excitement, passion and motivation you have. The energy at the starting line, out on the course and across the finish line is unlike anything you’ll experience. I’ve finished races faster than I expected just because I was oblivious to the fact that I was running. There was just too much excitement going on around me!

  1. Just the Right Amount of Exhausting

Half marathons are awesome because once you’ve finished those 13.1 miles you’re exhausted but you’re not destroyed. You’ll definitely be sore, tired and in need of food and a nap but you should be fully recovered in a day or two compared to the week of recovery you might need after running a full marathon! What’s even better is your recovery time shortens with each half marathon you train for and complete.

  1. I’m Just Here for the Bling

There is no motivation to get to the finish line like thinking about the awesome medal that’s waiting for you! Hobbling around and showing it off for the rest of the day is one of the most awesome feelings you’ll ever experience. The bigger and more popular the race, the bigger the medal! My first half marathon was the Iron Girl Half Marathon in Clearwater, Florida back in 2015 and the only thing better than the race itself was the awesome medal. Look at how cute it is! It’s still my favorite.IMG_2150

  1. Self-Esteem

Nothing has built my confidence like getting through those long runs and then crossing the finish line, especially as someone that grew up with ZERO athletic experience. If someone told me in high school during all those awkward and uncomfortable days in gym class that I would run even one half marathon I would have thought they were just mocking me.

  1. There’s No Party like a Post-Race Party

Running a 5k or even a 10k is fun, but it’s not that big of a deal. Half marathons are a bigger accomplishment. Waiting to celebrate at the finish line is typically a DJ,  free food and samples of protein bars and supplements. You’ll find all sorts of stuff you’ll want to stuff in your bag before you limp back to your car.

  1. Not Many People Have This Accomplishment

When you’re at the starting line for a race it might feel like the whole world is there and you’re going to be trampled and left in the dust. But much to your surprise it’s actually a much smaller number. According to Running USA only 1,986,600 people in the United States completed a half marathon in 2015. That may sound like a lot but compared to the more than 300 million people that live in the United States it’s hardly even a fraction! Being part of that small number is a crazy accomplishment. Getting to be part of the even smaller number of people that have run multiple half marathons is even crazier!

  1. Calories on Fire!

This has never been an important part of training for me, and it shouldn’t be for you either. Regardless of your motivation, you are obviously going to burn more calories than you did before you started training. You’ll notice the number on the scale going down the further you get into your training.

  1. 13.1 miles of the Rock Star Treatment

Like I said earlier, those long training runs can get tedious and  boring when you’re out there by yourself. On race day this will be totally different. You get 13.1 miles of people you don’t even know cheering you on and empowering you to the finish line, and you’ll feel like a total rock star!

  1. V.A.C.A.T.I.O.N.

Since my lifestyle is still “broke-college student” and is about to transition to “broke graduate paying back student loans” I’ve only run local races. They’re convenient and inexpensive. But for those of you with a little more wiggle room in your budget, signing up for a half marathon in another city or state can be turned into a mini weekend getaway. New Orleans, Boston, Chicago, Disney…the possibilities are endless! Just keep in mind you’re running 13.1 miles at the end of it, so don’t do anything too crazy while you’re there.

13.1 The “I Just Crossed the Finish Line” Feeling

The coolest part of the whole process is crossing the finish line and seeing all of your hard work and dedication pay off. You just ran 13.1 miles, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish! Like eating an entire pizza afterwards, for example. And yes…by yourself.IMG_2151