“Mile six. Mile seven. Mile eight. I was still running. “~Melissa Drye
By: Melissa Drye
For starters, I am not a runner. I essentially hate to run. I have a love-hate relationship with running that began in elementary school, when I was forced to run as part of various sports teams. The furthest I’ve ever run is four miles. I am a self-described “fair weather” runner. I run when it is greater than 55 degrees and I don’t run in the rain (I won’t even head out if it looks like it might rain). I have always had cold-induced asthma, so I sound like a heavy smoker when I run.
So when my very sweet coworker, Jenn, asked me if I would train for a half-marathon with her in November, my go-to answer was, no. Absolutely not. It’s winter. I can’t run. It’s cold. I can’t breathe in the cold. I would hibernate in the winter if I could. But I couldn’t tell her that. So I told her that I would see if I could figure out my breathing. If I could figure out my breathing, I would train with her. I highly doubted we would be “figuring out my breathing”, but winter is my slowest time of the year so using the excuse that I didn’t have time, wasn’t exactly viable. And, if we’re being perfectly honest, all I do every winter is eat and get fat.
So I went to another coworker, Laura who is a super star marathon runner and asked her for advice. She told me I should try a “Buff” which she described as a sort of neck warmer. She gave me a couple of places I could purchase one. I walked away from our conversation positive that a neck warmer was not going to solve my breathing problems. I picked one up a couple of days later, armed with the training outline that Jenn had provided me and my new Buff. I headed out on my first run. And I ran. And I could breathe.
After the first few weeks, my age-old friend, the shin splint started. I have battled shin splints for years, but they resolved when a sports massage therapist recommended that I run in Vibrams. They look silly, but I literally have not had shin splints since I started running in them a few years ago. My current Vibrams are summer weight, complete with a mesh top. They weren’t going to cut it in New England winters. So I purchased insulated, winter Vibrams. Although the shin splints stopped hurting while I ran and semi-resolved, they did interrupt my training a couple of times.
We got several weeks into the training plan and started to look at half-marathons to sign up for. Jenn signed up first. I was tentative. I wanted to make sure I could run at least half the distance before I signed up. Then if I couldn’t run the whole thing, I could alternate, walking a mile, running a mile for the duration. I finally signed up with just a couple of weeks left.
I picked up some good running friends along the way. Amy, is a particular friend who has motivated me. She has a bunch of marathons under her belt, has an inspiring story and is game for whatever I need to do to train. She did my first ten mile run with me and my fastest four miles. Kim, my neighbor and I, have gotten to know one another better through this experience. She has done a fair amount of training, and cross training with me.
The week prior to the race, I was making my plan. Picking up Gu (I have a ridiculously sensitive stomach and Gu has been successful for me in the past. I was sticking with the tried and true). On Amy’s recommendation, I carb loaded two days out and protein loaded the day prior.
That morning, we headed down to the half-marathon. I picked up Kim and Jenn. It was important for me to be there early enough to drive the course so I knew where I was going (huge mental thing for me). We all discussed our plans on the drive and ate up bagels. I wanted to run 12 minute miles with a goal of completing the race in two and a half hours. Jenn wanted to finish and not get all caught up with all the people running in the beginning and get thrown off her pace. Kim was aiming for two hours which would be a PR for her and did not want to use the porta potty during the race. We arrived early enough to drive the course.
We all got dressed and headed to the starting line. Jenn and Kim went to use the restroom one more time. I stretched and started my music. There were a lot of people there. We lined up with the twelve minute milers. I lost Kim and Jenn immediately but was really focused on watching my Garmin and maintaining my twelve minute miles, which I did fantastically. For that, I was really proud of myself. Between mile four and five, I started to get a little tired. I ate my first Gu. At mile five, my battery in my phone died and I lost my music. I kept on chugging.
Mile six. Mile seven. Mile eight. I was still running. I could not believe it. I had only walked a few steps at each water stop to drink some water or Gatorade and kept on running. At mile eight I got cold. It had been raining, sleeting or snowing through the whole race. I was now cold and wet, and running was not keeping me warm enough. And my feet were squishing. Mile 9. I was getting tired again. I ate my second Gu and kept on chugging. I could feel my underwear starting to rub – but I wasn’t stopping then and there was nothing I could do about it.
Uphill. It was my slowest mile but I kept going. I couldn’t feel my legs from the knees down. I knew that would have to improve or I wouldn’t be able to pick up the pace for the last two miles downhill to the finish. It did. I hit the 11th mile and picked up the pace. I got a little lightheaded around mile 12 and thought, “I can’t pass out now!” People were walking. Cramped up. I started picking them off. Passed the 13 mile marker. 0.1 to go!! I was sprinting then….I finished like a freight train. My last mile was my fastest – 10:40. I finished in 2:33.
Jenn and Kim were waiting for me. Jenn finished in 2:18 – a PR for her. Kim made it in 2:13 – not her best day, but she was happy with it. I got my medal and a Powerade and we made our way to the car and to my dear friend Brooke’s, for a much needed hot shower. Brooke is a fellow runner and was completely understanding and accommodating to us. I can’t thank her enough!
Thank you Jenn, for thinking of me. I would not have done this on my own, but I am glad to say that I did. I am stronger and fitter and did not gain a single pound over the winter.
I am a “when I have a goal” runner. I am the busy mom of two, Jason, 8, and Ethan, 6, a wife, owner of a farm with cows and horses, a fulltime pharmacist. I also sit on the school board at my children’s school, am a board member of UVDART and volunteer teacher for 4 Winds Nature Institute. So I run when I have a good goal =)