Sunday, May 6, 2012


This blog post is going to be a stream of consciousness type entry, so I apologize in advance if it is hard to follow.

As some of you  may know, I started running last January.  Prior to that I had never run more than a few steps at a time.  I don't even remember doing any running in school - in fact, I joined swimming in high school to avoid the general PE class that would have required running.  In January, I made a resolution that I wanted to run one 5k and walk a half marathon.  I started out with no clue what I was doing... I would run as fast as I could for as long as I could.  

Then, I ran my first race in February and I did okay... my time was much better than I expected and I didn't come in last.   So, I signed up for a few more races... some 5ks and a 10k.   Then in June, I ran a really small trail run and came in as the first overall female.  This was probably the "worst" thing that could have happened to me.  You see, I never took up running to be competitive.  I had zero faith in myself, I didn't think I would ever have even a chance of placing at a race.  That race stirred the competitive spirit and me.  I started pushing myself to run harder and faster. 

At this time I had decided to take a half marathon class to keep me on track with training to "walk/run" the Fort 4 Fitness Half Marathon.  When I started the class though, I decided... heck, why not run as much of it as I can.  My fitness progressed and I was doing better than I expected.  So, mentally I set a really tough goal for myself for that race - I wanted to run a sub 2 hour half marathon.  I knew this was probably a bit of a stretch for me.  I mean, even 8 months ago I would have been happy to just finish in the 4 hour.  Yet, when I crossed the finish line in 2:01 and some change I was heartbroken.   I HAD to prove I could break 2 hours.  

Luckily, I had another half planned for the next month.  My body had other plans for me though, the day after the F4F half my foot started bothering me.  I was diagnosed with peroneal tendonitis and told to rest.  So, when it came time for St Louis RnR half, I had no clue if I would even be able to run.  However, I decided to give it a go - obviously I didn't come away with a PR because I hadn't really run much in the last month.  I ran around a 2:10 - but I was still happy with that given the crowds and the course. 

I came home even more determined - so I decided to sign up for the Veterans Half in November.  I didn't really post much about it. I kept it low key.  I went that morning and did really well for the first 6 miles.  Then I started faltering, so I decided to do a walk/run interval and posted a huge PR.  Not only that - I finally broke 2 hours.  I was in tears as I crossed the finish line in 1:56 and some change.  I finally felt like I was making progress as a runner.

I don't know where the arbitrary sub-2 hour goal to make me feel good enough came from.  But, it felt great to accomplish it.  I spent much of the winter maintaining my fitness through running challenges and such.  Come spring, I had big expectations for myself.  I mean, I had been running 4-5 months longer than I had in November - I should be able to perform better right?

Not the case.  My first showing at a long distance event I missed my goal, then I ran Oak Barrel and I finished in about 2:20.  I chalk that one up to the hills and not being properly trained for that, so I tried not to let it get me down. Fast forward to this weekend, I was set to run the Indy Mini.  Now, I have been having some foot pain, so I didn't expect that I would PR, but I was still expecting to do well.  I was expecting I could finish in 2:10.  

I went out strong, then it started - my foot started hurting.  From there it all went downhill.   Now, I know that part of the issue with my time is actually my injury.  However, there is a part of me that wonders if I didn't let myself use the injury as a crutch.  I mean, yes.. it hurt, but people run in pain all the time.  What made me different?  Why did I fall apart mentally the minute I started hurting?  And, once I walked the first time .. where was the strength to keep going after I started running again?    It's almost like I am letting my expectations, my desires for success be overwhelmed by my sense of self doubt.  I crossed the finish line in Indy at 2:22:31.  

I almost wish I had never run a 1:56 because now I expect that I should be able to run that time for all my events.  Obviously, your expectations are going to be based on what you are capable of.  If I didn't know I was capable of faster, I would probably be happy with a 2:22.  I mean, really... its a respectable time for a half marathon.  I think anyone that finishes a half marathon is a rock star.  Yet, I expect more of myself.

I am extremely proud of the 5 half marathons I have completed.  I am proud that I have signed up to run a full marathon in December.  I am proud that I am not letting these stumbling blocks stop me, but I really want to get back to where I know I could be running.  I think the key to that is balancing my expectations, realistic expectations, and mental toughness. 

Anyone have any tips for developing mental toughness?  
Once it gets tough I have a hard time pushing myself.  That's not to say I quit,  because I don't.  But, I will allow myself to walk when I probably don't need to because I don't have the confidence to push through moments of weakness I guess.  

(coming up this week  - a better recap of Indy Mini)

ETA:  Don't get me wrong, I am so happy with how I have done thus far, I am just struggling with the back-sliding I am dealing with.  I am still grateful for the ability to complete these runs. 


  1. I don't think the issue is mental toughness, per se, but running through injury. I think that you can do a 1:56 half marathon. Actually, I think you have a faster one in you. However, I think you might be picking too many races for the sake of racing. I think you need to take a step back, address any physical problems and then take on a training plan. And train for a single "A" race. Sure, have a few fun runs in there but nothing to stress you.

  2. It's normal...You have to be realistic and realize that every race isn't going to be a PR. You're a human, not a robot and things happen.

    You might want to see about joining a pace group for a race. Running with a group of other runners all shooting for the same finish time - maybe that will be enough to keep you competitive and pushing yourself.

  3. Distance running takes years to get good at! You need to cut yourself some slack and give yourself a lot more credit for your amazing progress. But really, it's going to take you a while to improve with distance running, which is how it Should be.