Leaving Yinz Hanging

So, a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post before the culmination of three months of blood, sweat and tears (okay, maybe it wasn’t that intense).

In all seriousness, my last blog post was full of little victories and doubts. I was pleased with what I had accomplished, but I wasn’t sure if I would actually cross the finish line.

Spoiler alert: I did. And then I did it again. And for good measure, I crossed a 5K finish line one more time after that also. I got some hardware and some t-shirts, a lot of coupons for Eat’n Park and Dick’s Sporting Goods, and best of all, I lived to tell the tale!

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The spoils of my victories!

But while those victories were sweet, they didn’t last. Soon, I became an exercise-loathing couch potato once again. All it took was a cold winter, two capstone papers and Christmas cookies. It’s not even like I was a hard sell or something. It’s honestly kind of embarrassing.

So, full of sloth and sugar, I graduated from college, moved to a small town in order to start my first job post-graduation as a college campus missionary, and started living with a new roommate who did something wild.

She ran a 10 mile race. And tried to talk me into it.

I wasn’t having any of it. But I did drive her to Pittsburgh and cheer her on, along with some of our other friends who were running. And while I was there, I remembered how much fun it was to accomplish something like that, and receive “free” t-shirts, fun designed finisher medals, and the love received from people cheering you on. The pleasure senses from those memories triggered other memories, like all the health benefits I received from running. And how necessary they were.

It was in that moment that I knew I could spend the amount of money it would take to register for a half-marathon at a doctor’s office, and at the doctor’s office, I wouldn’t get a t-shirt, medal, a cheering crowd or runner’s high.

So, I registered for a half marathon and decided to resurrect my running blog.

As I looked at the title (“Three Miles to Glory”) and everything I posted about, I was filled with pride and accomplishment at a job well done. But I knew that for this one, I would need a new, bigger theme.

I mentioned that I’m a college campus missionary. Basically, this means that I evangelize on campus, inviting students to encounter the person of Jesus Christ in bible studies and in the Sacraments (spoiler: I’m Catholic). So, as I continue to work on my ongoing conversion as a missionary disciple of Jesus and bring college students with me, I thought it would be best to bring faith into this adventure this time.

And what story fits better for running a half-marathon than David and Goliath? If you need a refresher, tiny little David who barely fits into his brothers’ battle armor takes on Goliath, a giant Philistine whose army has been beating the Israelites forever, causing them much pain and grief. But with a faith that makes the armor he can barely fit into look small, David takes down Goliath. David’s faith is heroic and saves the Israelites from the Philistines, and it’s the kind of faith I knew I would need to pray with and ask for grace to receive to take on the challenge ahead of me.

It ended up being more fitting than I realized, too, because at the same time that I train for this half, I have decided to try to conquer my weight. See, I have this disease known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS. It really hasn’t been studied very much and there’s no cure, and when I was “diagnosed” in high school, the doctor just told me that all of my problems would be solved if I lost weight. Which I have tried several times over the course of my life with no success.

Well, I found out recently, thanks to some friends who also have the condition speaking out, that when you have PCOS, it’s actually much harder to lose weight than it is for other people. Wish that doctor would’ve told me that! So I started doing some research and educated myself on what a good diet for someone with PCOS is, and I’m excited to try it and see if it works! Coupled with exercise, I should know very soon if what I’m doing is effective.

The running was never about the weight, but about setting a goal and accomplishing it. And even though I am working on my weight issue, the running still isn’t about the weight. It’s about eating better and eating well, training hard, and looking for the small victories. And with David’s faith as my own, I know I’ll be crossing the finish line this May pleased with all that I have accomplished.

“Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down, and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and he will give you into our hand.'” – 1 Samuel 17:45-47, RSV Catholic Edition

113 Days Until the Half Marathon

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Pre-Race Reflection

The day has nearly arrived. I picked up my bib and t-shirt, finished up one last run, and am now am taking a step back to think about all the places I’ve been since I started this blog and preparing for this race. It’s definitely an interesting place to be.

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At first (and let’s be real, I still am) I was pretty nervous about running in the race tomorrow. I should be on Week 8, Day 3 of the Couch to 5K app I’ve been using to train for this race, but I just finished up Week 6, where I was supposed to run 22 minutes (or 2-1/4 mile) continuously. I made it 22 minutes, but that only translated into 1.8 miles, or about half of a 5K.

But then I was reminded that this is about counting the small victories. After all, the Arthur Ashe quote I began this whole adventure with was “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”

So, regardless of what happens tomorrow, whether I have to walk half the race or don’t even finish, this entire experience was a victory, because I had several small victories along the way.

1st Victory: I actually exercise now!

Yes, ladies and gents, I finally have peeled myself off of the couch and manage to get out to exercise. At my best, I was running every other day. At my worst, once or twice a week. But either way, I was still lapping historic Emily who, at this time last year, couldn’t remember the last time she hit the gym. If this is the only thing I’ve managed to do as a result of all of this, I can be satisfied with my experience trying to run a 5K.

2nd Victory: I have run much longer and farther than I ever did as a kid.

Remember when I said I dreaded running the mile? It’s because I could barely make it a tenth of a mile without falling over. If, at the age of 11 or 12, you came up to me and told me I would someday be running a 5K and train myself to run for twenty minutes without stopping, I would’ve laughed at you. Or, because my default is to assume that people are telling the truth at all times, I would’ve believed you and looked at you with wide eyes like “Whaaaaat? No way!” It would’ve motivated me to run about two tenths of a mile and then give up.

3rd Victory: I can see myself doing this for awhile

I think I finally found something I can stick with. It’s something I can do by myself (not quite confident enough to run with other people yet), that doesn’t necessarily involve me using a treadmill or other fitness machine while being forced to watch Kim Kardashian fret over her psoriasis* (now you know why I hate going to the gym), and I can set goals and watch myself achieve them. It’s easily measured and low-commitment, and all I need is a pair of shoes and some old clothes that can get gross and sweaty.

In short, I’m going to do my best to keep up with it.

So, yeah. I have been pretty victorious. This has been a challenging, but good journey. So we’ll see what happens tomorrow, and no matter what, I’m going to do my best to remember the small victories that occur, because they will occur.

1 day until the Great Race

Yes, I’m Still Running (and answers to other questions)

The following are the most popular questions I have been asked lately, ranked in no particular order:

  1. How’s your semester been so far? (context: I’m in college)
  2. What classes are you taking?
  3. Are you free to do [insert fun/not so fun thing here] at [insert time]?
  4. (A) Are you still running/(B) How’s your running going?

The answer to 4 is (A) Yes, I’m still running and (B) Behind schedule (and I’m not really that fast), but I’m making progress. I don’t know how much distance I cover, but I do know that I’m running for sixteen minutes total each time I run, with the longest span of time being five minutes. Much better than any time I had in elementary/middle/high school. And, at this time next week, I should be running twenty minutes straight. Don’t quite believe that’s possible yet, but if it happens, you betcha I’ll be having a celebratory beer/writing a celebratory blog post.

I know I haven’t exactly been doing the world’s greatest job of updating my blog. I can’t even say I haven’t had time – I’ve had nothing but time the entire month of August, I was just trying to be creative and couldn’t come up with any ideas for creative blog posts. Unfortunately, this is still true. So I’m just going to make up a bunch of questions and answer them.

What’s your favorite thing about running?

IMG_1797Honestly, the feeling after its over. Let’s be real – running while your feet ache and your side is screaming isn’t fun. But all that pain is worth the feeling of accomplishment and the endorphins when I’m laying on my living room floor after running. Also, sometimes I see really cool things. Like the sunset over Phipps Conservatory pictured to the left. If I didn’t run, and more importantly, if I didn’t run today, I wouldn’t have been outside to witness it.

What’s the hardest thing about running?

Running is basically a giant mind game. You have to convince yourself that it’s worth it, that you have the time, that you can get out there and run, and that you can keep going while you’re in the middle of it. I’ve found that this keeps getting harder and harder the longer I’ve been running, because I usually increase time every three runs (or whenever that app I’m using tells me to). Trying to beat my mind and actually get out there and run, and keep running when I’m supposed to has been the hardest part for sure.

What would you say to someone who wanted to start running?

Go for it! Take it slow, let yourself build gradual progress, celebrate your achievements and enlist the aid of people around you to help you beat your mind trying to tell you that you can’t do it, because you definitely can.

Will you keep running after the Great Race?

Definitely for at least a few weeks after the Great Race, because I’ll be running the Mario Lemieux 6.6K (#letsgopens) about three weeks after the Great Race (that’s 4.02 miles!). But I do hope to keep this up in the long term, because I do need to exercise and I kinda sorta want to maybe run a marathon someday.

Well, I think that’s all for now. Keep sending all your positive vibes (they’re working wonders, for real) and hopefully my next post will happen before the race! I can’t believe how close it is.

22 Days Until the Great Race

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

I’m still running, thanks to all of you.

No, I’m serious.

If I wasn’t writing these blog posts, talking to people who said they were trying to run again (or for the first time), or hearing encouragement, I probably would’ve given up at this point.

I hit “the wall” about a week ago, where walking to the Schenley Oval track got exhausting, running became more painful (#sidestitch), and I became frustrated. I skipped a running day (although in my defense, I washed my workout clothes and they were still wet) and last Wednesday, I didn’t want to get up and run. Yet, with some Grace given to me in my moment of need, I managed to get up and get going and had one of my best runs to date. So, in short, thank you so much for all the encouragement you’ve given me!

You might’ve noticed that the title of this blog post, “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends,” is completely lifted, word for word, from a Beatles song. As I’ve moved away from track running to trail running, as well as quitting the “4 weeks to 1 mile” program and starting the Couch to 5K app, I’ve started listening to music while I run. According to this article in Scientific American, there’s science to prove that listening to music while working out actually boosts performance and decreases one’s realization of things like pain and total distance run, among other (good) things.

So, as I think back to my runs this past week, I would also like to extend some thanks to my friends Jack Johnson and “Do You Remember,” Billy Joel and “Piano Man,” and Tenth Avenue North and “You Are More,” for the boosts I’ve been given while listening to said songs.

And, I’d like to apologize to a fellow runner for potentially having to listen to me belt out “Piano Man,” although I’m pretty sure you were far enough away to not be able to hear me. I’ll try to be more careful and make sure that no one is around me while I’m jamming.

Although the goal, of crossing the finish line at the Great Race, seems so far away and pretty impossible still, I know I’ll get there not totally by my own merit, but with all of you, God’s Grace, and a killer playlist.

55 Days Until the Great Race

Running in Circles

I’ve been “officially” training for the Great Race for 2 weeks! I can’t believe how time has flown, and I still can’t believe I’m doing this.

Especially because I feel like I haven’t gotten anywhere.

Tonight, as I finished off the last of my half mile runs, I collapsed on the turf and kind of did a cool-down stretch while really just trying not to move at all. I tried (sort of) a new breathing technique because I thought that would help me but still had trouble finishing my running distance as prescribed by the 4 weeks to 1 mile program, and I’ve had trouble the whole week. At the comparable time when I was running a quarter mile, I felt ready to move on to the next step.

At least the foot pain and shin splints have pretty much gone away, although they did get replaced with a side stitch (that’s the last time I eat cookies before running).

Those of you that know me in real life and know me well know that this is definitely frustrating me to no end. I set unrealistic expectations for myself and then expect myself to follow through with them, perfectly. I get upset when I don’t fit into a mold I create for myself based on what I think everyone is “obviously” doing, in an effort to be the best person possible solely based on external measures (read: This is bad.).

In short, I’m mad that this is where I am. And I’m also mad that my eating habits are still awful, that I likely haven’t lost any weight, and that this isn’t just happening naturally.

Yet, if you look at where I was two weeks ago and where I am now, the change is remarkable. I went from couch surfing in my living room, browsing Facebook, to running. Three times a week. Voluntarily! This change was inconceivable a month ago.

My wake up call to this reality came in a completely unrelated event. Long story short, I’m working on a research fellowship this summer and I e-mailed my faculty mentor to update him on my progress. I was working on my project today and was frustrated that I didn’t find what I was looking for, and wanted to let him know that I was still looking for this one last detail that would send my project over the top.

He e-mailed me back and asked me what I could possibly be looking for, then reminded me of what I was trying to do in the first place, and I realized that I have almost done what I set out to do in the first place. I lost sight of it in trying to create something bigger and better and perfect, by comparing my work to that of the other fellows in the program, many who have been working on their projects (in a wide variety of disciplines different from mine) for longer than this summer.

I mulled over this as I ran in literal circles tonight (no really, I run on an outdoor track), and thought about how many times I’ve done that to myself over the course of my life. Nearly everything I’ve tried to do I’ve gotten frustrated with myself because I didn’t hit my perceived (usually unrealistic) goal, and because I compared myself to other people around me.

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The point I’m trying to make is that we all need a reality check sometimes, and we need to be reminded that we are where we’re supposed to be. We should never seek to remain complacent, but we should also never compare ourselves to other people in that process. The only person we have to beat each day is the person we were the day before. No one else.

The reality is that I just started exercising two weeks ago, and the fact that I can run a half mile in that time (not all in one fell swoop, but with some walking in between) is pretty great. And that I am trying to slowly implement healthy eating habits (obtaining healthy food was a good start). Maybe I’m not seeing “results,” but they’ll come in time. After all, the shin splints and foot pain went away, so I’m sure other things will change as well.

Also, the reality is that while these results (or the apparent lack thereof) make it seem like I’m running in circles, I’m really not. And I’m not in a lot of areas of my life.

I bet you aren’t either, even if you feel like you are. Take a look at reality. I’m sure you’ll see some things to change, but I’m also sure you’ll see some things you’re doing a great job at.

Give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it.

66 Days Until the Great Race

 

 

An Open Letter of Apology to My Body

Dear Body,

I’d give you a lengthy introduction of who I am, but you already know me. We’ve had a relationship of varying sorts for the past twenty-one years. I think it’s pretty safe to say that our relationship could’ve been a lot better, and for that, I’d like to apologize.

I’m sorry that I’ve deprived you of sleep in the name of progress, that I’ve left you wanting for a meal known as breakfast on numerous occasions, and that, quite frequently, in the place of fruits and vegetables, I’ve consumed ice cream and expected you to perform at your best when I did all of that. Plus, to make it worse, I’ve put you down through it all and told you time and time again that you weren’t good enough.

You could say that I’m only saying all of this now because I’ve started using you in a completely different way, and you aren’t prepared. This is true. Every lap I take where my feet scream out in pain and my shins ache, I think about all the terrible things I’ve done to you over the years.

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Therefore, I’d like to put forth this statement of purpose. I will try my best, from here on out, to not judge the way you look. Additionally, I will give you the adequate rest you need and fuel you with good food that will help us accomplish this new goal of mine.

You’ll have to give me a little bit of time, because I do still have to eat the food I have from when I had poor eating habits. But soon, you’ll see that we’ll accomplish more than we already have because I’m going to treat you right.

I know we can cross the finish line of that Great Race together, bod (is it okay if I shorten your name like that?). I just need you to hang in there with me, and try your best to stop aching every time I run.

I’m sorry for everything I’ve done. I’ll take care of you now, I promise.

Love,

Emily

76 days until the Great Race

Thunder, Lightning, Shin Splints and Foot Pain

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“Why is the ground wet?” I thought to myself as I walked out of the Cathedral of Learning to catch the bus back to my apartment. I couldn’t remember rain being part of the forecast, because I had checked. I was debating starting training in the indoor track on campus because our volleyball game got rained out the night previous (Pittsburgh has a nasty reputation for raining constantly).

But, my research showed that it was just going to be cloudy, so I didn’t plan to run on the indoor track. As I waited for the bus, I debated trekking up the hill to the field house, but saw the blue sky peeking through the clouds in the direction I was headed and figured it would be okay. Walking to the outdoor track in Schenley Park would be quicker anyways, and I was hungry. I was already delaying dinner so that I wouldn’t eat before I ran, and I didn’t want to delay it any longer.

I put on my new running shoes (Saucony Cohesion 9’s, or, the cheapest pair I could find at Dick’s Sporting Goods 😉 . But they still got good reviews.) and walked out the door in the direction of the park. I was a little nervous because the sky looked particularly foreboding in some places still (pictured above), and I wasn’t in the mood to get rained on. Convinced that I would be fine because the sky was still blue where I was headed, I kept walking.

I didn’t see many people on the way, which wasn’t helping my internal dialogue at all, but eventually I made it up the hill to the outdoor track and gulped.

“It sure as heck looked a lot smaller when I came here just to walk the other day,” I thought. “I’m going to run around this four times without stopping by the time I’m done with this workout program?” (I decided to start with 4 weeks to a mile to build some endurance. By the time I’m done, I’ll have about 8 weeks until the race which most Couch to 5K programs recommend as the length of time to train.)

I set my water and keys down next to the track, picked the lane closest to the middle and did a couple weak stretches before I turned to look at the track in front of me.

“I really hope it doesn’t start pouring down rain,” I thought, as thunder rolled in the distance.

Then I started running. The first week is running 1/16th of a mile, then walking 3/16ths of a mile, alternating until a mile is reached. These weird measurements are why I’m using a track, so that it’s less to keep track of (haha. no pun intended) because I know that 1/4th of a lap is 1/16th of a mile, so I don’t have to look at my phone constantly to keep track of the distance or time, I can just run/walk.

Overall, it went really well! I’m a little concerned because I didn’t feel super tired afterwards (although I am really sweaty), but I don’t think I’ll increase before I’m supposed to because a) there’s no need to rush and b) my shin splints reappeared. I had them at the end of the Spring semester because I decided it would be a great idea to wear my high top Converse to basketball class (they give you street cred, but they aren’t the greatest shoes to run around in). Additionally, despite my new running shoes that fit really well and have great traction and everything, I still had some foot pain.

I finished my laps and sat on the turf, drank some water, took a victory Snapchat, then started walking home because the clouds got more ominous. When I got home, it was drizzling and I could see lightning and, once I got in my house, thankfully, it poured down rain. Had I decided to go to the indoor track, I probably would’ve been stuck in it at some point. And been very, very hungry.

Overall, I’m still in awe that I’m doing this. I imagine it’ll wear off eventually, and that it’ll be hard to get myself out the door to run, especially as I start increasing the length of time that I run each time.

Oh well. No pain, no gain!

80 days until the Great Race

Here’s How It Happened

“Hey Angie, I think I’m going to run a 5K,” I said to my roommate, as we both sat in our chairs at the dining room table. “You wanna run it with me?”

Next thing I knew, I registered both of us for the Richard S. Caliguiri City of Pittsburgh Great Race (they have a great deal if you register two people at the same time). But the idea didn’t begin at our dining room table.

13557759_10204876902641432_6141966759262192253_nWhen I was younger, I was conditioned to loathe running. As an overweight kid whose best sport was softball because it involved a lot of standing and waiting for thirty seconds of exertion at a time, the annual Presidential Fitness Test in elementary school and Friday mile runs in middle school were nightmares. I was always one of the slowest kids in my class, and I never really improved my times. I either maintained or got worse as the semester dragged on.

High school P.E. was a welcome respite from running the mile (three times in two years!), and when I finished my required years of P.E., I breathed a sigh of relief. There was no one who would make me run again!

Yet, I still found myself surrounded by people who subjected themselves to what I perceived as torture for fun. I even became friends with some of these people! I thought they were insane and often told them that I was not into running.

Yet, at the end of every marathon, half-marathon, relay race, personal record topped, you name it, they were happy. They were amazed at what they did and didn’t regret the choice to do it.

The idea of running swirled around in my head. I even considered starting last summer and googled a route. But I wasn’t quite convinced yet. I was lacking personal experience (and shoes that didn’t make my feet hurt).

So, last Wednesday, I happened to find myself playing a pick-up Ultimate Frisbee game, which involved quite a bit of running. The game itself was five minutes long, but it was the most I had ran in a long time. I played volleyball afterwards also, and the combined physical activity left me tired and sweaty, but I felt great. Probably the best I felt in weeks.

I started thinking that I should play Ultimate Frisbee more often, but then as I was laying on my grandparents’ couch a couple days later thinking about all sorts of random things, the thought crossed my mind.

“Why not run a 5K?”

I knew the Great Race was coming up, so I googled it when I got home, had that conversation with my roommate about running it, registered, asked for help training, and, of course, posted on Facebook that I registered to run a 5K, because it is a fairly unexpected thing for someone like me to do.

The response was overwhelmingly positive, and I was offered lots of encouragement. To be honest, I didn’t expect that many people to care. But I’m really glad that they do. It’ll help motivate me as September draws closer.

So, I’ve been walking for the past couple days in an effort to actually start exercising, and I’ll start “official” training on Thursday, beginning with 4 weeks to running a mile (because I never was able to do that). I’ll talk about my experiences here on this blog (good, bad and ugly), and we’ll see what has happened when I cross the finish line in September.

Here’s to a future where running is appreciated and not loathed.

82 Days Until the Great Race