Guest Blog: Lessons From a First-time Half Marathoner

If you told me nine months ago I would run a half marathon in February, I would have laughed in your face! I was not a “runner.” I could barely run 2 miles and I certainly did not enjoy it.

Last June, Running for Brews (RFB) started advertising a “run and drink beer club” at our local brewery, Four Stacks Brewing Company. I like beer, I wanted to meet people in our new town, and I knew I had to do something to become more active, so I started run/walking my way to 3 miles once a week.

My mini running partner. My 7 year old (now 8) encourages me and now runs all of my 5k’s with me.

Every Wednesday night, I’d leave my sweet family and head out for the torture run. And you know what? Somewhere along the way I began to really enjoy those weekly runs! I looked forward to meeting new people and having a little “me time” during the week. I slowly saw progress in my time and eventually was able to run all 3 miles without walking.

Some of the people I met were moms and they were part of another running group, Moms Run This Town (MRTT). Seriously, I never knew running was a “thing” and I certainly had no idea there were groups of crazy, supportive people that regularly wake up before the sun to run together. That’s why lesson #1 is to find your running tribe. Regardless of what else I do throughout the week, I know I have my RFB tribe on Wednesday nights and my MRTT tribe on Saturday mornings to keep me accountable! If you haven’t found your tribe, I guarantee there is a group out there for you.

These MRTT ladies are busy moms, but let me tell you, these mamas are superwomen! They are dedicated to their running and follow a serious race schedule. After a few months of running with them and watching them run races, cheer each other on and get really cool bling, I decided it was time to sign up for my own race.

My first 13.1 race bling

 

 

At the end of December, I registered for my first half marathon: Best Damn Race-Safety Harbor. The race was February 4, which gave me about 5 weeks to increase my distance from 5 miles to 13 miles. It was ambitious, and I learned the hard way that it wasn’t enough time. So lesson #2 is follow a training plan and increase your mileage slowly. There are lots of great free/inexpensive running plans and apps out there. If you get off track, it’s okay! Just get back on. I learned that you need to incorporate more frequent runs during the week, and increase your long miles slowly on the weekend (some coaches recommend no more than 10% each week).

By mile 3 of the race, I knew something was wrong. My knee was injured and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make it any further, much less 10 more miles. I slowed down, took walk breaks, and thought of all the people that had helped me and supported me. Somehow I made it to the end, but I was so disappointed in my time that I didn’t even celebrate. It also took me another 2 months to write this down because I was so frustrated with how it turned out. Lesson #3 is be proud of your accomplishment and have fun! Pick a super fun race, grab some friends, dress up, do whatever you can to make it fun.

Prior to the race I had set two goals for myself:

#1 Finish the race and

#2 Do it in under 2:30:00.

My dad and my daughter ran the 5k and were waiting with the rest of my family to cheer me on at the finish.

I finished the race, and even with my injury, I did it in 2:32:10. While sure, I was disappointed, in reality I was only 2 minutes and 10 seconds shy of my goal. Never in my life did I think I would run 13.1 miles. But I did it! And it was a really great accomplishment.

Lesson #4 is that you will hate it love it and want to do it again. Literally the ONLY way I survived the rest of the race was that I told myself I NEVER had to run again. Ever. I spent all of mile 10 telling myself that as much as I loved the friendships I’d made running, I’d just have to make new friends because I was not going to do this again.

I got to the finish line to my friends and family cheering me on and it was all worth it!

Next up for me is Miles for Moffitt 10k in May and the Glacier Park Half Marathon in Montana in June. So, what are you waiting for? If I can do it, you can do it. Which race are you registering for?

About Stephanie DeMars

Stephanie is originally from Montana, but has been living in Tampa for 2 years with her husband, two daughters, dog and cat. She (now) loves running and adventuring with her family and enjoying the outdoors. You can usually find her trying out a new patio restaurant and enjoying delicious food, wine, coffee and a good book.

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