Yes, I did it! I ran my first half-marathon on May 8, 2016! Sometimes I can’t believe I went from this woman in her first 5K race in 2012 to this woman who ran her first half-marathon!
What was it like to run 13.1 miles? I’ve thought a lot about it this past week and I finally decided the best way to describe it is to compare it to my weight loss journey. Let me share the ways…
First, committing to a half-marathon was like committing to my gastric sleeve surgery. I wanted to change-up my running routine and a half-marathon seemed like the right choice. In August I registered for the Disneyland Tinker Bell marathon and then I knew there was no turning back. It was like when I decided to have gastric sleeve surgery. I started in October 2012 researching this life-changing procedure and had to wait until June 2013 to have the surgery due to my insurance company’s rules.
Waiting for a major event is tough. It gives you time to worry if you’re making the right decision. You question if this really is the right thing to do. Now, running a half-marathon isn’t quite like reconfiguring your stomach, but committing to new things can be scary. And just like when I announced on my blog that I was having surgery, I proclaimed that I would run a half-marathon. For me, sharing my goals helps me be accountable for my actions. When your friends and family want to know how your prep work is going for a new goal, you can’t hide!
Just like I prepared for the half-marathon, I had prepared for my surgery. I did all the homework on how my life would change with the sleeve. Weight loss surgery is a physical change and of course, it means you change your eating habits and exercise routine. But it is also a very mental change and in some ways, it’s the more difficult change you must make to be successful. I went on websites and I talked to people who had the surgery. I took in as much information as I could.
For the race, I also read as much as I could about running from magazines and websites. I joined Facebook groups about Disney races so I could prepare as best I could. During my race training, I reminded myself of all the changes I made to lose weight, so I shouldn’t let a training schedule scare me. Well, it did when I started. I followed Jeff Galloway’s program for the Tinker Bell run in the beginning. I changed it up when I had other races. I started the training with my first 15K which was not in schedule! It was a difficult race, but my local running partner, R., kept me going. We had to finish for the hot chocolate! Finishing this race gave me the confidence that I could do longer races, but it was a good reminder that it would be tough.
And I’ve tackled tough things during my Down the Scale journey. Weight gains, boredom, lack of confidence, stress and depression are just a few problems I’ve met and admittedly, I still fight. So even when my training runs became longer, I knew I could do it. I would do it my way, which to most runners is really slow. I run. I walk. I run again. My training pace was under the Disneyland required pace of 16 minutes per mile, but I worried about it anyway. I even tackled hills, including my beloved Golden Gate Bridge, to build my stamina and to try to quiet my fears. If I can run 12 miles throughout hilly San Francisco, what was 13.1 miles of flat Disneyland and Anaheim?
“It’s scary, that’s what!” This is what I said to myself at 5 AM on a dark Sunday morning when race day arrived. Fortunately, it was only a moment of doubt as my amazing race partner, B., kept me focused and excited about what was to come. Let me take this moment, to share how much it meant to me to have my friend, B., with me for this special day. I have known her for over 20 years and not only was she an incredible friend and sorority sister during our college days, she’s been there, via long distance though my adult life and my weight loss journey. When I asked if anyone would like to join me on this race last year, she said yes and flew across country to do it. B. is someone who I admire for so many reasons and to have her running next to me was more than I could ask for.
B. is one of many people who have supported and encouraged me since I started my journey. Listening to B.’s pre-race pep talk reminded me of all the people who have made my success possible. I remembered my fear of hitting the publish button on my first blog post, hoping I would be supported and not ridiculed for choosing weight loss journey. A whole new world opened up to me, full of cheerleaders near and far. People shared their stories with me all while encouraging me to go after my dreams of a healthy life. By sharing my story, I have strengthened relationships and made new friendships that keep me going.
The smiling faces and cheers from strangers along the course reminded me of all the “real life” cheerleaders I have in my life. They have cheered me on during my successes, big and small! Now random strangers were encouraging to keep running (or keep swimming as it was a Disney race after all). From high school marching bands to the Red Hat Society women to Tinker Bell, there was joy and well wishes throughout the miles!
Nothing is more exhilarating than to run through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle and Radiator Springs when you’re a Disney fan like me. I’ve thought about all the times I’ve walked both Disneyland and Disney World and before last year, not once did I think that I would run in the parks. I have always enjoyed Disney parks even when I was obese, but when I lost weight, these trips became even better. To think I’ve gone from worrying if I would fit in a ride to running through the parks in a half-marathon was a bit surreal.
Just like the struggles I faced in my beginning of my gastric sleeve journey, I struggled during the race. 13.1 miles is long. Really long. Especially at Mile 8. Yeah, you’ve gone 8 miles! Oh, shit, you have 5 to go!! My walking intervals became longer than my running intervals. I was chewing on my Sports Beans like they were crack. I dug deep in my head and heart to remind myself I could do this. My longest run was 12 miles so I knew my body could do it, even though my thighs were trying to disagree. It was my head and my soul that were struggling the most.
And just like when I doubt myself in my abilities to keep healthy, I turned to my support group. In this case, it was B. who knew just what to do. She started timing our intervals. She pointed out the amazing scenery and the encouraging crowds surrounding us. She reminded me again and again, of this special race we were running and that we would could do it! I will be forever thankful for her determination to keep me going and for her reminders that I could succeed.
What also kept me going was seeing my ever-supportive hubby and kids near the finish line. They are 3 of the biggest reasons I had surgery and that I continue to work on my health. They support me in everything I do and this race was no exception. While I was pretty excited to see Captain Hook at the end of race, it was the smiling faces of my family that made me cry. I hope that my kids see that even though their Mommy is a bit crazy and stressed a times, that she’s also silly enough to dress like Tic Tock Croc and run 13.1 miles for fun! I’m not sure if they’ll ever know how much they help me to achieve my goals. I just hope that seeing me set up goals and then meet them, even with much difficulty, will encourage them to do the same.
Running over the finish line made me cry, too! B. turned to me and said, “You did it!” and that just made me cry more. It also made the woman next to me cry, too, after she hugged me. And that is also another amazing thing about sharing your joy…it affects everyone around you! The best running races are the ones where everyone encourages each other, and the Tinker Bell race was one of those! Even though I’m sure the woman giving out medals was exhausted, she took the time to let B. take a photo of me getting my medal.
And while this isn’t the most flattering photo of me from the race, I think it’s an important one to share. Yes, I’m sweaty and exhausted from the run, but I was overwhelmed with emotion receiving my medal. For me, it’s like an Olympic medal! From stumbling through my first 5K as an obese woman to running a half-marathon as a healthy woman, here I was, a better version of myself that I never dreamed was possible. Pushing myself through the race was just like pushing myself throughout this weight loss journey for the past three years. I chose to set a goal and I followed through. This is my success.
The post-race day is a bit of a tired blur. I had time to shower, take family photos with B. and enjoy beignets with no guilt. We left that same day and the car ride home was long. My thighs complained for 2 days about the race, but the rest of me was actually in good shape. I did take a week off from running, but I’ve started back up. Somehow, it’s not as fun without the cheering crowds and views of Disneyland, but it always feels good to run.
Yes, I’m back to running and I haven’t picked my next race. No, it’s not going to be a marathon! Honestly, having run 13.1 miles, I can’t even fathom running twice that amount! Even with my B. as my coach, I think I half-marathons are my max! I have set some new running goals though. I want to work on my pace and endurance. Running will always be my first love when it comes to exercise and while I want to keep physically improving, I don’t want to lose the positive mental benefits I get from it. Goals are important, but making them reasonable is important too.
Thank you to everyone who supported me during my training and my race. From my first cheerleader, N., who started me running to R. who runs with me locally to A. who restructured my training schedule and took me out to celebrate my race, I am incredibly blessed to have so many people like them in my life. When I started on journey 3 years ago, I thought it was just about losing weight. It turned out to be so much more. I became heathy. I became a runner. I became a writer. I became the person I wanted to be, but never thought I could be. Once I started sharing my fears along with my goals, I was finally able to tackle my weight as well as my mental health. While I’ve learned a lot and I’m still learning, the most important thing I’ve realized is that I can do what I want to do! It’s not always easy and failure is part of the process, but it’s a journey worth taking. I plan to keep running and keep setting goals as I continue to go Down the Scale…