Loads of Encouragement and a Proper Pair of Running Shoes
By, Susan Myers
Two years ago my son and I walked to Daffin Park from our home in Ardsley to watch the runners participate in the 2011 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, one of Savannah's premier running events. Besides having a perfect day for a walk and a festive event to spectate, I held an ulterior motive. I was hoping my cerebral, but not especially sports-prone 9 year old might get swept up in the excitement and discover, at long last, a sport that he could happily embrace. We both cheered the runners on as they passed and marveled at the variety of participants - from professionals all the way to people who seemed not so different from us - except that THEY were not on the sidelines. Later, as we walked towards home and talked, I tried to convince my son of the joys and benefits of distance running and persuade him to give it a shot himself. At some point he interrupted to say, "You know Mom, I have never even seen you run, not even once". I thought about this and responded, "I see your point....perhaps we should start running together. Perhaps we should run the Rock ‘n’ Roll next year!"
I could list countless reasons; some of them may even sound legitimate, for why we did not run the following year. But the memory of those runners continued to inspire me, and what my son had said continued to haunt me a little. In January of 2013 I discovered Fleet Feet and No Boundaries and finally discarded all the reasons why I couldn't. Together we started with No Bo but discovered soon that, at least for now, this was going to be my journey, and that my son, in his own time will uncover his.
It was cold when I started, I had all the wrong clothes and even the short interval runs seemed challenging. But the camaraderie with the other runners and the encouragement of the coaches kept me going. I also loved having the goal of running my first 5k, the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure. Not far into the initial training, our coach recognized that another runner and I needed a little push and she kicked us into a group that was running a straight 1-2 miles. I had my doubts, but with loads of encouragement, a great running buddy (Sarah I miss you) and a proper pair of running shoes, I was willing to accept the challenge. We worked hard over those months and were dedicated to making every run. If one of us couldn't make the scheduled run with the group we would arrange another time to make sure we got it in. This accountability, especially in the early going, was essential for me.
By the time the Race for the Cure rolled around I felt completely prepared. My husband and son got up bright and early to cheer us on. The crowds with their signs and the other runners, some dressed in pink tutus and some in pink ta-tas, were fantastic. I crossed the finish line with an irrepressible grin. Komen was tons of fun and I was hooked. I don't think more than a few days passed before I signed up for the Girls On The Run 5k, which would be my first timed event. With the Komen, my goal was simply to finish. Check. With this race I wanted to see what kind of time I could accomplish. My plan was to run at a comfortable pace and then pick it up at the halfway point. Not equipped with the handy Garmin that I run with these days, I miscalculated the halfway point and picked up my pace way too soon. As a result, I know I tapered off in the final stretch but still felt like I finished fairly strong for a novice and ended up 4th in my age group.
When it came time to sign up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll 1/2 training I was feeling more than a little skeptical about my ability to run 13 miles. But I took a running leap of faith. Honestly, the beginning started a bit slow for me. My family travels a lot over the summer months and I wasn't always great about getting my miles in while I was away. And what used to be a Saturday 9 am run with NoBo was now a 6 am run! Up by 5 am? But once summer wound down and school was back in session, I got back to a regular routine, made some awesome new running friends (I can not overstate the importance of good running buddies!), bought a new pair of running shoes and was ready to train again.
About midway into the training I was starting to feel more confident and wanting to add more miles onto the long runs. Fortunately - and this is one of the many ways a good coach comes in - our wonderful leader, Mareesa, assured me that we would be adding on those extra miles soon enough and that sticking to the training schedule would help avoid injury. If I wanted to do more, “cross training would be an excellent idea" was the sage advice I was given. Up to this point I was only running 3 days a week, so I took the advice and began to experiment with different classes. I tried spin classes, which I loved, but those sessions combined with the runs were leaving me feeling overly tired. Then I tried Fit Barre, which emphasizes working your core and proper breathing techniques. I began to pay more attention to my movements while running and this new combination seemed perfect.
Everything started to come together. I was running stronger than ever, and finally began to lose some unwanted weight. My diet has been generally healthy - heavy on fruits and veggies - but I eliminated dairy, soy, gluten and sugar. Not only did I lose 15-20 pounds, and continued running stronger, but also discovered that I was usually getting a solid night's sleep - something that had eluded me for years.
I was beginning to feel like a “runner” but still, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Some runs were tougher than others; some days were tougher than others. I found that on the bad days I actually felt more compelled to run, where before, a bad day would have been an excuse for not exercising. When I ran my first double digit run and felt like I could have kept going, I finally put that initial doubt behind and felt completely confident I would, at the very least, finish the 1/2. In late October we worked our way up to 12 miles and then began to taper off over the next 2 weeks before the race. I was feeling GREAT, except for an occasional nagging little pain in my foot......
Race day. So after wearing 287.25 miles into the streets of Savannah, 2 weeks before my 53rd birthday, I ran my first 1/2 marathon. On that cold November morning, 7 of us piled into a SUV and headed downtown. After meeting with the rest of our CREW, taking pictures and exchanging encouraging words, we all headed to our respective corrals. By the time our corral reached the starting line, the sight of the sea of runners before us was exhilarating. It was finally Go Time.
A couple of miles into the run I was feeling fantastic and keeping a pace that would enable me to finish at my goal of 2 hours and 15 min. At about mile 7, things began to change. The pain in my right foot was getting worse and since I must have been overcompensating with my left leg, my left knee kept wanting to give out. By mile 8 it was becoming very uncomfortable with every step. There were many moments over those last 5 miles that I wanted to give up. But I kept flashing back to mile 6 - my 11 year old snapping photos and cheering me on. How could I quit? There had been so many conversations about seeing things that we started through to the end.
I finished with a grimace instead of a grin....but then some runs are just tougher than others. Still, I finished! .... and with a great sense of accomplishment. I'm giving my foot a little break from running for a few weeks but continue training by swimming and riding a stationary bike. I very much look forward to getting into my favorite running shoes, joining my awesome running friends and making plans to smile my way across the Critz Tybee Half Marathon finish line in February!