Last summer in a moment of weakness I agreed to sign up for my first-ever half-marathon with my sole sista Jen. At the time I was recovering from vein surgery that had gone much less than well. I wasn’t even able to run and I was sure that I had gone insane.
The night before Halloween I attended a lecture at my running club about how to run through the winter. Our fearless leader Glen told the group that the way to get through winter running was just to show up and the rest would take care of itself. I didn’t realize that motto would be tested the very next day when we got five inches of snow on Halloween (not normal here in Illinois). I showed up and started my most consistent streak of running since I started. It did not matter how cold it was or how much snow we had gotten as long as I showed up.
I was setting the foundation for starting my half-marathon training come spring of 2020. The first kink went into my plan when my partner in crime— the very sole sista who had convinced me to sign up for the Chicago Rock n’ Roll Half-Marathon went down with a hip injury. I kept up my three days a week with other runners from my club. I never took a day off— I just had to show up. On March 12th the world changed drastically. All of our organized running groups were shut down. After six months of running three times a week with a group of people who are like family to me, I was less than prepared to start running by myself. Enter pivot #1.
I made a pact with another friend from Dick Pond that we would run together as often as possible. She was a small business owner, who was shut down during the shelter in place so we had a lot of time together. If we kept it to the two of us, we could socially distance ourselves and get some much needed fresh air. A few weeks into that plan, I took a nasty fall on the track and had a high ankle sprain that left me in a boot for about two weeks. Darcy was there waiting for me when I returned and we resumed our training. Even though she had not formally signed up for the race, she was planning to do what we were sure would become a virtual race. Fast forward to the end of May when the next major kink in my plan hit.
Darcy was out with friends and family on her horse when she took a nasty fall and broke a few ribs. I was starting to wonder if I was the reason all my running partners were dropping like flies! It would have been more than easy to quit at this point in time, but I could not be deterred. The running groups from our club were starting back up and that included a group training for the Fox Valley Half-Marathon in September. Perfect…pivot #2.
We both wanted to be done. Since the race
I started training with the Food for Health group. I had a couple of ladies who ran at my pace and we fell into easy step with each other. We met twice a week and I resumed my track workouts on Thursdays. We were doing awesome. The miles were slowly increasing and we all could feel ourselves getting stronger. We were about six weeks out from the race when Julie’s feet started giving her trouble and I started having horrible pelvic pain after my longer runs. The weekend runs were taking everything out of me. I would get home, shower and sleep most of the day. This was not sustainable.
We were both frustrated and wanted to be done with the race. The last thing we wanted was a long term injury or for this experience to make us quit running altogether. Julie made an off-hand comment about just running the dang 13.1 miles the next chance we had and being done. My brain latched on nice and hard to that idea. Remember that while I am trying to train for this race, I am having horrible anxiety about returning to school in the middle of a pandemic. I am having regular panic attacks and everything is starting to become a chore. I threw out a few dates, but they did not work for her. On top of all of this, we were unable to run together for the next few weeks. I was not sure what to do. I had two options- do the 13.1 miles by myself or wait for the actual race in September and run with the group. There was no way I was going to be able to do that distance by myself. With the uncertainty surrounding my return to my classroom, I was not comfortable waiting for race in September. I had to figure something else out. Enter Pivot #4.
The next step on my training plan was a 13.1 run…the exact length of a half-marathon. If I could make it through that run, all the months of training could be done and I could go back to jolly 3-6 mile runs when I felt like it. One big question remained: How was I ever going to do that by myself? By chance I learned that a friend was doing her long run that week and I was free to join her. We set a time to meet up and did not even give a single thought about the forecast (95 with close to 100% humidity).
The road to that run was long and arduous…winding and bumpy in many places. But I was laser focused on figuring out a way to finish what I started despite all the roadblocks that popped up along the way. What I accomplished, despite all of the hard work and time I put in, was something I never dreamed I would ever try let alone do. It took a lot of creative problem solving, but once I committed, I was not giving up on it.
Not all creativity ends in a piece of art. It’s a mindset— a thought process that helps you get stuff done.
Follow-up…three weeks later I accidentally ran a second half-marathon and beat my first time by 20 minutes!