Guest Blog: Tiffany F.
Ok, so I just ran a half marathon! For some this may sound super exciting, and for others, maybe your first half was years ago and you have moved on to the full marathon or ultra-marathon. For me, it was a victory in many ways.
In 2005, I woke up to find that the entire left side of my body was numb. I was terrified. The neurologist sent me for an MRI, and the news was better than I thought-herniated discs-3 of them. I know that sounds terrible, but I was worried it would be much worse-my mom has Multiple Sclerosis and for years I waited for something terrible to happen to me. So, as I sat there feeling the relief wash over me, I thought I heard the doctor say “No. Running. Ever.” I asked him to repeat what he just said. He said “No. Running. Ever”. I would not have called myself a runner then, despite my brief membership on the White Station High School track team. BUT, I also don’t like being told that I can’t do something. I began to think about what I could do-walk, cycle, aerobics, swim, etc. The doctor told me that the cycling would hurt my back and that aerobics was pretty much the same as running. I should not do ANY of those things, except walk. I believed him.
I went about my life for a few years, enjoying a nice 3 mile walk here and there, and as I got older, those pounds started to creep up on me. It wasn’t just about weight, I did not feel well. I felt really lazy and unhealthy. I decided to swim more in the summer. I got stronger. I added in some cycling, but it never clicked with me as a way to work out. I changed doctors and went in for a physical. This doctor was different. Rather than telling me what NOT to do, we started talking about what I could do. The MRI was repeated and guess what?? All of that swimming and getting stronger was helping! The herniations in my neck and back were so small they did not even bother to measure them.
I decided to add Jazzercise to my routine. Wait. Before you say anything-it is a really great workout and nothing like Richard Simmons! All this time, I thought I would never be in shape again. I went back the next year and he asked how I was feeling. I told him I felt great, but really wished I could run. He said “If you can Jazzercise, you can run! Go for it, but just start slow and listen to your body.” So, I took the plunge and signed up for Star’s Cooper Young 4 miler training. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could do it. FOUR miles? Crap.
Forward 3 months and I finished the CY 4 Miler in 48:36. The very next Saturday I thought “I bet if I can run 4 miles, I can run 5 miles”. Star invited me to join the half marathon group and I was all “Whoa now. I just ran 4 miles. That in no way means that I can run 13! Geez!” Turns out that I easily ran 5 miles. Not 5 miles fast, but 5 miles steady. It felt good (until the next morning). I liked it.
Then came the dreaded Plantar Fasciitis. My running career was over! What would I ever do? There were hundreds of suggestions online about the perfect cure. There were also hundreds of stories about superior athletes who were doomed to lives of sitting on the sofa and watching reruns on television because of the dreaded PF. But I just started running! How could this be? After the herniated disc disaster of 2005, surely this was not the end.
I know I sound dramatic here, but that is how I felt at the time. I stopped running. My feet felt better. I signed up for the CY training again, and guess what! More PF and foot pain. This time I was not going to give in. I worked too hard last time. It took a few weeks, but I finally found the right treatment team for me and my feet felt so much better (thanks to Star and her awesome recommendations). What did I do? I ran the Cooper Young 4 miler in 47:30, and promptly signed up for the half marathon group.
It all seemed like some crazy dream. Increase mileage every week by 2 miles? Star’s response, “if you can run 5 miles, you can run 7. If you can run 7 miles, you can run 9,” and so on. She was totally right. This is absolutely the most challenging thing I have ever done. Running is much more mental than physical. I struggled in the beginning because I traveled a lot this fall and I had to do a lot of my runs out of town. When I found out that I had to work on the day of our 9 mile run, I nearly self-destructed. I realized that I was getting so much support from my teammates that I felt alone and distracted without them. I don’t even always chat during runs, but I know my teammates are right there with me-in front of me, beside me, behind me.
Of course, a new foot problem emerged and got much worse 2 weeks before the race. After all of those Friday nights of going to bed at 9:30 so I can get up at 5:30 on Saturday to go on a long run! This time I felt different though. I went straight to solution mode. I was going to run this race and there was very little that could stop me. There are many scenarios that would lead to making a smart decision not to push a serious injury. Fortunately after talking to my doctor the day before the race and making some changes, we decided that I could run. I was…….terrified. Suddenly I was sure that I would never make it, despite the fact that I had already run 13 miles in training.
Later that afternoon, my husband and I got in the car and drove to Cotter, Arkansas for the White River Half Marathon. We rented a cabin with my best friend from high school, who was running her second half. I went to dinner with my teammates, drank a good luck beer and went to sleep. The next morning, I reminded myself of all that I learned over the past 3 months-pacing, fueling, strategy. I hoped for a respite from the pain. I got my gear, drove with Cathy to the race, and then I ran for 13.1 miles with no foot pain at all.
Wait a second. I didn’t say no pain at all, just no foot pain! I felt great until mile 11, when I realized that I messed up my strategy by speeding up too early. Then came the strong headwind and some icy cold pouring rain. It was tough, but I made it 11 miles before it got tough. The very best part was the structure of the race. The White River Marathon is an “out and back” along the White River. It’s beautiful, and flat. I ran with some of my teammates for much of the race since we were so close in pace, and I ran alone for a few miles. The best part: all of my other teammates passed by as they turned around for the last 7 miles. We all made the effort to run in the middle of the road so we could high five each other and encourage each other. Every one of those high fives and the words of encouragement absolutely got me to the finish line of that race. A lot of folks think that running is a solitary sport, but I am here to tell you that I run with a team, and they all have my back!
Thanks Star-for knowing I could do it and then showing me how. Thanks to all of the other Star Runners for encouraging me, running with me, and laughing with me. See you in January when we begin training for my next half marathon!
To prove how awesome it is to train for a half marathon-this is me at mile 7 with some jazz hands!