26 Lessons I learned training for and running a Marathon…..

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1. You have to be committed to the long haul. I went back and forth with this marathon from Aug-Oct trying to decide if I could pull off the hours, the runs, the LONG runs, etc. I am a mom and my kids do take time, a lot sometimes. They get sick, they throw fits, they have birthday parties, their school shut down for holidays for heaven’s sake. All these things played into my pre-marathon training freak out when I wrote it all down on a calendar.

2. You are not being selfish to pursue your passion & dream big. I fought this one, a lot, like have a meltdown in the middle of fajitas at Gringos, a lot. There were days I felt selfish doing so much for “me” and being gone long hours on mornings while my kids were home. Then there were the races I’d set up as training and those took even more time. It was a struggle, it was real…but in the end I realized that the example I’m setting for my girls, the example of health and of reaching for your dreams outweighed the time I was gone. Ya’ll….momma guilt didn’t win this one, but it tugged at me a lot.

3. Things will hurt that you didn’t know existed on your body. New things, aches, pains, stabbing pains…all at varying degrees and varying times….they hurt, but they passed. Which leads me to my next point.

4. Yoga. Just do it….your body will thank you. Even if you are just following a video at home, those tight muscles need some stretching.

5. Shoes and clothes. Get fitted for the right pair…and then when you find a pair that works, don’t change just because another pair has cuter colors (I don’t know anyone who did this, but if you do, you may end up with a lot of blisters after a race and then go home and order 3 pairs of the original “boring looking” pair immediately while soaking those blister….just saying that’s what I’ve heard) 🙂 Also, try out ALL your clothes in a long run before the marathon….don’t get caught in clothes that chafe or blister. OUCH!

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6. Try out your fueling strategy (gels, blocks, beans, etc) and do it on shorter runs. I started training for my first half using Sports Beans. They were great and did the job, but the whole chewing and running thing was always dreadful for me. When I knew it was almost time to take more beans I started dreading the next few minutes of trying to breathe, chew, and not choke. So when I decided to switch to gels, I asked around a lot, and got the same answer…everyone is different, try them out for yourself. So I bought a few types and tried them on different runs. (I settle on Huma Chia gels, I love that they are natural and I never have had tummy issues with them..WIN-WIN)

7. Hydrate. This should be obvious, but I started training in the winter and got used to doing 8-9 miles just heading out my door with no water, nothing. Then it got hot and I found myself out running and feeling dizzy, weak, etc. Duh, water! I usually take water with me for anything over 5-6 miles now in the winter. Shoot, in the summer I feel like I need water before mile 1 🙂 Houston gets hot and humid.

8. Don’t look to far ahead in your training plan. I freaked myself out many times, as I came home tired from a 5 miler and looked 14 weeks down the road at a 20 miler and thought NO WAY! Just run the week you are in….your body will adapt. It will, I am living proof.

9. There are some really negative little people who try to live in your head. If you’ve attempted anything in your life, anything, you know them. They are the ones telling you to walk, to slow down. The ones that tell you you’re too slow, too busy, too ______. Fill it in. They are there and they are real. BUT you can squash them, or try to drown them out with music, or prayer, or repeating TRUTH, which for me was the Bible. I had to fight these people a lot, but ultimately they never won. Just stay positive, choose joy and choose to do what you know is truth. They won’t win 🙂

10. When you cross that finish line you become a 1%-er. I love that only 1% of people have ever run a marathon. I’ve read that statistic many places, but whether accurate or not, it’s a pretty small percent and from someone who’s never won anything in her life (or really ever competed for anything in her life) it feels like I’m in a small group of people, a tribe of runners, kind of like getting in a club, and its so fun to run into other runners and rehash stories together.

11. Finishing the marathon you are surrounded by the happiest group of people with battered bodies. I loved walking through the runners only area. So many high fives, congrats, hugs, stories, tears…all by random strangers. We had all just endured together. No matter the pace, no matter the highs or lows, we’d all just finished together and it was a beautiful thing. Shared encounters made us friends.

12. The zombie walk post-marathon is real….and it hurts. Watching people walk away from the finish line, looked like a zombie apocalypse had occurred. If I hadn’t been right there, scooting and shuffling and willing my angry (at me) legs to keep moving, I may have laughed. But my friends did that for me 🙂

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13. Stairs….I just can’t even. It took me days to not scoot on my bottom or walk down backwards….and I’m already looking forward to that feeling again next year. It was like a badge of hard work.

14. Runners are happy people. I love showing up for a race. I am usually alone, but only for 2 seconds, runners are the friendliest, happiest group of people. They will chat your ear off, give you advice, and cheer you on. The endorphins, they are real, y’all.

15. It takes a ton of courage to even show up to the starting line. To get to the start line is half the battle. I have so many wars in my head telling me that I “can’t” it takes a lot of guts to get there some days. But once I’m there….the common goal of everyone together just reminds me that we’re all in different places, different shape, but headed towards the same goal.

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16. Crying and running do not work well together- suck it up, Jackie. About mile 23, when I was hurting, ready to be done and dredging through the “wall” a random stranger yelled out, “You look so good & so strong Jackie.” I lost it, the ugly cry, and could hardly breathe, run and cry. It was rough there, but I pushed through…and fought tears the last few miles so many times, but managed to keep moving forward.

17. Knowing there are people looking for you, cheering for you on the course and then at the finish line is priceless…it gives you that extra oomph when you don’t have any oomph left. I had an AMAZING group of my people who found me along the race on several occasions and surprised me (truly- I was shocked when I saw them) They hollered, held signs, high-five, hugged and gave me the BIGGEST boost to keep going. They were also at the finish line when I got there…..and my parents and sister and family were there too! It was so awesome to hear your name called when you are running near the end. I loved that I had people on both sides of the road cheering me down the chute. It truly made a WORLD of difference, knowing they were there.

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18. I ran for a Reason, for the Ronald McDonald House, and I’d do it all over. When I signed up to run the marathon, I wanted to do it for something bigger than myself. So I chose to run for the Ronald McDonald House of Houston and it was a great experience. I loved getting to be a part of the team, meet RMH families and patients and just be a help to such a great organization.

19. I learned what it feels like to hurt and not give up. Running is hard. I’m not going to lie. Yes, I have run a marathon, and running is still hard. I look around at others while running and think, geez, it must be nice to be able to run and breathe and not feel like you’re dying…and then I talk to them and they say the same thing. No matter the amount of experience, it’s still effort. Well worth it, wouldn’t give it up effort, but effort, HARD WORK, nonetheless. I hurt on 20 milers, I hurt on 5 milers some days….but I still got out there and ran EVERY run. I never gave up. Not to toot my own horn….but just saying…that was a lot of miles 🙂

20. Those medals on my wall…daily reminders of the miracle I am, the hard work I committed to, and the BIG God I serve. Some people may walk into my workout room and think I’m vain. The walls are covered in race pictures, in medals, in motivational sayings…I say to them, judge away. With each of those pictures, each of those medals comes hard work. Every one earned, NEVER given. Each medal, each picture reminds me that I am still breathing, still have a beating heart, functional legs, and an able body- a gift from a loving God who wasn’t (and isn’t) done with me yet. I am a miracle…I see it in each picture, each smile through the pain and the tough stuff. I am a survivor, an overcomer….who was given a grace gift from God and who will use my passion He gave me to bring Him glory in every way possible. I see healing, I see redemption, I see second chances when I never deserved a first. He held onto me and never dropped me all those years…He sustained when I didn’t know I was drowning. He did all that….and He allows me each breath I have today. THAT is why those medals and pictures hang on my wall…its not about me, it reminds me of HIM.

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21. You get to celebrate life. Celebrate triumphs, overcoming obstacles and so much more. Yes and Yes….its celebrations all around. We do hard things…..and in the hard stuff so much beauty is born.

My quick race recap in 4 sections:

22. Miles 1-13. Yay….we are running, look at all the happy people. Happy, happy, happy!! Smile, high 5’s to all the spectators. Woo hoo we’re running a marathon. (Mile 8 the half marathoners turn off and the Full keep going) Yay….my people, I see my people!! Oh shoot, this just got real, we’re in this to the end now. This is it, the people in costume, laughing it up, they are gone. Only 13.1 more to go, we’ve got this. Shoot, is that a blister I feel? I’ve never had a blister. Which socks did I grab, oh man, that’s going to be bad. Oh well…we’re running a marathon woo hoo!!

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23. Miles 14-21. Okay, we are doing this…we’re still moving, right?!? Right legs? We’ve got this….yay for happy spectators and funny signs. Keep feeding off the crowd…we’re getting tired here. Just get to 20, you’ve run 20 before, you can do this…then its only 6 more miles. You can run 6 more miles, that’s just your loop around the neighborhood.

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24. Miles 21-24. Ouch, Ouch, Ouch…what is that feeling? Where are my legs and who replaced them with these stiff, shuffling cement blocks. Why oh why are aid stations a WHOLE 1.5 miles apart….don’t they know we need aid here? Really? This hurts, please don’t tell me we’re almost there. Don’t you know how far 5 miles is?? Have you ever run 5 miles? Oh port o potty, can I just stay here and sit in your awesomeness for the rest of the day, surely no one will notice. Why do I have to get up. Oh, thank you little boy with candy…I don’t like chewing and running, but hey, anything to give me an excuse to slow down for a minute, I’ll take ANYTHING you are handing out at this point. Please make the finish line come quickly.

25. Miles 25-26.2. Only 1.2 miles….I can do that….lets go. Some super power overcomes me and I am sprinting, no flying, towards the finish line (then I look at my Garmin and I’ve barely picked up the pace…wow, I could have swore I was keeping pace with the Kenyans) Then it comes, I hear the crowds…..they are growing, growing….I know it must be near. RIGHT?!? Wait, why did you people start saying I’m almost there….do YOU know how long .2 of a mile is. FOREVER!! Then I see my people, then I see the finish line, I manage to raise my hands up (I barely have any body awareness at this point so I could only imagine what I look like and I DON’T EVEN CARE!!) It’s right there……and stop the Garmin. I AM DONE!!!

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26. The finish line is a beautiful thing. Yes, yes it is….heaving breath, heavy legs….medal around my neck. Yes ma’am….I AM A MARATHONER.

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.2. Be Brave. God created me for something so much bigger than my own mind can fathom. I love seeing how He uses my passions to tell my story. How He’s used running to change me, inside and out, to heal, to overcome and to teach me to be brave. You never know if you can do it if you don’t try.

 

Sometimes we have to change our expectations

I am heading to Dallas this weekend for the Rock & Roll Half Marathon on Sunday……and I am SICK! It started last Saturday with a few sneezes and after heading to the doctor for a quick check up and a Z-pack, I’ve continued to get worse. I have ZERO voice, its just a whisper. I am alternating between blowing my nose, sneezing, and occasionally having a coughing fit. You can only imagine how well running 13.1 miles in this state is going to go. I occasionally have one side of my nose I can breathe out of, so that will help in the running, maybe?!?

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So in the midst of this, I’m having to realize that just like so often in life, things are out of my control. I have trained strong and hard for 18 weeks to get here. I’ve put in the hours, the miles, the heart….but this circumstance, this being sick, is completely out of my control. So I am trying to convince myself to view this 13.1 miles as a great training run, with new scenery, and use it to build up to my D.C. race in 5 more weeks. Its not the worst thing in the world. I will still run it, I will still cross the finish line, I just won’t be able to push my limits or chase a PR. I can handle that. 

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Like most disappointment in life, it happens, we can’t avoid it, but we CAN choose to see it in the most positive light possible. We can choose to run the race that is set before us with the endurance that is afforded us, and we can do our very best. My goal is just to finish. I know the time will bother me, but I have to be okay with it. A good, strong training run can make me stronger and more prepared for my next race, and all things working together….maybe I’ll PR there. Life happens, you just have to roll with it…and I am.