4.7.2013

Punta Cana Half Marathon

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I never imagined running a half marathon…until 6 weeks ago.  Why would someone who dislikes running so much do something so unthinkable running 21.2K?   In February I was excepted for a yoga teacher vacation in Punta Cana and realized the Punta Cana Half Marathon would occur the day before teaching starts.  I naturally felt intrigued by the idea of crossing the finish line in the Dominican Republic.  Plus, it occurred to me that if I could manage a half marathon then the running part of the triathlon I’m doing this summer will be no problem.

6 weeks prior to the Punta Cana Half Marathon ran outdoors for the first time this year.  The possibility of doing a half marathon gave me an extra ounce of motivation that day so I ran all the way from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, totaling 6.5 miles.  I remember feeling so energy depleted that evening and my right hip flexor was uncomfortable. I googled “how to train for a marathon in 6 weeks” and google’s consensus:  not enough time.  Tweleve to sixteen weeks seemed to be the average recommendation. Eight weeks seemed to be the minimum to physically prepare to run 21.3 K or 13.2 miles. But the Internet has led me astray before so I was determined to figure out a reasonable training plan. With just 50 days to the race I did not train for speed.  I trained my mind and body simply to run.  Three days after my first run I committed myself to this half marathon but it wasn’t until four days ago that it started to sink in that I’d really be doing this.  That’s when I clicked the “pay now” button and confirmed my entry to the race. I haven’t talked about the race to anyone and kept it a surprise just incase I arrived Punta Cana and somehow changed my mind.

I must stress that I absolutely hated running when I started training. Three weeks ago I committed myself to a running group that meets Tue/Thur at 6:00am. The people are super cool and it’s been a great source of motivation.  Some runners tell me that running is a way to clear their head and many say they get into some sort of meditation while running. I haven’t understood this yet. Um…that’s one of the reasons I go to yoga.  Why would I do something sort of miserable to clear my head or meditate?  Running, for me, is a way for me to challenge myself and it allows me to process thoughts from my personal life.  I completely love intense and challenging workouts but running, ehhhh…  it might be one of the most boring forms of exercise plus it’s very hard on the body.  I don’t think I’ll ever call myself a runner. But don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the elite runners and I they are truly amazing!  I admit running has grown on me, become tolerable and the progress I’ve experienced feels amazing.  6 weeks ago I could barely run a half mile without wanting to stop and now I can manage 7 miles.  I realize I’ll be running twice as far as I currently am capable.  Maybe I have no idea what I’m getting into but I’ve been telling myself all I have to do is my normal run…twice.  I know, sounds so much easier in my mind and on paper.  But won’t the adrenaline and endorphins give me that extra boost?

So why do I aspire to run a half marathon?  In addition to making this part of my triathlon training I guess in some weird way I want to complete this race because it’s something I never imagined doing before.  Working through the challenge, conquering any fear and discomfort that running presents me will only strengthen me in the long run.  And by strengthen I mean both physically and mentally. Stepping outside your comfort zone and using mind over matter is essential to growth. Time is not my goal for my first race. I want to enjoy this race, or at least parts of it. When I take quick water stops I want to notice and remember the scenery.  I am grateful I have the physical ability and opportunity to run a half marathon in Punta Cana. I am not going to beat myself up pushing too hard through my first race. The ultimate goal is to finish strong and uninjured.  I want to know what it feels like to cross the finish line. The miracle won’t be that I finished though, it will be that I had the courage to start something that was once unthinkable to me.

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The image above was my check in for the race this evening. I have to remember to explain what the white paper that reads “Mind” means…it’s kinda funny. When I saw my name and number I felt my nerves tense up and I felt a little bit of anxiety.  Clearly I need a tiny bit of yoga and deep breathing before bed tonight. I’m also a little nervous about the change in temperature.  I’ve been training in Philadelphia in extremely cold weather. It’s mostly been between 25-40 degrees in the mornings. Tomorrow morning it’s supposed to be 88 degrees with 90% humidity.

Start out slow. I am pretty sure I’ll start out feeling strong and confident from to the excitement and adrenaline rush. But I know I have to hold back and not go full force. The first 3 miles should feel easy I think –that’s the roundtrip distance of the Ben Franklin Bridge connecting Pennsylvania and New Jersey which I run each week.  Taking it easy in the beginning will be a challenge but I know my body will thank me many miles later.

Break up the race.  I’ll break up the race into smaller segments. It will make the distance feel more manageable. At mile 3, I will tell myself “just 3 more miles to go and you can walk a little if you need to.”  Maybe I’ll even break it up mile by mile.

Mind over matter. A lot of this game is mindset. I know this experience will really test my mind and strength. I refuse to give into self-doubt and discomfort in the mind. I will have faith in myself. When I feel weak, which I expect to happen around mile 8, I will bring my focus on what surrounds me…the other runners, people cheering, and the beautiful scenery.

Mantra. Translates to “talk to myself” As the going gets tough I know I will need to reach deep inside for extra strength. I will use endurance mantras. Telling myself things like this should work…The mind tells the body what to do, let’s go-let’s go-let’s go-LET’S GO!  Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try so keep on going.  Run Peach….RUN. F-ING RUNNNNNN!  Keep going, the reward will feel soooooo good.  And finally…you can do it…you can do anything you set your mind to.

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