For the past two years, I've struggled with burning out after the New York City Marathon. I spend an entire year running towards a finish line and even though the race itself is rewarding, fun and unforgettable, I crash and burn in the months that follow. Normally a 1-3 month break is all I need to fall back in love with running but when January rolled around, I was supposed to start training for a Spring Marathon and I found myself dreading my training runs. Luckily I was in LA with the happiest of the November Project Tribes, NP LAX and they helped me realize that I wasn't burnt out, I was bored.
The Wednesday workouts with November Project LAX normally involve running stairs at the Hollywood Bowl which is RIDICULOUSLY intimidating. I would look up and think, "Nope. There's no way I can do this." But as I pushed myself through exhausting and uncomfortable workouts that I convinced myself were impossible, I miraculously didn't quit or stop myself from trying.
The workouts were hard and as I surprised myself week after week, I found myself looking forward to seeing what I was capable of. So I shifted my focus away from a marathon and instead decided to focus on getting stronger. I have a love hate relationship with trying to get faster and here is what I've learned, everyone is different. I run for so many reasons; to have fun, to grieve, to feel confident about the way I look, and because running reminds me to push myself out of my comfort zones (both physical and mental). Running made me a more patient person and it has shown me how important it is to make my own rules in life. So I started running after a time goal and let me just say that running faster is anything but fun. Speed work is painful. But there's a reason I continue to push through painful, uncomfortable and soul crushing runs and workouts. You have to do the work, both fun and not so fun, before you can reap the benefits. But it's about finding a balance! I'm not gonna run if I'm not having fun. That's why I run with friends or people who I can trick into being my friends!
This past New York City Half Marathon was the first time I ran what is called a "smart" race (where you pace yourself instead of just trying to make it to the finish line in one piece). I wanted to see if I could run the NYC Half in 1 hour and 50 minutes. The only problem was that I didn't know if I could do that. I didn't necessarily follow a training plan leading into the NYC Half and I don't really know what my PR is for a half marathon. (I think my PR is 1:57 but it was at a billion dollar Run Disney race and they lost track of my time at 5K. Thanks Run Disney... The only official time I have is around 1:59 so I'll take it!) Now I don't sit around eating bon bons all day. I do hill repeats, speed workouts and long runs every week but I tend to do whatever the people around me have on their training plans. The smartest idea? Probably not, but it pushed me to be a stronger runner and I know that I won't pay attention to a training plan if I'm working alone. I just don't care enough. I've tried and I ignore my training plan every single time. I asked some of my friends at November Project if anyone wanted to run down a PR together because I hate running alone. My friends Jess and Riki were both out for 1:50's so we decided to go after it together.
I sat on my foam roller Saturday morning and figured out our pace strategy which I'd never done before! I did all sorts of math and on paper, it looked impossible. Any half marathon with 8 minute miles in it sounded like hell on earth but you'll never know until you try right? Then in true Kelly fashion, I forgot to take a picture of the strategy and left for the race Sunday morning without it. WHOOPS! So much for a game plan!
The morning of the race was FREEZING but I had Riki, Jess to snuggle with to stay warm. We decided to start with 8:45 min/miles (I know, brutal) and then try to knock 10 seconds off our pace every 2 miles. The first few miles of the race FLEW BY. We laughed our way through Central Park and when I got a text message from my sister saying that I was going to crack up at her sign, I got really excited to run through Times Square.
I found my sister just outside of Time Square and that moment when I finally see her is my favorite part of any race because her face lights up when she sees me makes and it makes my heart explode. I'm so grateful that she not only puts up with running habit but wakes up early to hold a sign in 30 degree temperatures just to make me laugh for 10 seconds. Her sign said, "Free Hamilton tickets at the finish line" which is hilarious because I (along with everyone else int he world) am dying to see Hamilton. After a high five and a "YOU'RE SO FUNNY SAMANTHA!", we were off to the West Side Highway where I accidentally lost my squad.
Thank you Julia Lyons for capturing these photos and for always being such a wonderful human being.
It was around mile 10 that I realized that I was going to run 1:50 if I didn't slow down. I just kept telling myself not to pullback. This year the mantra, "You're not a quitter" has been resonating with me so I smacked a smile on my face and kept repeating that whenever I'd have a moment of doubt. But just like that, I was over the finish line and I looked at my watch and saw 1:47. The icing on the cake was that the co-leader of November Project NYC and world's nicest human being John Honerkamp was right there at the finish line. Having John there to help me process what had just happened was the best surprise ever. I had a double digit PR which is an unreal accomplishment for me and having John there was really just a wonderful little bonus. Hey NYRR, can you put John at the end of every single finish line going forward? MUCH APPRECIATED. K THANKS BYE.
1:47:25!!!!!!!!!!! 😱😱😱😱😱😱 Turns out that whole pacing yourself thing actually works. Who knew? It took me three years to get here. You have to be patient if you want to run stronger, faster and smarter. But most importantly, it's about having fun and that race was a fucking blast. Huge thank you to @jessicaharriet and @rikiminaj_ for partying with me and to @savethechildren for providing me with an amazing team. It's moments like this that make every early morning, sacrifice, awful workout or really terrible run worth it! Do something huge this year. Run a half marathon or a marathon. If you want to run the #ChicagoMarathon or the #tcsnycmarathon with me, join #TeamSaveTheChildren!!! 2016 is all about getting stronger! #RunSelfieRepeat #NP_NYC
All joking aside, as proud as I am about my PR, I now understand why people say "personal best" instead of "personal record". For a long time I didn't understand PR vs. PB and now itmakes perfect sense. Yes, I ran my fastest half marathon at the United NYC Half but more importantly, I felt the strongest I've ever felt during a run. I gave my best effort and had the most fun doing it and that is why I'm calling it a PB and not a PR.
The only reason I was able to have as much fun running as hard as I did during the half was because I worked my ass off the last 3 months. Not only that but it's taken me over three years to get to 1:47:25 and the one thing I know to be true is that you have to figure out what drives you. Just remember that it isn't really about speed, it's about strength. Your mental resilience and mental strength are infinitely more important than your physical strength when you're running. The only way you'll find joy when you're pushing yourself to get stronger is to be patient. You have to figure out what works for you and you have to take your time while you progress, grow and change.
I don't care what someone's PR is, I care about their PB. It's so easy to get consumed by time (look at me, it's all I can talk about this year!) and at the end of the day, it's just about putting your strongest foot forward. Running towards a time can help give you a target to run towards but it's not an end all be all. If putting your strongest foot forward means having fun while you run, then focus on that! If that means running towards a certain time or distance, then focus on that! Or do all of the above! There isn't a right or wrong way to run. Just don't compare yourself to anyone else, run only to be the best that you can be.
If you're looking for a way to do something extra special this year, run the Chicago Marathon or the TCS NYC Marathon with team Save the Children and I! We have spots open for each and I'll be with you ever step of the way! Do something huge this year!
Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.