I want to introduce you to a huge bad ass named Rebecca. This past weekend Rebecca ran her very first half marathon and agreed to share her "My First Half Marathon" experience with us. As I was reading her story I kept thinking to myself hold the phone did I write this? This sounds like me! Rebecca's story is incredibly relate-able. (Not to mention the fact that she has one of the world's greatest finish line photos-it's towards the end and it's amazing.) She found running amidst a huge transition and while she was facing some major changes. I'll let Rebecca explain, take it away Rebecca!
Hello! My name is Rebecca and I’m 22 years old. My favorite things are flannel, peanut butter, and crafts involving googly eyes. I’m from Massachusetts, I graduated from college in Pennsylvania in May, and at the beginning of August I moved myself to Columbus, Ohio to start grad school. On Saturday October 4th I ran my first half marathon.
If right now were any time before March-ish of this year and you were to say to me, “Rebecca, you’re going to run a half marathon!” I would probably stare at you like you have two heads and then tell you that you’re nuts.
During the summer of 2013 one morning I woke up and said, “We’re going to commit to fitness.” I decided I needed to do it for myself. My activity level was mostly zero and I knew my body would thank me if I lost weight. I joined a gym and became very conscious of what I was eating.
My gym activity was the elliptical exclusively. The people running on the treadmill terrified me. When I got back to school at the end of August 2013, the gym was closed for two weeks. WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO? Run. I went for a mile-long run around campus and found myself still alive at the end. I only ellipticaled throughout the fall semester out of convenience, but ran a 5K during finals and survived.
I had a body dysmorphia thing going on by mid-fall semester and into the spring because of the changes I went through when I finally committed to fitness. I figured that I’d eventually get over it when I started doing activities that I knew I wouldn’t have been able to do previously.
When 2014 started, I decided I was going to focus on running because it seemed like I could feasibly do it now. I luckily had my friend Mary who knows all kinds of fitness things and enthusiastically wanted to help me on my fitness journey. We ran and speed trained all spring. I beat my 5K goal time I’d set for myself for a race at the end of March. We ran a 10K together post-graduation at the end of May and killed it.
This past summer I mostly ignored the fact that I was going to be uprooting my life and moving alone to Ohio at the beginning of August. I did have a brief moment of good judgment at the beginning of June when I thought to myself, “Hey, I bet I could run a half marathon.” Training for it would give me a routine schedule for when I was starting out in a new place alone. I talked to a friend who had run two halves, and his advice was this: “You just have to sign up for one and then you’re locked in.” So I did.
During the summer, I ran distances of 3 to 5 miles about four days a week. I found a 12-week training plan for beginners by Hal Higdon and it was great. The beginning of my 12-week plan coincided with the first week I moved to Ohio. I was de-railed from running during week 9 when I began having knee problems that I finally wasn’t able to ignore anymore. I have patellofemoral syndrome (runners’ knee), which makes my right knee sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies when I walk and look like a grapefruit when I run for distances over 4ish miles.
Before my MRI results came back the doctor told me I couldn’t run anymore but I should aqua jog because there’s no impact. Please do yourself a favor and look up a YouTube video about aqua jogging. It’s hilarious to see but loses its appeal when you’re actually doing it after about 10 minutes (so 90 minutes and 110 minutes of it are not things I’d describe as dreams come true). I had run only 9 miles on pavement before my half and I was nervous, but I was cleared to run. Hallelujah!
I’d signed up for the half before coming to Ohio so I was planning to run it alone. Will, a guy in my research group, is currently training for a marathon at the end of October and he heard me talking about my race the day before it. He asked me if I wanted him to run with me. YES. The race I’d signed up for was the Run Like a Girl Half marathon (knowing this becomes important later).
I was terrified the day before the race. I gathered all my belongings into a lovely pile and set my alarms before going to bed:
On race day I sent the following SnapChat to all of my friends at 5:45 a.m.:
I checked the weather on my phone: 45 °F with a chance of rain. Splendid, given that all of my training runs were in the sunshine and heat. I left my apartment when it was still dark out:
I knew that during the race there would be a possibility that I would question why on earth I’d signed up to run 13.1 miles, so I attached a googly-eyed monster to each shoe in case I needed a mood boost:
I got to the race, checked my bag, and found Will. We got to the corral and he got some funny looks. Why? Because he was the only guy running with 664 women (a race for girls!). It was phenomenal. We also had a pre-race conversation that went like this:
Will: Did you eat everything in sight in preparation for this?
Me: I ate a baked potato and some Cheerios last night.
Will: That’s it?! I ate an entire loaf of bread. And a chicken. LET’S DO THIS.
All of the sudden the race started and we were running. I started off slow and found that by mile 9 or so I was flying. It probably also helped that by mile 8 or so it started raining and SLEETING into my eyeballs and I was just like, “Run faster, finish sooner.” Will got lots of laughs at all the water stations and we heard a few comments like, “Hey. That’s a guy! Does he know that this is a race for girls?”
I’m so grateful he was with me by the end of the race when the pack had thinned out and we were in the home stretch (which was slippery and also uphill. Don’t be fooled when they tell you Ohio is all flat. It’s not). I thought my lungs and legs were going to collapse but managed to jump over the finish line like this:
I ate two bananas, drank three water bottles, and felt like a CHAMPION once the race ended. I also sent this SnapChat to everyone I know, because why wouldn’t you notify everyone you know that you ran 13.1 miles:
Once Will left someone came up to me and asked if he was my bodyguard. I said yes.
About 45 minutes after the race ended parts of my body I didn’t even know I had started hurting. I felt like I got bodyslammed by the Hulk and then hit by an 18-wheeler. When I got home I showered, laid on the couch, watched Gilmore Girls, and napped like my life depended on it. I walked like a penguin for two days after the race (and foam rolled like it’s my job – it really works).
I can’t wait to do it again. My favorite part of the race was when I ran by a group of people holding a sign that read “Remember when you thought you couldn’t do this?” I do. But I just did it and now I feel unstoppable. I pretty much think I can do anything now, and I honestly wouldn’t have told you that back in March. Come at me, world. I’m ready!
'Remember when you thought you couldn't do this?' I cannot escape these 8 words this month. I do my training runs after work on the West Side Highway and the vastness that is the NYC skyline and everything it stands for has been weighing on me this past week. I always knew I wanted to move here, I was just petrified to do it. After college I moved home with my parents and it took me a year and a half to take the leap of faith.
I believe that the ending of one thing is the beginning of something else. It's easy to say I wish I would have just moved here immediately and not 'wasted' a year of my life. But that pause was necessary. It was in that petrified pause that I found running. It's because I was so lost and unsatisfied that I ran my first half marathon and marathon. Crossing that finish line was the beginning of an entire new life for me. I started believing in myself again and I finally mustered the courage to move and to say yes to myself. I had no clue what I was to do when I got here or where I was going to live. I came to the edge of the cliff, closed my eyes, and lept.
So here we are. I've been here a little over a year now and I've never been happier. Living here is still utterly terrifying and I still don't know what I am doing. Honestly I hope I never do. I hope I never have things 'figured out.' Doubting myself and giving into the paralyzing fear was a huge turning point in my life. But I made it through. It's a never ending cycle. Life is challenging and one thing I have learned is there is no such thing as a right or wrong choice. There are only choices. Each choice has it's own set of repercussions that can be both good and bad. Life's not black and white. It's just not.
There are so many reasons to become a runner from enduring a loss to enduring a tough transition. Running helped me endure so many life challenges. Most importantly it reminds me that every time I tell myself "I could never do that," "I'm not ready," or "I'll never be good enough" to shake it off because it's just not true.
Here's to the time you thought you couldn't do it. Thank you for sharing your story Rebecca and congratulations on your HALF MARATHON! Until tomorrow, #RunSelfieRepeat.