The start of October not only brings with it cooler weather but also makes it officially one year since I started training for my first half marathon! Running my first half marathon was a huge milestone for me, and one that I never thought I would be able to accomplish. To commemorate this milestone, I thought I would share some of my motivation for running a half marathon with you.
Growing up I was extremely active. I played sports, danced, and even did some gymnastic. To give you a good idea of my level of energy, I distinctly remember forcing my parents to time me as I ran around the backyard, over and over and over and over again. Even with all this running, I would have never considered myself to be a runner. I never ran track and I definitely was not in cross country. Outside of making my parents time my backyard sprints, the most I ever ran was when I was running bases at softball practice. So while I was not a natural born runner, I was incredibly active.
Towards the end of my high school years, I suffered a fairly significant injury. I am still to this day unsure of how it happened. All I remember is not being able to pull myself out of bed one morning towards the end of my Junior year. The amount of pain I felt in my lower back and legs was tremendous. Fast forward a week, add in a couple of doctors appointments, MRIs, and EMGs, and I was told I had a handful of bulging discs most of which were putting heaps of pressure on my spinal nerves system. Along with that I was diagnosed with facet joint osteoarthritis, which simply means my facet joints along my lumbar and sacral spine were inflamed and swollen. For those who are unfamiliar with what your facets are, they are small joints located between and behind your adjacent vertebrae. You have two facet joints at each level of your vertebral column and they provide stability to the spinal column while allowing for movement. When they are inflamed, your movements can be severely limited. Since your nerve root runs directly below these joints, when they become too inflamed they cause additional pressure and pain to you spinal nerves. Which is what I was experiencing.
Regardless, all the above was putting me in a fair amount of pain and discomfort. I eventually also was diagnosed with Reverse Cervical Lordosis as well, which is just a fancy way of saying my neck curves the wrong way. As a result of this reversal though, my cervical spine pulls on my left shoulder which once again causes nerve pain but this time throughout my left shoulder and arm. This also causes me a decent number of headaches/migraines along with neck pain and stiffness. Add in the arthritis I have already accumulated in the rest of my joints, particularly in my knees, and you get a good idea of the amount of chronic pain I have had for the last decade. Fun times!
Now, I did not tell you all of the above to bore you to death or to gain your sympathy (which please keep that to yourself because I don’t want it). I told you this because quite honestly, even though some days are rough, it is a huge motivator for why I wanted to start running and why I decided to train for a half marathon.
In the past decade though, I tried everything, outside of surgery to find relief from my chronic pain. I did multiple stints of physical therapy, received countless number of pain relieving injections (facet injections, steroid injections etc), pain killers, muscle relaxers, yoga, blah, blah, etc. But it was not until right around my 26th birthday that I simply realised I was tired of trying all those things. I was tired of not knowing if it was going to be hard to lift myself out of bed in the morning. I was tired of complaining my back hurt. I was tired of getting injections 3 to 4 times a year. I was tired of going to doctors, who only told me the same thing over and over. I was tired of not committing to physical activities because I was nervous it would fall on a ‘bad’ day. I was just tired of dealing with the pain. So I decided to commit and signed myself up for the San Antonio Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon.
I know what you are thinking, “How in the world is signing up for a half marathon going to help you with chronic pain? Are you crazy?” Well, I am an extremely competitive person, ask anyone. I love a good competition and nothing motivates me more. By signing myself up for a half marathon, I was essentially challenging myself to a little competition. The goal, to simply finish the half marathon. No time limits. No constraints other than to simply finish. It did not matter if I walked the whole way, it was simply to prove to myself that the pain was not going to stop me from doing what I wanted, because lets be honest, I loath being told what to do.
Spoiler! I finished the race with a time of 2:51:29.
My main motivation came from my body telling me I could not and wanting to proved it wrong. I may not have been exactly fast because let’s be honest I’m 5’1 and my legs are little. But regardless I finished 13.1 miles in less than 3 hours and to me, my PR was not based on time, it was simply based on doing.
It is really hard for me to be proud of myself for things, as I am my own hardest critic (cliché much), but I may have teared up a bit during my last mile. Half because I was tired and half because I felt this deep sense of accomplishment overcome me and I could not contain how immensely proud I was of myself. The other thing I will mention is that ‘Runner’s High’ is a thing and it apparently makes me emotional, because at each of my three half marathons I shed a few tears. Which may not mean a whole lot to most, but I am far from an emotional person, so for me that is saying a whole heck of a lot.
As I mentioned, I am competitive as hell, and completing one half marathon has only spurred me on to keep going. Since my first race, I have completed two additional races (The Alamo 13.1 in San Antonio and The Flying Pig Half Marathon in Cincinnati) and now have a PR of 2:33:25. That’s almost 20 minutes faster than my first half marathon, in less than a year, Whoop! While my personal goal now is to complete a half marathon in less than 2 hours and to eventually run a full marathon, I am honestly extremely proud of myself for continuing to improve without excuses.
I still have chronic pain, it probably will never go away and I have accepted that fact. I have good days and bad days, as anyone with chronic pain can attest to. But I am refusing to let those bad days define who I am or what I can do. Instead I use it as motivation to kick myself into gear and to view the world in a more ‘glass half full’ kind of way. Because quite honestly it could be worse right? At least I can walk, at least on my good days I can run, and at least on my very bad, no good, rotten days, I can still pull myself out of bed and say tomorrow will be better.
Cincinnati Queen Bee Half Marathon | October 13, 2018
New Braunfels Half Marathon | November 10, 2018
Rock ‘N’ Roll San Antonio Half Marathon | December 2, 2018
Are you crazy or even just half crazy? Have you completed your first marathon or half marathon? If so, comment on this post as I’d love to hear what motiviated you to decide to sign up in the first place!