Race Recap: Knoxville Half Marathon 2013

The Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon holds a special place in my heart.  It is the first half marathon I ever did after ignorantly signing up my freshman year of college.  It was the race to show off my hard work after being a contestant on the Biggest Winner.  It was the race that I PR’d on last year and the race that I ever ran eight consecutive miles in.  I also happen to be on Race Staff and work alongside my dear friend Robyn doing goody bags.  We stuff bags for about six hours the weekend before the race then hand them out on race day.  Needless to say, this is my race.

No matter how sentimental this race is to me, this year went a little bit different.  I’ve struggled with my weight really bad the past few months and have really packed on the pounds since last year.  I’ve stopped running and prefer to just take shorter walks.  I am finishing up my senior year of college with lots of hard credit hours.  I had to work 13 hours at the expo the day before the race and got minimal sleep on race eve.  And yes, I am complaining about all these things when most people have it way worse.  I was really tempted to drop to the 5k and just cheer my mom and our friend Yvonne on while they did the half.  But that seemed like a cop-out to me and I wanted to cross that finish line with two very special ladies especially since my Momma was doing this race for her birthday.  The decision was made to suck it up and just walk the entire 13.1 miles with them.

Expo was long and tiring, but so very fun.  I got to work with some amazing volunteers who really brought a special spirit to my day.  A blogging friend, Layne, came down to do the half marathon and I’m so grateful I finally met her in real life.  Lots of people came through my line that I only see once a year so it was a big reunion party.  It was just lots of fun and even though my legs and back hurt like crazy afterwards, it was worth it.

wrong number at expo

wrong number at expo

I tried so hard to sleep on race eve, but tossed and turned with no luck.  Race morning came and I snoozed as long as possible.  Fortunate for me, I literally live about four blocks from the race start, so I could afford taking my sweet time.  Momma and Yvonne met me at my apartment for the walk to the start line.  We got there just as the wheelchair division took off.  Nothing like easing pre race anxiety like showing up three minutes before the start.  We eased our way to the very back just as the gun went off.  Footloose was blaring as we crossed the start line and there were lots of cheers and high fives being passed around.  About a half mile into the race we passed my apartment and started the walk through campus.  There sure was a lot of camaraderie in the back and lots of people motivating each other.  I wasn’t full on complaining but I had no problem telling my Momma that I was already over it.  My legs were dead, my mind was shot, and my heart just wasn’t in it.  But it was important to me to finish.

We made it another four miles or so before making it to the Boulevard and Sequoyah Hills-a very important part of the course.  Momma and Yvonne often got a tiny bit ahead of me so I could slow down, then on the downhills, I would shuffle to them to catch back up.  There were a few people on bikes that kept on making random appearances, cheering us on, offering advice, and being so wonderfully kind.  One guy even had a Channing Tatum sign.  Thanks for the motivation, sir.  We trekked and trekked.  Around mile 7 we hit Noelton, the most famous course on the hill.  This is where Momma hit the wall last year.  Noelton has two parts…one big incline, then dips down and goes back up one more time for a smaller hill.  We made it to the big dip in the middle and Momma turns around and says “There is Kingston Pike, WE ARE DONE”.  I’m thinking to myself that no we are not done, we are just done with Noelton.  It was still a big feat getting up that hill but we all felt much better after making it to the top.

Once we hit the greenway all was well and it felt like being in Townsend again.  We welcomed the miles as we passed them and just tried to talk and have fun and make the most of our experience out there.  Towards the end of the greenway section, we passed two pregnant women…one of them was two weeks from due date!  What an amazing thing to be out doing a half marathon so late in pregnancy.   Kudos to her.

The last part of the course was extremely tough mentally.  We had less than two miles to go but they went so slow.  The hills were hurting, my feet were hurting, and my hips could barely move.  But we pressed on.  I can honestly say that it would not have been possible if my Momma and Yvonne hadn’t been there with me.  After finally making it to the course split, I could hear the cheers and see the stadium.  FINALLY.  We decided to just take it nice and easy across, savoring every moment of being on the field and having all attention on us.  We held hands and lifted them high as we finished in 3:336:42.  All of us had the exact same time on the results page.  Some very tall and very large UT football players handed us our medals and all was well.

the coveted finish line

the coveted finish line

Afterwards, I felt sick after stopping and my leg muscles started to cramp like crazy.  We took just a few pictures before meeting up with Yvonne’s husband and kids and my boyfriend.  Luckily for all of us, Yvonne’s husband had parked directly by the exit gate and drove us back to my apartment.  He had drinks and everything for us.  I’m really thankful for that and thankful that I didn’t have to walk back.

like mother like daughter

like mother like daughter

After a nice long nap at my apartment, TJ treated me to a large cup of red velvet ice cream at a local ice cream parlor.  The cold taste was amazing after a long hot day on the race course.  I tried to share it with him, but I devoured it.

the animal cracker on top made it special.

the animal cracker on top made it special.

That night, we headed back to Townsend for some more fun.  TJ and I sat outside for a nice long while and hit some golf balls and just enjoyed the perfect springtime weather that Tennessee is finally being blessed with.  Moving around definitely helped get rid of some soreness.

sitting on tailgates make for good post race recovery

sitting on tailgates make for good post race recovery

This race was my 11th half marathon.  After PRing last year and riding high, I had very big hopes for this year’s race.  I knew that I wasn’t prepared to run it and looking back probably shouldn’t have even walked it, but I did.  It was worth it.  The half marathon distance has been important to me for some time, but I think I’m going to take a break from the distance events and work on getting back (slowly) into running and maybe even doing the couch to 5k program.  I want to be a runner again and I specifically want to work on my 5k times.  Hopefully by the end of the year I can be back into running consistently and working towards getting faster at short distances.  Oh, and next year if I work expo all day I will not run the next day.  Lesson learned.

I’m still very happy I did this race and wouldn’t take it back.  It was great to see so many different types of people out there working hard and being strong for this sport.  Distance ain’t no joke and I’d like to say congrats to all the walkers, runners, and wheelchairs that finished.

Sticks and Stones

We are taught at a young age to not let things bother us.  Sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt us.  Or so they say.  How many people truly live as this motto says?  Probably not very many.  When people think of obesity, bullying might often come to mind.  The children featured on Biggest Loser this year spoke a lot how the biggest challenge of being fat is being teased or bullies.  That seems like a given since children are known to be cruel.  But what happens when adults bully adults?

This past Sunday, I was munching on a biscuit in the hallway at my church when an older man passed by and said:

“Don’t you ever stop eating?”

I’m not sure if it was what he said or how he said it but it struck a nerve that I had never felt before.  Sure, I was teased and slightly taunted throughout school.  I knew I was fat and that the other kids knew it too.  But as an adult?  By a fellow adult?  In church?  Something just hit hard.  He kept walking as he said it.  I looked at TJ with tears in my eyes and hurt in my heart.  Yes, that had really just happened.

I’ve had time to reflect on it over the past few days.  The words have been repeated over and over in my head time and time again.  Tears have been shed.  I know that the man may have not been intentionally cruel or that he even meant what he said.  But I do know that his words stung and they stung hard.  Am I being a baby for being upset and crying over someone making one hurtful and rude comment to me concerning food?  Maybe I am.

But I want to encourage everyone to think about what leaves their mouths no matter the topic.  Is it uplifting or degrading?  Could it be misinterpreted?  Does the other person know you are joking?  These are things to consider.  Bullying doesn’t stop after high school. No, it can follow you into adulthood.  But we as individuals have the power to control how we react to it.  Believe me, comments like that hurt really deep but I’m not going to allow some man’s words to negate my self esteem and make me feel unworthy as a beautiful woman.  Yes, sticks and stones will break my bones.  Words may actually even hurt me.  But sitting around and crying about it isn’t going to make it any better.  Turning to food as a band-aid isn’t going to make words and hurt magically disappear.  But standing strong and keeping my head high where it should be can make dealing with bullies and harsh words much much easier.

I encourage you to say something nice to someone every single day this week.  Lift them up and be a positive part of their day.  They may need it.

What is a runner?

This topic has been long up for debate.  What is a runner?  Is it someone that finishes marathons?  Is it someone who has never completed a race?  Is it someone who can maintain a certain pace?  Can a runner take walk breaks?  What are the qualifications of a runner?

Questions like these can cause a lot of debate and bring up some answers that are constantly changing and most people can’t exactly put a label on what a runner really is.

I shudder when someone dares to describe my activity as “jogging”.  A lot of people would be insulted by the term.  So what is the difference between a jogger and a runner?  If you ask me, there isn’t any.  Anytime your feet are moving forward and you are exerting more energy than you would if you were walking then you are running.  Period.  Go to a local race and you will see people from all walks of life at the race start.  People with singlets and racing flats on, people with a t-shirt and shoes they bought from WalMart, skinny people, large people, short people, tall people, young people, old people, walkers, Mommas, grandparents, disabled folks, people who have trained for months, people who don’t even know the mileage of a 10k, people who sacrificed something just to afford to enter the race, and people who are sponsored.  Yet they are all at a race.  They all have one goal in mind.  To run.

bad form running category

bad form running category

It is embarrassing to see some people of the running community be elitist and look down on those who can’t run sub 9 minute miles.  I’ve seen it myself.  It is extremely intimidating to attend group runs and there isn’t even a pace offered to those who run above a 10 minute mile.  That type of shunning is worse than the Amish and can leave a lot of slower runners or newbie runners feeling bad about themselves and most of all make them not feel welcome in the running world.  There is absolutely no reason to discredit someone for running a slower pace than you.  I’ve seen it done, and it is a disgrace to the running community as a whole.

it is okay to celebrate running slower than everybody else

it is okay to celebrate running slower than everybody else

It is no secret that I’m not a natural born runner.  These days I’m almost embarrassed to whisper that I’m a runner since I can’t even run a whole mile without stopping.  But I’m a runner.  Why?  Because I run.  A runner can be anybody.  There are no resumes, interviews, or applications for runners.  You just run.

Most races always have a front, middle, and back of the pack.

The front are the elites.  Those that can complete the race, do their cool down, and change clothes before the mid pack even thinks about getting to the finish line.  The ones that usually take home the awards.  The ones that get credited for being a “real runner”.

The middle of the packers are still fast (by my standards) and can usually pull out some age group wins.  These people work hard putting in mileage during the week even if running doesn’t come naturally to them.  Middle packers are often more easy to relate to since they probably haven’t spent their whole lives running.

Then there is the back of the pack. That is where you can find me.  Those who work very hard at something that doesn’t come easy.  Those who are out there on the race course the longest, working just as hard as those who finished first.  These are the inspiring ones.  The people who took every ounce of confidence they had just to register for the race.  These are the people I like.

not in the back of the back on that day.

not in the back of the back on that day.

Don’t get me wrong…no matter if you are a front, middle or back pack person, you are still a boss and still out there getting it.  You are still a runner.  Anyone that runs, no matter how far or fast, is a runner.

Runners come from all walks of life and everyone runs for different reasons.  Some run as therapy, some to lose weight, others just because they are good at it.  No matter the reason, they still run.

I am just as impressed with someone able to complete a marathon in 8 hours as I am with someone who wins it in 2:30.  They both had courage to cross that start line and they both stayed out there until the job was done.  No matter the pace, age, looks, or mileage…a runner is a runner.  Point blank.

So…you tell me.  What is a runner?

ever just feel like running?

ever just feel like running?  Old photo from when I lost weight.