Hi, my name is Mary and I wanted to introduce myself to your club and tell you a bit about myself and why I joined today. First of all let me say I am a walker…not a runner, one without any prior participation to organized race events until 2010. I have always loved to walk, I grew up in a small town in New York and that was the only way to get around. I even did a stint of walking racehorses for a living back in the ‘80’s. When I moved to Nashville in 2008 I immediately fell in love with the greenways and on the days of in climate weather enjoyed the newly opened East Park Community Center’s indoor walking track. It was there, around mid January of 2010 that I saw another patron wearing a t-shirt that had the Country Music Half Marathon advertised on it. It was at that very moment it got me thinking, wow, a half marathon, 13.1 miles!! Wow that is quite a bit longer then the breast cancer walks I always participated in, but something to actually train for instead of just aimlessly wandering around with no real goal in sight. I went home that night and looked up the information and was completely intrigued wondering if it was something I could do. I started googling “training for a half marathon” and I was blown away by the amount of information on the web. I stumbled upon a site called MarathonRookie.com and bingo….then a light went off, rookie, me…clear cut plan on how to get ready, I’m in! I signed up that very night and I haven’t turned back since!! Now I had a plan to follow, a goal to work towards and a race to get ready for!! It was a 12 week program and I had already had been doing quite a few miles a week (no real long distance walk though) so I just had to do some re-adjusting and their plan made a lot more sense then mine! Of course I had to choose a time and since 4 hours was the maximum time you could do it in I had to totally guess as to what my goal time would be. I had no idea, but since I don’t like to run, but I did not want to be the last to cross the line either I chose 3-1/2 hours for my goal. I figured I could at least maintain that average pace, secretly hoping to do it closer to the 3:15 mark.
Fast forward 16 weeks later, April 24th, 2010 and I was in my 1st organized event ever!!! I know many will say start with a 5k or a 10k, but I don’t always like to “stick with the rule of thumb” so to say! I enjoyed my training so much, that even before I completed the race I signed up for the Inaugural Women’s Half Marathon for that September (actually signing up in time for the $50 fee which they have never repeated that offer!) and the I Run For the Party’s Half Marathon for that November. I bought a Garmin Forerunner 305 which is rather bulky on my wrist, but I didn’t care and it became my best friend, I love that training tool and it keeps me honest! Two friends came from North Carolina to join me, one that had done a full marathon and the other who had never been in a race other then a turkey trot. We started together, but did not stick together, everyone wanted to do their own pace which was fine by me…. I had never trained with another person before and love to be in my own little world, chilling out with my ipod, enjoying the live music and people watching galore! Needless to say, I was like a tourist that first HM, taking pictures galore, stopping at every water stop…having the time of my life….oh, until the rain came that is!!! What….rain??? You have got to be kidding me! I had never trained in the rain; if it rained I did the indoor track! Needless to say, the race went extremely well and I finished way under my goal with a time of 3:10 and a pace of 14:34. Like I said before I am not a runner and I’m not really that competitive so I was actually quite blown away with my time that I got my medal engraved with the time on it in case I never beat it again! My two friends came in 2:51 and 2:55 and were quite happy with themselves as well.
I won’t go into all my half marathons in great detail, just enough to show you the fact of my (former) non-competitiveness for myself and how it has evolved. My 2nd half was the Women’s hm and time was 3:25 pace of 15:39, IRFTP- 3:34 16:23 and that concludes 2010. I always set a goal of 3:30, really just happy to complete the race and have a great time doing it! Before 2011 even came around I had it set in my mind I would do the same three races again and so I did. The CMM hm came in at 3:17-15:06 (thinking to myself, yep….I may HAVE had my PR, good thing I got my first medal engraved! Next up was the Women’s Half Marathon and this was my first real sighting so to speak of the Nashville Striders. I was of course way in the usual back corral, setting my goal at the usual 3:30, but for some reason I felt strong this race. I kept up a good starting pace and up and it wasn’t long ahead I saw the 3:00 sign peering up ahead in the crowd…..mmmm, I thought wow, that would be very interesting if I could catch up with them! Needless to say it wasn’t’ too long before I did and there they were in my close sight. I hung back a bit, just kind of following them, not really part of the group, but definitely feeling like a stalker so to speak! I even remember when I lost them (for what I thought would be forever), it was for the most stupid reason in the world, but let’s remember here….yes, I did already have 4 HM’s under my feet, but I’m not the most organized one in the world out there either! I forgot to trim my toenails and actually had to sit down on a curb and take off two toenails, yes, embarrassing to admit, but true none the less! This was around mile 7 and my toes had actually bled….back on the road again I thought wow, bummer I’ve lost them for good! Even though it has been 7 months since this race I still remember when I saw the 3:00 time sign ahead!!! It was coming down Demonbreun before the turn on 5th….I caught up and chatted with the pace leader (who I later found out his name was Chris Thompson) and told him I had been following him for the first 7 miles or so, but had lost him for 5 miles or so, anyway I hung with them the rest of the way and I can still remember losing them the last couple 10ths of a mile and next thing I know Chris was cheering me along in the stretch of the finish telling me to hurry, hurry, run, run….you can still make it!!! I still can’t believe I did make it…I finished in 2:58-13:38….amazing!! I had a new PR and all thanks to Chris and the Nashville Striders!! After the race I was lucky enough to be able to catch up with Chris and thank him properly and let him know how much he encouraged me to make my PR happen! That November I did the IRFTP hm and fished at 3:09-14:29….wow new 2nd best, what a great 2011!!
Needless to say, 2012 rolls around and lo and behold I somehow hear about this crazy race that has been going on for 33 years called the Cedars Frostbite Half Marathon. I read a little bit about it and figured why not….I’m a gambler; the weather can go either way on February 11th! I only had 4 weeks to jump into my usual marathon rookie training schedule and jump in it I did! Not quite as fit as I like to be, but since I’m not competitive, I just want to have a good time, no need to worry! I don’t set out for a PR, if the race goes my way then so be it, having fun is the main thing. We actually had the coldest day of the year that morning at 23 degrees and I don’t think it ever got any warmer, I started questioning my sanity at this point, but at least the sun was shining! Finishing the race in what I thought was excellent and according to my garmin at 3:08 I was quite pleased with myself! While in the lodge waiting for the awards to begin I ran into Chris (the pace leader who led me to my PR the hm before this one) and introduced myself and he did remember me from the Women’s hm from five months before. When he asked how I did today, he told me I did great at 3:08 considering the conditions even though my last HM was 10 minutes faster. We discussed the upcoming St. Jude HM and he told me the slowest HM pace would be 2:45 and I of course said no way could I shave that much time off my race in order to attempt that! That exact thought was reconfirmed completely when reality struck me as I went over to look at the official posted numbers and they were not even close to my Garmin! My formerly inflated, now self-deflated, right then and there when I read the time of 3:17-15:02!! Geez, I came out unscathed from the race, a wee bit cold still, but my hands and feet were not frostbitten, but apparently the Garmin was!! None the less, a slight disappointment, but very short lived since I’m really only in this for a good time, not out to beat myself every time!
Fast forward to this weekend…. you thought I would never ever get there, right? Even though I signed up for my usual goal of 3:30, the Nashville Striders booth beckoned me at the Expo and I left for home with my new wristband of the 2:45 pace time and a race bib that screamed 2:45. The nice lady at the booth said she could move me up to Corral 27 and that Chris would be the pace leader. I told her it was a big jump for me, but none the less it would not hurt to try! I jumped in the corral about 20 minutes or so before we stepped across the start of the real time of 7:43:23am on Saturday, April 28th. I did not have too much time to come up with a game plan, but I was game enough to try! Once I reacquainted myself with Chris, gave him the story behind my last two hm's and he told me the best advice would be to not start out too fast, stay near or not too far behind and just to go my best pace. He asked me what my goal was and of course I said 2:45 and showed him my race bib. He also asked why I had on a corral bib in the 32k mark, I pointed out the little orange circle that 27 on it and I told him about how that was my first attempted goal of my first HM and I had never bothered to change it. (I believe at this point he said once you do this time of 2:45, next you can jump up to the 2:30 goal!) Of course once we started in the excitement of actually moving, I did start out a wee bit too fast, but not too terribly. I was ahead of Chris, but I know it could not have been much as I was using my new bracelet like crazy! I checked it every mile and as boring as it is, I want this down in print so I will relive it here as I remember it…1-under, 2 under, 3- under, 4-on it, 5 –on it, 6- on it, 7- on it- 8- a little over, 9 – a little more over, 10 – 2 minutes off , 11- 2 minutes off, 12 around 3 minutes off, and this is where I think I dug back in wanting to keep it as close as possibly to the 2:47 mark….after that I actually never looked at the bracelet again I just basically knew I had to go as fast as I possibly could (which actually at this point a very slow jog, it had gotten really hot and muggy by this time)! When I saw the 13 mile mark I knew I had to actually run to the finish line and so me….the “walker” actually sprinted (hey it was a sprint to me!) to the finish line of the 2012 St. Jude County Music Half Marathon for a final time of 2:47:56 with a 12:39 pace!!! (My Garmin had that exact time but a pace of 12:37; of course it was also 13.3 miles ). Was I disappointed I couldn’t do the attempted 2:45 time frame? From what you have read above, what do you think? I was actually absolutely thrilled about my finish time. Honestly it as was as close as I could come to the 2:45 mark it, I went my pace and I had the best time of my life doing it!!!
Oh and in closing, I want to tell you all of the above is why I did join the Nashville Striders, the club I did not even belong to, but have gotten so much encouragement from, confirming what I did not even know about myself, that I could do it, I could reach my goal, (or at least close to it), I just had to try! I then went into my Women’s Half Marathon Entry and changed my new goal time to 2:45!!! How about that?! If you made it this far, thanks for reading and I look forward to meeting you out on the road!