Here is the rest of Catlin’s story, continued from Monday. Remember, when we left our heroine, she had just finished her first 5K and was a little disappointed in the result. Will she redeem herself? Will she keep running? Let’s find out.
My friends had been talking about running a half-marathon, and even though it seemed so absolutely impossible to me, I kept it in the back of my mind and kept telling my friends that I’d think about it. The half-marathon was getting closer and closer and I realized I’d have to make a decision in order to have enough time to train for it. When I thought about actually doing it, I got butterflies in my stomach and almost felt sick. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d like to be a part of it. I thought about it really hard for two days, and I talked with my husband about it. The thoughts just kept coming that I had never done anything REALLY hard in my life, anything that really made me push myself and stretch and do something that I honestly didn’t know if I could do. The goals I usually set for myself are pretty attainable and never cause me much discomfort or struggle. I felt like at this point in my life I wanted to do something hard, and also like I wanted to do something just for ME. So, even though I was terrified, I signed up for the half-marathon at the end of January. That left me exactly 8 weeks to train, going from basically zero to 13 miles. I found a training schedule online that actually looked doable and wasn’t too daunting. I just had to add a mile each week to my long runs and I would get up to running 10 miles the week before the race. It felt good to have such a lofty goal, but if I thought about it for too long I was just plain scared.
The week after the 5K both of my knees started hurting really bad. I had gotten new shoes the week before, and I know I’d been pushing myself pretty hard with all this running. There was no way I could run, and my knees hurt when I walked, bent over, went up or down stairs, and even when I was sitting. With how much pain I was in, I thought for sure there was no way I could run in the half-marathon. With only 6 weeks left to train there was no time to waste and I hated watching each day slip away without being able to run. I did everything I could think of to help my knees (different shoes/knee braces/leg strengthening exercises/ice/etc.) and I just kept waiting for the pain to go away. I didn’t want to make a decision about whether I was still going to try to run the race or not, because I didn’t want to say goodbye to my goal. Finally, the pain started going away and a full two weeks after my last run, I ran 3 miles. My knees felt okay and after a couple days of rest I did another 4 miles. With no sign of pain, I jumped right back into my training schedule and did a 7, then 8, then 10 mile runs over the next few weeks. It was honestly my own little miracle and I was so grateful for every single mile that I was able to run.
I knew I wasn’t very well prepared for the race, but I had done as much as time and circumstances allowed, so I felt okay about it. I was actually less nervous for the half than I had been for the 5K, probably because I had one race under my belt, and because I wasn’t expecting too much out of myself. Katie had suggested we each set 3 goals, and I loved the idea. Mine were #1 – to finish the race, #2 – to run it in under 2:45, #3 – to run it in under 2:30. I had been running 12 minute miles while training, so I couldn’t imagine that I could run any faster than that while doing the full 13 miles. I really had low expectations for myself and was just looking forward to the experience and hoping to finish without being in too much pain! We got to the starting line and I just felt like “well, this is it! everything I have been working toward for the last two months is happening right now!” It was very exciting to be running with so many people (I think about 16,000 runners total!) and to run past the Capitol building, Washington Monument, and other awesome sights. Our other two friends had gone on ahead by about mile 3, but Katie and I planned to run the whole race together. I was loving every second of it — the spectators, the other runners, the sights. There was a really long hill at mile 6 that I had been dreading, but we pushed through it and I was feeling wonderful. Katie and I kept a good pace, but we were able to talk and encourage each other and I had a huge smile on my face the whole time. It was actually so much easier for me than I had been expecting. I was so surprised that I was feeling so good and that we were keeping a pace of just over 10 minutes/mile.
Everything was fabulous until mile 11. All of a sudden my energy was gone and I did not feel like I could keep moving. Katie was a lifesaver and she pushed me along and kept encouraging me to keep going. All I wanted to do was slow down and ease up for a minute, but I really had to focus and just think about moving one foot in front of the other. The smile was gone and I was breathing harder and giving it everything I had to be able to keep going. With only one mile left to run, I remember thinking that mile 12 seemed longer than the whole race had. We kept setting marks and finding people to keep up with or even pass during that last mile or so. There was a small hill right before a downhill to the finish line, and I remember yelling to Katie to help me because I couldn’t do it! She got right next to me and yelled at me to keep going and to push it and to go faster. I used every ounce of energy I had and ran as fast as I could up that hill and then down to the finish line. I was literally yelling as I crossed the finish line! It was so emotional to have Katie right there with me when we crossed, and feel completely drained, but so excited at the same time. Katie said we did it in 2:19 and I was absolutely shocked! That meant that we ran the race at about a 10 1/2 minute pace. It was so much above what I had expected that I didn’t even know what to think! And the fact that I had run the ENTIRE time was incredible to me. I found Joseph and the kids and just cried when I saw them. It was an incredible feeling and it was awesome to know that I had given it everything I had and I had absolutely no regrets. Having Katie by my side the whole time was the one thing that made all the difference to me, because mentally I don’t think that I would have been able to keep going strong at some points without someone there to push me. My body was very tired and my legs were pretty sore within a couple of hours, but my knees didn’t hurt at all and I actually felt really good, physically.
After the race I couldn’t believe that it was actually over! I was so happy with everything about it and I was so proud of myself for what I had done. I loved being a part of it and not just doing it halfheartedly but honestly giving it everything I had. It is also nice to have done something measurable, rather than just saying my new year’s resolution was to run more, or something. If you asked me even six months ago if I thought I would ever run a half marathon I would definitely have said no. But I totally proved myself wrong and it feels so good to know that I can do more than I think I can. What else is there that I have been putting off or am too scared to do because I didn’t think I could do it? This has totally given me confidence that I can do anything that I put my mind to.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Catlin! If anybody else has a story to share, or someone who inspires you who you’d like to nominate to be spotlighted on the Mother Runner, let me know! lizzie (at) motherrunner (dot) com.