Posts Tagged With: persistence

Reaching New Goals: My First 10K

Okay, so I haven’t posted in a while — but with good reason, I swear! I finally went ahead and contacted a web designer who could help make my blog a bit more user-friendly (and, let’s face it, prettier) — thanks again, Shannon! And then I disappeared on a 10-day getaway to my happy place: Walt Disney World (and Universal and Sea World, too), to celebrate Halloween with my favorite Disney pals at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and stuff my face at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

As you may know, I’ve been dabbling in the world of half-marathon training since July, and I decided that before jumping from community 5Ks right into the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February, I’d try my hand (or feet, as it were) in a 10K.

That’s right. I ran my first 10K — Brian’s Run in Wayne, NJ — the day before I left for vacation (not a smart idea, by the way…walking for miles and miles all over the Disney World resort with stiff, achy legs was not fun). The event raises money for Tomorrow’s Children’s Fund (TCF) at Hackensack University Medical Center, which benefits pediatric cancer patients — I’m always thrilled to know my entry fees are being used for a great cause.

I had been following my own unique blend of a 10K and half marathon training program for weeks, altering workouts slightly to accommodate my robust martial arts training schedule (I recently signed up for Tae Kwon Do in addition to my Muay Thai kickboxing, but more on that later). However, during my training runs, I had been doing a lot more walking than I cared to admit, taking breaks in between each mile or two. I expected to do the same during my 10K.

Still, I went into the race feeling fairly confident that my training would push me through all 6.1 miles…but gave myself full permission to stop for a leisurely stroll if I needed the rest. And, as per my usual MO, instead of allowing myself to actually set a goal — because heaven forbid I “fail” — I tried to ignore my secret desire to complete the race in less than an hour. In fact, didn’t even allow myself to say it out loud. I was so sure I couldn’t do it.

Once I began the course, I had decided it was going to be impossible to meet my super secret goal, anyway, given that there was an enormous hill to climb every quarter mile! Don’t get me wrong, I knew the area was somewhat mountainous, and it was a lovely scenic route to take on a crisp early fall morning, but I never could have imagined that I would be running up and down countless hills, many of which were so steep I couldn’t see over the top. No exaggeration! After the third or fourth hill (which, admittedly, I don’t train on consistently enough), I decided I’d be lucky to cross the finish line in an upright position.

But then something amazing happened. I ran the first mile, and then the second, and then I finished a 5K and still didn’t feel the need to stop to walk. I just kept running. Though going uphill slowed my pace down a bit, a quick glance at my Garmin now and then (which I try not to stare at incessantly, because it drives me crazy) indicated that I was still maintaining my average race pace (9:30/mile).

And then there were miles 4, 5, and 6, which I had been having nightmares about for weeks. I’ve participated in my share of 5Ks, and I know how tired I am when I cross the finish line…so I couldn’t help but wonder how well I’d fare running two 5Ks back-to-back. You can imagine how many nightmares I’ve had about running a half marathon.

Guess what? I ran all three of those remaining miles…and still did not stop. Not once. I jogged through the water stops, ignored my burning quads on those hills, and just kept going.

Was I tired? Absolutely. Was I mentally writing a letter to the race day organizers requesting that, in the future, they should please describe the course as RIDICULOUSLY HILLY? Yes.

But for the first time, I actually heard my mental dialogue during a race transform from “you’re so slow, give it up” to “you’ve got this, keep it up.” I was doing something I never thought possible, and I was utterly astonished to find that, yes, all of my hard work was actually paying off.

Crossing the finish line of that 10K made all of the training runs I had done in the rain, or when it was 90+ degrees outside, or when my legs were sore, or when I was tired, or when I had all sorts of better things to do, so incredibly worth it.

The cherry on top of it all?

115    59:18.8 0039 JENNIFER NELSON          CRANFORD             NJ F 27  09:32

I actually did it — I finished in under 60 minutes!

I have to stop being too afraid of failure — or assuming I’m just not good enough — to set and reach a goal.

To some of the runners that day, it was just a 6.2 mile run. But for me, I will always remember it as the day I accomplished something I never thought possible…and all because I finally allowed myself to believe that I could.

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Persistence Pays Off

If I had a nickel for every time I quit something…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be writing this blog post from my tiny apartment, surrounded by furniture purchased from the likes of Walmart and Big Lots.

My weight has fluctuated up and down (and up and down again) since I was in elementary school. I’d start a weight loss program (read: starve myself), lose 10 pounds, then quit. I’d start a new diet a year later, drop a dress size, and quit. After ballooning to 220 pounds in middle school, I managed to lose 60 pounds in time for my my senior prom…but then, that’s right, I quit again, and returned to Weight Watchers (my weight loss program of choice) for the final time as a 267-pound 22-year-old.

When I first started running — strictly as a way to torch as many calories in as little amount of time, mind you — there were weeks when I was committed and consistent, squeezing in at least 3-4 runs each week and basking in my ability to run longer and harder without having to take as many walk breaks.

I didn’t start registering for races until a year ago, and suddenly, my finish time in local 5Ks started affecting my attitude about running in the same way the scale had always managed to sabotage my diet plan of the month.

If I had a bad week on Weight Watchers and, heaven forbid, gained a pound or two, I’d get discouraged and start letting my efforts slide. I’d go into hiding for several weeks, vowing to return to my meeting only when I was satisfied that the scale would not show a gain again. I probably don’t need to tell you how many times I simply never returned.

When I struggled through a 5K — even if it was because I hadn’t been training properly, or the weather was humid, or I wasn’t eating right  — I’d take what I believed was a less-than-satisfactory finish time and use it as an excuse to quit running for a month or two…because, after all, one bad race surely meant I was just too fat to run. Why bother?

I guess with age comes wisdom (or something like that), because the secret of what it takes to lose weight, or to become a better runner, finally clicked: persistence.

When I began my most recent weight loss journey in November 2007, I made a promise to myself that no matter what, I was not going to give up. Nearly five years later, I’m still not at “goal,” and I’ve certainly had my share of not-so-successful weeks (and months), but I never once allowed myself to completely throw in the towel and return to my old ways. I’ve lost 90 pounds, and am maintaining my weight loss for the first time in my life…and all because I just keep going.

After my unsatisfying performance in this July’s Firecracker 4-miler, I realized that I had a decision to make. Was I going to continue running recreationally as a cardio workout, or was I going to take the sport seriously and commit myself to trying to improve? I realized that my 2-3 mile walk/runs every few days were probably not doing anything for me (duh), and that if I was going to keep dropping 20 or 30 bucks on races every couple of months, I should probably give a real training plan a shot.

You know…actually try to succeed at something before convincing myself that I’m going to fail.

And that’s the real reason why I signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon…I needed to plop down a few thousand dollars (yes, that’s right…I just booked a six-night getaway at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter for $1,500, on top of race fees, airfare, park tickets, etc.) to force myself to choose a running-related goal — complete a half marathon without being hauled away in a body bag — and then actually stick to it.

And the crazy just keeps on coming. I’ve already signed up for my first 10K this fall, Brian’s Run in Wayne, NJ — the day before I leave for a 9-day vacation to Disney World in September. I have my sights set on a few other 10Ks in October and November.

But it’s working.

The Cranford Jaycees’ Firecracker 4-Miler and the Central Jersey Road Runner Club’s Not Quite Fall Classic 4-Miler, which I just ran this past weekend, both follow the exact same course.

On July 4, I came in at 40:37, for an average pace of 10:09. I constantly kept having to stop to “tie my shoes” just to catch my breath, and the 4 miles felt more like 14 miles.

After a month and a half of following my own unique blend of a 10K and half marathon training plan that I found on Cool Running, I ran that same course on August 26 in the Not Quite Fall Classic 4-Miler in 35:46, for an average pace of 8:56.

Not only have I been training consistently, but I went into the race with a very specific plan: I wanted to finish the first mile at an 8:30 pace, the second at 9, the third at 9:30, and the last mile at 10. Much to my utter and complete shock, I finished the first mile in 8:30 and then maintained a steady pace hovering right around 9 minutes for the duration of the race. Best of all, I legitimately took 3rd place for my age group (but was awarded the 2nd place medal because there are no double awards).

People have asked me how I stay “motivated” to lose weight, or continually put my body through the rigors of running. I can promise you this: whether you’re trying to shed a few pounds, or you’re a fledgling runner training for a race (or both, like me), “motivation” often has very little to do with it.

You don’t necessarily have to be motivated to achieve a goal — but you do have to be persistent.

I’m rarely “motivated” to choose a veggie burger and side salad over a juicy cheeseburger and fries, or to log a 5-mile run when my legs are sore or I’m tired from working all day or I just plain don’t feel like it. To me, it’s kind of like asking someone how they stay “motivated” to brush their teeth every morning. It’s just something you do.

I can definitely feel motivated by the way my jeans fit or setting a new PR, but on those days when I lose a battle with a bag of kettle corn or struggle through a slow 2-mile run, it’s persistence alone that keeps me moving forward.

How has persistence helped you achieve your goals?

 

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