Photo Credit: Randy Schafer
If you’re reading this, it should mean that I am running the AthHalf this weekend, and not that I died sometime during my preparation, and City Editor Blake Aued is running it as some weird obit. This little experiment started at a Flagpole weekly editorial meeting, during which we started planning the fitness issue to coincide with AthFest Educate's half-marathon. I suggested we follow some poor out-of-shape soul’s training for it—and then I became possessed and suggested that I should in fact be that poor soul. (Flagpole’s office is quite haunted.)
After the meeting, I went home, started researching half-marathon training programs and asked my more-in-shape friends on Facebook if I could pull this off in 10 weeks, hoping someone would quickly discourage me. They didn’t. They were so nice and supportive, offering to run with me and giving me great advice. Thanks a lot, guys.
So here I am, training for a half-marathon. A little about me: I am 22 and recently graduated from the University of Georgia. I weigh about 120 pounds right now, and I have Type 1 diabetes. I don’t eat particularly healthily or particularly poorly. At the start of training, I had run a mile and a half two weeks ago, and before that I couldn’t tell you the last time I ran. In my freshman year of high school, I almost joined the cross-country team, because I was running a couple times a week with a boy I liked, and that was cool. I didn’t join it, but I do take dance classes. The most miles I’ve ever run without stopping is three, and somehow I’m going to turn that into 13.1 in 10 weeks.
Week One: My Eyeballs Are Going to Fall Out of My Head
I killed the first mile. I ran it in about 8 minutes without stopping, and part of it was uphill. When I stopped to walk for a bit, I already knew I would have shin splints in the morning. The last two miles were considerably harder, and I had to stop to walk three times. At one point, I realized I probably need to invest in better running shoes, and also that I need to clip my toenails. I was a little shy of my distance goal when I got home, so I ran around the block once more and got ambushed by a small, white terrier who motivated me to sprint the last tenth of a mile. When I sat down, I thought the pounding in my head would go away quickly, but in a fun turn of events, it started to feel like tiny little elves were trying their damnedest to push out my eyeballs.
Distance: Three miles.
Time: 35 minutes.
Rookie Mistake: I should have mapped out where I was going first. It got pretty dark, I wasn’t running in the best-lit or safest areas, and I was running solo. I kept looking over my shoulder to be sure I wasn’t being followed by an international spy (Matt Damon, looking at you).
Smells: Very strong perfume smells by the Episcopal church on Prince Avenue and over by Reese/Pope park. Also, someone was smoking ribs, and when I ran by The Grit on my way home the (delicious) food smell almost made me gag.
Foodstuffs: Iced coffee for breakfast, a sandwich and yogurt for lunch, an apple and almond butter for snack, and salmon, rice pilaf, green beans and asparagus for dinner.
What Hurts: Head, shins, eyeballs.
WEEK TWO: Island in the Run
Sorry, I saw Weezer last night. I was a bit nervous going into this week’s training. One, my foot was bothering me on Monday, and I was worried I screwed it up already. After icing it a couple times, it felt much better, but I wasn’t going to risk it and run that day. Two, I’m at the beach, and I was nervous about running alone in a city I’m not super familiar with, and that the beach bum in me would overpower my startlingly weak athleticism.
Luckily, our hotel has a fitness center, so I ran on the treadmill today. Pros: A/C (!!), being able to see how many miles per hour I’m running and controlling the incline. Cons: so, so, so boring. A watched pot never boils, right? A watched distance meter never moves, either. I decided to try TV instead of tunes today, and that didn’t work out great, but then again, Transformers 2 was on.
Distance: Four miles.
Time: 45 minutes.
Anthem: Transformers 2, Michael Bay.
Rookie Mistake: Accidentally swatting the treadmill emergency stop, immediately halting the belt when I had about .15 miles left.
Smells: The Comfort Inn Fitness Center and me.
Foodstuffs: Road trip food—Chick-Fil-A chicken minis with coffee and OJ; a Dairy Queen cheeseburger, small fry and Oreo CheeseQuake for lunch. Dinner will probably be seafood and hopefully a salad. Jesus.
What Hurts: Calves like wow.
WEEK THREE: OMG, Hills
Oof. I knew it was going to be a rough run immediately after I took those first few fateful steps. My calves, shins and ankles seemed to be exhausted after a minute or so of attempting to jog up a hill. As a result, I had to slow my pace to a walk about every half-mile. Though this was set to be my longest run yet, it seemed to be a setback from my progression, which I would classify as “barely noticeable, but noticeable!” I think my biggest accomplishment tonight was that I got home from running at 9:16 p.m. and was at the 40 Watt by 9:37 p.m.
I’m going to buy real running shoes tomorrow. Also, I’ve noticed that all this running is taking a toll on my skin, and I’m definitely going to have to become more diligent about washing my face every night and maybe invest in a better body wash. So, essentially, I’m three weeks in, and my body totally hates me.
Distance: Six… er… 5.6 miles.
Time: One hour and 30 minutes.
Anthem: “XO,” Beyonce.
Rookie Mistake: Trying to run six miles in a time crunch.
Smells: I forgot to smell. Too much ow.
Foodstuffs: Bowl of granola-y cereal and OJ for breakfast. Willy’s quesadilla for lunch. Hawaiian pizza and dough dots from Transmet rounding out the night.
What Hurts: Everything from the knees down.
WEEK FOUR: Uh Oh
Again today, when I started to run, my legs from the knees down were immediately exhausted. They don’t hurt, per se, but they feel tight and cramped. I could barely run at all and walked most of a puny distance. So, after a bit of research, I’m starting to think I’ve given myself shin splints, because according to WebMD, this can happen when an athlete (lol) suddenly increases the amount of running she’s doing. Since I essentially had no prep time, I think that’s probably what’s going on. My plan is to take anti-inflammatories and ice my shins for a couple days, then probably skip my next run, so I can get back to it. Until then, I’ll miss spending hours sweating in the hot August sun and waking up to a sense of dread, knowing I have to run multiple miles at some point today. Why am I doing this, again?
Distance: I don’t want to tell you. OK, it was like 1.8 miles.
Time: Ugh. Like 45 minutes.
Anthem: “Make Me Proud,” Drake. (Sorry I let you down.)
Rookie Mistake: I think I waited too long to buy real running shoes.
Smells: Defeat :(
Foodstuffs: Granola for breakfast, a Zaxby’s Zalad for lunch and a veggie burger and carrot sticks for dinner.
What Hurts: Everything from the knee down. Again.
WEEK FIVE: You'd Think I'd Be Better at This by Now
After my last entry, I took five days off from running to ice and rest my calves and shins. After that, I hit some high points in my training. I ran six miles like I was supposed to before my legs became injured, and I ran three miles without stopping to walk. Go, me!
The most difficult thing about training is finding time to run four days a week. I can do three, usually, but carving time out for that fourth run is tough with my work schedule. As a result, my running schedule gets screwed up, and I don’t have proper rest between difficult runs. Yesterday, for example, I ran four miles to make up for missing my Wednesday and Thursday runs, which means I was really tired for my attempted eight-mile run today.
It started out OK. I even had some nice encouragement from onlookers. Shout-out to the Lambda Chi pledge, Doug, who even ran with me for a hot second; the car of men who shouted some unintelligible niceties at me; and the sensitive backseat rider who blew me a tender kiss—I’m doing this all for you guys. Anyway, by the end, my legs throbbed with every step, my ass was sore from all the turbulence—Do they make sports bras for your butt?—and my blood sugar was going low. To top it off, I was running uphill when a yellow jacket crawled into the fold of my yoga pants and stung my ass and proceeded to chase me up the rest of the hill. At that point, it was clear it was time to call it a day, so a friend came to pick me up. Looks like I’ll be running with a fanny pack from now on so I can carry glucose tablets, but I’m sure Doug will be into it.
Distance: Six miles.
Time: 80 minutes.
Anthem: “Go,” Grimes.
Rookie Mistake: I didn’t eat enough before I left or bring water with me.
Smells: A pleasant, sweet end-of-summer smell down Barber Street near Boulevard, and a very smoky one over by the Five Points Waffle House.
Foodstuffs: Granola with milk for breakfast (around noon) and a Clif bar before I ran; sushi for dinner.
What Hurts: Thighs and butt.
WEEK SIX: Sick, Dude!
PLOT TWIST! I'm sick, and I haven't run all week. Pete McCommons asked how the fitness issue was going, and I just shook my head in an "I’m dying out there, coach" way.
Because I haven’t run at all, instead of whining to you guys this week, here's a run-down on what it’s cost me to do this, so far.
• Moisture:wicking socks: $15 for three pairs. These help you avoid blisters.
• Saucony running shoes: $145. These help you not break your legs.
• Spotify Premium: $5 per month—student rate, holla! So I can listen to Drake’s words of encouragement.
• Moves: Free! This is a pedometer app that I downloaded sometime last year to make myself feel better about how little I exercise. (If you take 10,000 steps a day, apparently that’s good enough.) It’s not great for this, but I’ve been using it to measure my distance; it tracks mileage, too. I couldn’t figure out MapMyRun.
• Camelback Sport water bottle: $15. You’re supposed to take in between five–12 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes while you run. (I definitely didn’t do that at first, whoops.) When I started, it was really annoying to carry a hard plastic bottle; sounds prissy, but it was really distracting. This squishy, leak-proof one was totally worth the 15 bucks.
WEEK SEVEN: How Many More Miles?
After getting back in the swing of things with some surprisingly not-horrible shorter runs this week, I ran nine miles today! This is so cool. Wait, what’s that you say? That’s still four miles short of what I will have to do in the race? That’s how far? Oh, the distance from my house down Barber, up Prince, across Milledge and halfway down East Campus! HOW WILL I DO FOUR MORE MILES; I AM DEAD. So while this distance is really exciting, and I’m feeling very proud, I’m still really nervous about doing the half. My legs are so tired tonight that I have to do this weird sit and scoot thing to get down the stairs.
In other news, I figured out that MapMyRun is much easier to use on a computer—I was using the mobile app—and it was great for figuring out how much I actually ran. Moves tried to gyp me by a mile and a half.
Distance: 9.17 miles.
Time: Two hours and 15 minutes.
Anthem: “Super Bass,” Nicki Minaj. She’s been such a good running buddy lately.
Rookie Mistake: Not wearing my special socks because they were all dirty. Blister City resulted.
Smells: The ever-present terrible, terrible smell that loiters on the stretch between Daily Co-Op and Dunkin' Donuts. What is the deal over there?
Foodstuffs: Jittery Joe’s bagel for breakfast, grilled cheese and an apple with almond butter for lunch and a Caesar salad for dinner.
What Hurts: Hamstrings.
WEEK EIGHT: Return of the Sick
Remember when I said everything was going well, and I ran nine miles and all that? Well, that was all true until I got sick again. I’m now on antibiotics for a sinus and ear infection.
For anyone who is interested in the complex science of my particular body—who isn’t, right?—I thought I’d take a couple sentences to talk about how my blood sugar has been affected by this. Exercise can make blood sugar spike or plummet, and luckily for me, mine does both at random! I have to say, I expected that, long-term, all the running would decrease the amount of insulin I need, which it sort of did at first. With the combination of the sickness and the not-running now, though, my blood sugar has been outrageously high. I’m combatting numbers I have never seen the likes of. Yay, bodies!
WEEK NINE: Go Dawgs!
Getting back into running this week was almost as bad as being sick. I probably would have rather been leaking mucus for another seven days than trying to run any amount of miles. It got slightly better as the week went on. After Wednesday’s disaster, where I struggled to run one mile without stopping, today’s game day run was actually quite pleasant. There was a lot of energy in the crisp morning air, people playing cornhole along Milledge, and no one was drunk yet. Tomorrow will mark two weeks until the half-marathon, and I got my email confirmation this week, so that’s terrifying.
Distance: 5.6 miles
Time: One hour and 10 minutes.
Anthem: “I Am a God,” Kanye West.
Rookie Mistake: I actually don’t think I did anything embarrassing today.
Smells: DAWG TIME. Tailgating smells were both lovely and distracting.
Foodstuffs: Clif bar and coffee for breakfast; potato salad, chicken tenders and and a salad for lunch; pimiento cheeseburger for dinner.
What Hurts: Left knee.
WEEK TEN: The Final Week
When I pitched this article and volunteered to be its subject, I had no idea what I was getting into. Even after watching a roommate train for this same run a few years ago and researching training programs, I had no concept of the hours and hours of time the training would consume. The runs themselves, the mental and physical preparation for the runs and recuperation afterwards—training took huge chunks out of my week. Looking back, it’s not something I would sign up for as a person with two part-time jobs and an internship. There were many days when I worked 12 hours with maybe an hour or two between jobs, and I simply did not have time to train those days, though I was scheduled to. I think if you’re going to sign up to do something like this, especially if you’re new to it, it needs to be your No. 2 priority behind work. I’ve still only run 9.17 miles, and I don’t intend to achieve more than that because I need to let my body rest before the run, but I’ve heard you only really need to train up to eight miles, so here’s to hoping that’s true?
Now for the good stuff: I can run six miles now with fairly little difficulty, which is a huge improvement from where I started. I have new muscles in my legs, especially my calves and feet. I got to soak up a lot of pretty Athens scenery. Most importantly, though, this is something I accomplished entirely on my own, with fairly little support from anyone else. (Yeah, my friends who were all gung-ho at the beginning about being my running buddies flaked on me. THANKS GUYS!) It’s definitely made me feel stronger, more capable and independent, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Except maybe all the sleep I missed out on.