I am a runner

All my life I've considered myself unathletic.

As a newborn I was hospitalized with respiratory illness that would today probably have been diagnosed as RSV, though it wasn't called that in 1971.  For most of my childhood whenever I got a cold it went straight to my lungs and I spent a lot of days in the hospital on oxygen.  As I got older I was just sicker than everyone else but haven't been in a hospital for it in decades.

My first 5k - Wine at the Line 2011
I've never been able to run or do any other sport that includes running.  Getting to first base left me winded.  Soccer was right out.  I was constantly told that I was terrible, that I sucked, and also, mostly by my dad, that I should try harder, suck less (at other things too but this post is not about that). 

The year that I was about to turn 40, I decided that I wanted to try out a couch to 5k running program.  I definitely had some extra weight I wanted to get rid of, and as my youngest was 7 years old it was time to stop calling it baby weight.  And it was a year of trying new things.  A few of my friends started C25K too.  We signed up and some Brew Miles, one mile runs here where you end at a brewery and get a free beer for running.  I was terrible, but that was ok.  Janet and I did Wine at the Line which I'm pretty sure was my first 5k.  (Apparently I will run for alcohol.)

 832   65  MANDIE HARRINGTON        INDIANAPOLIS IN    F 40  16:34    51:29.9

2011 Run Like Hell Halloween/costume 3 miles
Pretty bad, but at least I made it.

I knew I wouldn't be able to do it in the 9 weeks the program takes, but I really thought that if I just stuck to it, I would make tiny incremental improvements and after several months I'd be able to run.

Well, I was wrong.  I don't think I ever made it through week 5 of the C25K program.  I asked for advice.  I tried running slower.  So slow I could walk faster, slow.  Still could never make it through the 8 minutes, not even close.

Talking to some runners on Ravelry I decided that I should give up on the idea of running continuously, at least for a while, and focus on running intervals.  One in particular had run some pretty fast marathons by running intervals, and people pointed me to Jeff Galloway.

That was great, I got a little faster, and more importantly I liked it more.  Running SOOOPER slow isn't any fun.

In November Janet and I did a 5k at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. 
2011 Monumental Marathon 5k

810   65  MANDIE HARRINGTON        INDIANAPOLIS IN    F 40  15:20    47:39.0

2011 Drumstick Dash
Lots better!  Still, you know, really slow, but improving.  And we were really inspired by the slower marathon runners we watched finishing.  They didn't look like elite athletes, they looked like us.  Some were walking, some were running slow, but they were still going and we thought what the hell, we could do that!  So we signed up for the half marathon next year.

I don't know how many times in the next 12 months I wondered what the hell I was thinking.  There's a 15 minute/mile time limit and we were very worried about being picked up by the bus.

 2012 was terrible for many reasons too personal to share here, but through it all I kept running.  Some days running was the only thing that kept me going.   It almost always made me feel better when I was having a breakdown.

I don't think I got much faster over that year at all, but we sure upped our endurance!  And had a little fun, too.

2012 Color Me Rad

And then the Monumental came and we totally did it! 
4793  326  MANDIE HARRINGTON    INDIANAPOLIS IN    F 41  1:27:15.2  15:00  3:16:43.9
4794  450  JANET DALZELL        INDIANAPOLIS IN    F 33  1:27:15.5  15:00  3:16:44.1


Caity and Rob did too.

Jingle Bell Run 2012
So I felt pretty good about myself, and I didn't care how fast I was because it was my first one.
I got kinda lazy over winter and when I went to start training for the next half marathon (the Indianapolis 500 Mini Marathon), I had lost some.  And my life was getting hard again.  And this time I was doing it on my own.  Up until this year the farthest I had EVER run alone was 3 miles.  

I really had dreams that I was going to be SO much better at this one.  That I was going to finish in under 3 hours, and I was going to run more than 45 seconds at a time.   It became apparent this spring that I was really not going to be able to do that.  I was really worried about even finishing.  Running is hard enough that my higher brain functioning goes straight out the window.  I can't do VERY simple counting math (like to figure out if I'm on lap 8 of 10 that I have 2 laps to go.  Or is it 3?)  Apparently that's the same part of my brain that tells me it's ok that I'm slow and can't breathe.  I start telling myself how much I suck, and that I should be able to be better.  That I should suck less (sound familiar?).  

I was out running 3 miles one day in April, trying to finish in under 40 minutes (a long time goal)  I was half way through that run, and beating myself up about how TERRIBLE I was, pushing myself past feeling like I was going to throw up for at least 10 minutes before it dawned on me that it was HOT and VERY humid.  That this was *maybe* not the best weather to try to break a record and there's NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.  Like I said, my brain doesn't function.  

Running alone is really hard.   There is the kind of struggle that you have to will yourself through.  Leg cramps, shin splints, blisters.  And there are things you CAN NOT will yourself through.  No amount of will power will make up for shitty lungs, and this is something I've only recently started to accept about myself (which is ridiculous as I would never feel that way about someone else).  I cough and sputter and wheeze when I run. 

Crowd at the start of the Mini Marathon
So the morning of the 2013 Mini Marathon I was really nervous.  I really came very close to not going.  But I'd told a bunch of people online (Hello TLM!) that I was doing it and they were sending me so many amazing cheers.  It was really unbelievable to me, still chokes me up a bit to think about.

The Mini Marathon is HUGE.  It's the largest half marathon in the country, with over 30,000 participants.  For reference, the start finish line is waaaaay up there past that blue building.

I started off and I felt like maybe I was ok.  Maybe I could make my 3 hours.  I was on pace to do it for a few miles.  When we got to the Speedway and I heard someone say this is half way and sure enough, 1 hour, 30 minutes exactly. 

EXCEPT.  I felt like shit.  I was never going to finish the way I was going.  There were people cheering all around the track (which is 2 1/2 miles around) and I kind of hated all of them.  Seriously shut up with your "you can do it!"  YOU DON'T KNOW.  

OK I can't keep on like this.  And I had to pee.  I ducked in to a portapotty along the route and I kinda gave up.  Not on finishing but on my 3 hours.  Screw it, it's not worth it. And while I was taking my break I remembered all my friends who cheered me on.  And a shirt I saw at the expo that said I got this I got this I got this I got this I GOT THIS.  And I said to myself:

I've got this.

I've got this.

Fuck it!  It doesn't matter if I break my record.  It doesn't matter if my dad thinks I suck.  It doesn't matter if I'm fast.  I'm NOT going to kill myself, I'm going to finish and that's good enough.  

I've got this!

The front straight at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
I entered the speedway feeling terrible and by the end of the 2.5 miles I had had an epiphany.

 I more or less kept my same running intervals, but if my time to run came up and I didn't feel like I could, I didn't.  An extra 10-20 seconds of walking made all the difference.  Sometimes I ran 40 seconds instead of 45.  (Sometimes I ran longer!).  I GOT THIS.

And this song came on my play list

This song is amazing.  It brought me to tears and kept me going.  
If you're lost and alone
Or you're sinking like a stone
Carry on

May your past be the sound
Of your feet upon the ground
Carry on 

Really there's just nothing better than this song when you're 11 miles in to a half marathon and you don't think you can keep going.

We are shining stars
We are invincible
We are who we are
On our darkest day
When we're miles away
So we'll come
We will find our way home 


And in the end I totally did it.  I made it.  I don't believe I have ever been more proud of anything I've ever done in my life. 
Finishers!  Mini Marathon 2013
17575   Mandie Harrington

 42:12       Brickyard: 1:47:59       11M:  2:34:52     Finish: 
3:04:46   Pace:   14:07

In the end I didn't break my 3 hour goal but really, I was not that far from it considering.  I was the only one in our family that had improved from last fall.  But none of that matters.  I don't think I would have cared if I hadn't gotten faster.  I came out of this feeling like a runner.

So today, on the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 I was thinking about this and thought I should blog about it.  I was talking to someone the other day and I was saying I am a terrible runner.  She kept trying to tell me I'm not, and she's wrong.  I mean I AM a terrible runner.  I can't breathe, I cough and sputter.  I don't have a good stride.  I have apparently very short legs as I was just measuring myself for a bike and my leg length was NOT EVEN A CHOICE because it's so short.

But I was trying to actually say something positive about myself and failing.  I am a terrible runner.  But I AM a runner.