This year’s DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon / UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon was going to be 13.1 to remember. When I applied to serve as a P3Runner, I told the team this was going to be a year of comeback for me (following a 2019 back half filled with physical and mental pain). I’d see a victory. It would be a half marathon to remember. This post contains affiliate links.
Psst: Even though the 2020 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon has gone virtual, keep your eye on my blog for news about other events put on by P3REvents this year, including some exclusive deals, too!
I’m talking all in past tense here and some of you are probably wondering why that is. You’ve checked out my Facebook and Instagram and saw not a thing about the fact that my 13.1 has been run. You read my last training update (which was too long ago, back when the COVID-19 pandemic had just started to sink in) and it said I planned to run the 13.1 to remember, my first virtual race, on May 3 (the original race day).
Well, I’ve Ran My Race
One of the things I’ve learned in the past year is that I MUST pay attention to my mental health. To be honest, having the physical strength to run 13.1 miles (especially when you are an overweight runner) is one thing. To have the mental strength to do it is a whole different level. And part of my “see a victory” mindset right now is listening to my mental health. With that said, I’ve ran my race.
I was REALLY looking forward to May 3, I’d still take the day off from church, I’d still run my race just in Kittanning/Ford City instead of in Pittsburgh. Training continued, even after some long days at work, like when I ran 10 miles on a Monday night or 12 miles on a Friday after logging 46 hours of work that week (to avoid running on a weekend that was full of storms). Mentally, I was prepared.
And then came FOURTEEN
I remember seeing the 14 mile April 11 long run on my SCRR Galloway group training plan and thinking that it was going to SUCK (putting it NICELY) even with my group. Then COVID-19 sidelined our group runs and I’d have to run FOURTEEN MILES alone. Heh.
My decision to run the 14 miles on Easter Sunday, since we weren’t having church, might have been what shifted my thinking. I was actually LOOKING FORWARD to running 14 by the time that week came around. Nerves weren’t a thing…I was excited, looking forward to logging these miles starting at sunrise of the day of the GREATEST VICTORY (Resurrection Sunday), running the longest run of my life in preparation for my first virtual half marathon! The longest my watches have booked me running is 13.4 miles (the 2018 Myrtle Beach Mini).
In the days leading up to this training run, I set out my clothes (even got a new pair of my favorite running shorts that week), decided that running the trail in three different parts (with the option to stop at my house twice + have my family drive to meet me with water later) was the right thing to do. Everything seemed in line for what I was planning.
Even the morning of, it was beautiful. I wore shorts and a tank with my 2019 UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon long sleeve, filled up my Nathan running vest with plenty of water and Honey Stinger chews and gels. There was a forecast of rain, and even with some gray clouds, the rain never did break through.
It was time to run fourteen.
As the sun rose, I hit the trail for a 1-mile out and back just to be sure my body and mind were good. Those first miles were done at a 20/30 run/walk split and were 15:14 and 14:54. Pulling a negative split of that nature had me a little nervous – would I run out of steam?
I passed my house and ran my “little more than a 5K” loop that I discovered a few weeks back. All of my family was asleep but just seeing the house motivated me. I did those next 3.2ish miles over just about 45 minutes and even though (TMI ALERT) I’ve NEVER used a porta potty on course (I’m slow enough as it is, I don’t need to add the bathroom to my net time), I decided it was a good idea to run in the house “and go”.
Greg was just waking up, and I remember telling him I was feeling amazing with over 5 miles in and “just an out and back” left (9 miles). They’d meet me in a little over an hour at my final turnaround spot, give me some Nuun, and the kids would do some socially distant running with me for a few miles.
Back to the trail I went and it really did feel good. I was still SOLO on the trail, just me, God, and my thoughts. See, that’s when the wheels usually fall off. I’m running alone and can think.
And man, I’ve got a lot to think about.
I’m coming off a rough 2019. Physically. There was my surgery to remove an ovarian cyst, sidelining me for the majority of the year from May to December. Mentally. Adapting to 100% working from home as a consultant with several clients who have different work/life balance goals than I do. Losing my cousin Emily in June. Going through some pretty heavy stuff in my own home. It was a rough year.
And to be honest? The last five weeks haven’t been easy with crisis school, some heavy stuff in our church, and just not being able to live our normal lives. My mind got sidetracked on those 4.5 miles “out” by all these thoughts.
Strava was logging me in the mid 15-minute miles which is fine, I needed to save the energy for being with the kids, for runing my 13.1 to remember. But I won’t lie, I’ve always been a slow runner but not “this slow”. It was getting to me mentally.
And I was solo. There was no support, no looking forward to fans or being surprised by friends along the way. I mean, this was a training run, but even at that the original plan was to be with my group and we’d struggle through it together.
By the time Greg met me with the kids, I realized I was overheating and out of water. That 1.5L went fast. I took off my long sleeve and realized it was still REALLY COLD out and that the kids running with me was probably not the best thing. They still wanted to try.
0.3 miles in, the three youngest were clearly DONE. Cannot blame them. It was cold. Greg loaded the van back up, but Arianna wanted to stick with me. We were headed back toward home and I kept telling her she could get in the van at any time. Greg could tell I was struggling a bit and he stayed close by on the road.
After what should have been one mile based on my mapping, the trail markers, and past runs, my app never said we’d hit it. I was frustrated. It kept happening, miles getting longer by almost a minute each mile and we were way closer to home than the 2.5 miles the app was showing me we had left (where it usually says 2)…the wheels were falling off.
Arianna could tell and she vowed to stay with me, encouraging me throughout. She saved this run, that’s 100% sure.
The Final Straw
Greg met us one final time and fully expected Arianna to get in the van. She’d just ran three miles with me and I still had 1.5 miles to go (regardless of what Strava said at that moment). Leaning into the drivers window, I told him that I had decided mentally and physically I just couldn’t do it.
It being run my 13.1 to remember on May 3 on this trail alone. I was hurting and was just 1.5 miles way from running my longest run ever. There’d be time to sleep on it, to change my mind, but at that very moment, this was going to be where my 13.1 journey to May 3 would end…with a 14-mile training run. Back to the trail Arianna and I went.
That last 1.5 miles was tough. I looked down where Strava said I was at 13.1 (right or not) and it was 3 hours, 23 minutes, 50 seconds. My longest 13.1 ever, but I knew this was going to be the case this year.
When we finished fourteen, there was no finish line. There were no fans (they had just got home and were getting warm, didn’t really believe me I was actually logging this as my official virtual half because at the time I didn’t really believe me). There was just me and my oldest girl.
I ran fourteen miles, you guys. FOURTEEN.
And within that, there was most defintely a 13.1 to remember. After many nights sleeping on it, icing an ankle that’s felt tweaked ever since, and getting other things piled on my brain, I’ve decided that April 19 was definitely my 2020 UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon.
And that, that’s OKAY.
This girl has some big plans. I have to get my nutrition and fitness back to 2018 levels. There are some goals I have for our house and our finances that I need to focus on.
And most of all, I want to be able to…even when the wheels fall off and I don’t meet those goals…look at a picture of myself like you see above and love it just as much as I loved the picture of me on a sail boat in Aruba. I want to see the girl who has the endurance to run fourteen miles in 3 hours 37 minutes and be so dang proud of her.
That’s totally possible. 2020 might not be delivering me that victory that I thought I’d see, but God is working on getting my head and heart right. And that is indeed a victory.
BUT WAIT! I signed up for the Steel Challenge and will run my 5K with one of the big kids next Saturday and cheer on Greg and the other big kid + we’ll all run the Kids Marathon, too. We’re so excited to do this as a family!
Stay tuned – I’m still going to be run/walking and am looking forward to races once we are able to return to our new normal!
PSST! I ran these miles (and will keep running) in memory of Emily as part of the AFSP Western PA Team. Consider donating to AFSP as we remember her and to help other families impacted by suicide. Remember that you are loved.
2020 Miles to Date
April: 25.22 miles, 15:24 per mile average
March: 41.86 miles, 15:27 per mile average
February: 45.96 miles, 14:51 per mile average
January: 25.16 miles, 14:47 per mile average