running


once upon a time, before i got so busy that i spent zero seconds doing anything in my apartment other than diving into my bed like it was the Fountain of Youth, i used to be a writer.
or, at least, i fancied myself somewhat of one. recreationally. in my own head. when the spirit moved me. or something like an Indian Summer Day or a Pinkberry sign made me feel spontaneously inspired and glad to be alive.

then i decided i’d start a blog in case anyone else in my little world thought i might have something interesting to say (or happened to stumble upon it and have a few seconds of his/her life to devote to often nonsensical random ramblings and sometimes pretty pictures that make everything better). or maybe i just was looking for an outlet to unleash my utterly girlish side. or because “everyone else who wanted to write” was doing it and goshdarnnit if i let myself be left out.

then i somehow contracted selective amnesia and forgot about certain things in my life that i once held dear, like blogs and frozen yogurt and how amazing an early morning run along the Hudson River feels on a Wednesday, when most of the city is still fast asleep.

i went looking for THIS last night, but my local joint didnt’ have it yet. fail. will stalk until mission completed.

however, THIS certainly started my day off well this morning:

so after some well-needed introspection about what’s missing in my life and a renewed desire to prioritize my time around what i love most, i’m (hopefully)  back in action. and hoping to finally get this blog looking more like a well-tended-to child rather than a neglected little ragamuffin.

let’s hope this resolution lasts longer than my love affair with spin class (it was my knee, i swear).

what’s better than doing a long run through a pretty park on a Spring morning?

doing one for a great charity and running with a friend the whole way, that’s what. i felt really blessed to be able to do so on March 24, when my friend Hanne & i ran the New York 13.1 series half marathon in Queens to raise money for the international relief organization World Vision. it was my first charity run, and it was a true honor to wear a jersey in support of such a tremendous cause and know that so many people — friends and strangers alike — were supporting me  because i was part of something bigger than myself. i was surprised by how many fans came out to cheer on all the World Vision runners, and it was so encouraging to see them waving at us and yelling “Go Team World Vision!”, as well as exchange encouragement with other runners alongside us who were running for the same reason we were.

it was an ideal race, really, with a 9:30am start time (a welcome change to my 5:30 gun in Disney!) and set in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. the weather was perfect for running (60ish), the course was almost entirely flat, and the spectators were energetic. this was only the third year this race has been in existence and they said it drew about 5,000 runners, which was more than double the turnout from last year. the results showed 3,367 finishers and i was number 1,112, so i’m happy with that.

truth be told, i was simply glad to finish this one in one piece! despite the great conditions and the fact that i should be a pro at these “halvies” by now, having run 3 in the past 6 months, i really struggled with this one from the get-go. it was a combination of factors, really: muscle soreness from refusing to take enough rest days off of Zumba, boot camp and salsa that week (whoops); having not completed any long runs in my training (unless you count the Disney princess half exactly a month prior); barely any stretching or foam rolling; my recurring knee issues that i left unattended; and most importantly, i believe, the fact that i didn’t ask as many people to pray for me this time around! those prayers really carried me through my first two, and i won’t make that mistake again.

the knee pain kicked in much earlier than usual — maybe around mile 5-6 — and twice i had to stop for a quick stretch and some necessary whining. it was Hanne’s company, constant conversation, and support that really helped me buck up and pull through this race despite my constant pain and discouragement at myself for feeling so lousy and not training more or taking care of my injury. thank God for a great friend and running partner!

despite how i felt, i actually achieved my best time and had a PR in this race! who would have thought? 1:57:32. rock on, i’ll take it.

thanks to all my friends and family who supported me and encouraged me — i couldn’t have done it without you. i’m proud to have helped raise money to support World Vision’s relief efforts, and i hope to be able to complete more charity races in the future. if i’m going to continue to be a runner, i want to use it to give back to more than just my own personal success stories.

because in the long run, well…i’d like to be running this race for more than simply myself.

if you’re female, and you have any aspirations of ever running a race that allows you to showcase your love of all things girlie while simultaneously achieving a great physical accomplishment, i advise you to seriously consider signing up for this one:

trust me on this. it’s an absolutely incredible, once-in-a-lifetime (or however many times you decide to run it in a lifetime) experience. i’ve never seen so many people run like girls.

and the best thing is, we all did it on purpose.

photo: runDisney
photographer: Preston Mack

by “we all,” i mean about 20,000 of us (5% whom were males!) Disney-crazed lunatics who signed up for a 5:30 start time for the sheer girlieness of running Disney’s Princess Half Marathon on February 26. i was more nervous about waking up at 3:30am and being able to function like a normal girl (let alone a PRINCESS!) than i was about running 13.1 miles, but as was the case in my last race, God put his little angels on my shoulders and made sure that everything went better than i could have ever expected.

i can’t lie — i was realllly excited to finally be running this race.

i’d recommend running this even if you’ve never run a half marathon before, or doubt that you can. it’s an ideal first half for a girl to choose. the energy and enthusiasm is incredibly infectious, as women of all ages, athletic abilities, & backgrounds flock from all around the country/world to run like princesses through Cinderella’s Castle (yes, that’s part of the route!). it was such a FUN race, my cheeks were sore from grinning so much.

as you’d expect from a Disney event, the race was extremely well-organized. i mean, do they ever do anything poorly? as if the energy and enthusiasm of 20,000 women wasn’t contagious enough to keep us all peppy throughout 2 hours of running, they set up entertainment for us at every mile by having various Disney characters staged to cheer us on and serve as photo opps. some were hilarious, like the barrage of Disney men (Eric, Aladdin, etc.) who posed with the runners as the song “Whatta Man” by Salt n Peppa blared in the background. (you can bet that photo line was looooong.)

if i run it again, i think i’d forgo running for a time goal and instead bring my camera to take advantage of every character photo opp i could. what a cool collage this race would lend itself toward!

sadly, i dropped the ball on procuring a costume and failed to dress up as a princess (although they ask you your favorite princess and print it on your bib! any guesses as to who is mine??), so that’s a goal for next year. i was surrounded by thousands of women in costumes — wings, tutus, glitter, tiaras, you name it — and i felt sadly unfestive.

next year, i will princess it up. anyone with me?

and sometimes, i run for a good reason.

lucky me — i have two of those very good reasons coming up in the next two months!

after all the fun and the incredible self-discipline and personal lessons i experienced running my first half marathon, i decided that’s a nice race length for me to continue pushing myself to achieve. so i decided to continue focusing on training for some more halfs (halves?), and i found two that totally tickle my fancy.

one suits the “fun” side:

 

and the other fits the “help people while doing something i love” bill:

 

does that look like a great lineup or what? yeah…i’m stoked.

so i’ve been dreaming of running the Disney Princess half since its inaugural race, and this year, that dream will finalllly materialize in all its girly, princessy frivolity. yes, i will dress like a Disney princess, and yes, you’ll have to wait until post-race to see the pictures and discover which one i’m choosing. a princess never reveals her secrets…

 

and who doesn’t want a medal shaped like a tiara to hang on her wall?


this girl certainly does.

so, that’s my fun, girly race, and i’ll be weaving through the Magic Kingdom and other such parks on Feb. 26 with a whole mess of other women who all harbor not-so-secret dreams of being Disney-rific as well. and you know what? i don’t remember the last time i’ve been this excited about being a girl.

the other half i’m running is for a much more serious reason than tiaras and tulle. i’m running the 13.1 Queens half marathon in Flushing Meadows Park on March 24 in support of World Vision,  “a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.” this is the first race i’ve ever run for a charity, and i’m so honored and blessed to be able to participate on such a great team of people and run for a reason other than personal satisfaction and finish-line fever.

if you want to support me, either monetarily (all donations go to World Vision 100%) or through prayer and encouragement, i’d be absolutely thrilled.

please visit My Personal Fundraising Page to donate or find out more.

and if you happen to be in NYC on March 24 (or Orlando on Feb. 26!), i’d love the in-person support! signs and t-shirts are always a nice little touch as well….

just sayin’.

xoxo,
Shawna Marie

other than the fact that it sent my photo-fiending to a whooooole new level of lens-lusting, that is.

i gave my mother a crash-course in using a camera phone while i was scrambling to get in place at the starting line, and then made sure she followed me around like my own personal paparazzi when the race was done. clearly, i have the world’s most amazing, patient, loving mother.

but honestly, i emerged from this experience with so much more than a album-full of fun photos, and running this race definitely taught me some invaluable lessons to keep in mind as i (hopefully) continue running more races in the future.

1. don’t underestimate yourself. i definitely did this during my preparation, right up to the morning of the race. i freaked out about my injuries, hemmed and hawed over my sneaker choices, was sure i couldn’t run without music, and set myself an unimpressive goal of “not dying.” in actuality, i felt great the day of the race, managed to approach it with an entirely calm mentality (thank you God for that little surprise gift!), and ran so much better than i had during any of my training runs. i psyched myself out only to have an incredible race, and all that worrying left me with nothing but chewed fingernails. bottom line: train hard, of course, but believe in yourself. you’re capable of way more than you’d expect.

i didn’t even come CLOSE to dying, so thank goodness i beat that ridiculous goal.

2. running with a friend is fabulous. i could probably make that #s 2-5 and still not be able to stress it enough. i’ve always considered myself a solo runner, preferring to take off alone and have my “me” time. that, and i’ll admit i’ve also been afraid to run with people and discover i’m holding someone back, or have them be a “better” runner than i am. all of this silliness and insecurity went out the window immediately when the race began, and i discovered just how much i absolutely loved running with Krystle. we’ve never gone on a single run together before that day, and yet looking back, i honestly cannot imagine having run my first half marathon any other way than with her. we encouraged each other, chatted, sang, giggled, and had an absolute blast running the whole thing side-by-side. i’m 100% certain i wouldn’t have done as well, felt as great, or had such an incredible experience had i not been running it with her, and i’m now a firm believer in the power of a fabulous running partner.

3. slow & steady actually does pay off. we started off at a slower pace than i probably begin most of my longer runs with, and i am positive that contributed immensely to how strong we felt and to helping us beat our goal time of under 2 hours. if i’d pushed myself harder in the beginning, i’m sure my knee would have begun to ache long before mile 10, and i know i wouldn’t have finished as strongly as i did. going slower and maintaining a consistent pace throughout the race made it possible for me to pick up the pace for the last 3 miles, and i think my fastest mile was actually my final one. i felt amazing going across the finish line, and the comfortable beginning pace definitely is what made that possible.

 

4. vanilla bean Gu is a gift from the gods. i’ve only tried using Gu during 2 runs prior to my race (both over 10 miles), and i wasn’t entirely sure when i’d want to take it. around mile 6.5-7, i decided maybe i could use the little extra boost of caffeine and hoped that taking it before i felt tired would pay off — and it did. i certainly felt the Gu kick in and add a little sugar-jolting pep to my steps, and let me tell you — Vanilla Bean Gu tastes like a shot of vanilla icing. it was so delicious, i just make cupcakes this week so i have an excuse to try out a new frosting. (maybe i’tll catch on in the running community?) 
the only mistake i made was not washing it down with water, so i felt a little sugary-sick for a few minutes aftewards. next time, i’ll definitely time it so that i can hit a water station right after i take the treat.


5. drinking saves your life.
and herein lay my horrible mistake: i didn’t drink.
i guess those weeks of training in which i severely cut down my wine consumption to maybe one glass a week unfortunately carried over into my refusal to suck down water or gatorade during the race, because i was a silly girl and hardly drank a thing during those 13.1 miles. sure, i hydrated plenty the day before and drank some water that morning, but i just felt so great and so strong and so excited cruising through those miles that i barely wanted to pay attention to the water stations. oh, i grabbed a cup of water or gatorade at most of them, but i rarely did more than wet my lips and take one tiny sip before chucking it to the side. honestly, i didn’t think twice about this decision at the time…
and afterward,  i spent the entire day sick as a dog. i felt wonderful for the first two hours after the race, riding high on my post-run glow, but things went downhill quickly when i got home. i spent about 8-10 hours on the couch or in my bed suffering from severe dehydration, with my wonderful mom trying to coax me to drink water. i’ve never been dehydrated before, and i can’t remember the last time i felt that awful. soooooo dumb on my part to think i could run for two hours in bright sunlight and barely take in more than a few sips of liquid. whoops! lesson learned the hard way. water is like a magic potion to a runner.


6. bring your fan club. i can’t lie: having my parents there to cheer me on (at the beginning, a 2 different locations during the race, and at the ending) was sooooo encouraging and meant the world to me. my dad kept me laughing by making sure to tell me that “people have already crossed the finish line, you better hurry up!” multiple times, and my mom could spot me and start screaming my name from miles away. i felt super loved to have people cheering me on, not to mention all the friends who were praying for me and sending me texts, emails and messages that whole weekend. a big accomplishment is that much better when you can share it with the people you care about, and this whole experience wouldn’t have been as wonderful for me had i not been so supported by those in my life.
so THANK YOU, friends. i love you all!

i ran my first half marathon this morning!! eeeeeeeeee!!


probably couldn’t possibly be any happier at this moment. this truly was one of the greatest accomplishments of my adult life (and definitely my biggest accomplishment physically), and i was feeling pretttty good right here.

from start to finish, i couldn’t have hand-picked a more perfect day. everything just went so right. don’t you love when that happens? it was the most beautiful Indian Summer Day with an entirely cloudless sky and no humidity, and i woke up feeling great.

the best part was that i ran it with my friend Krystle, and i’m absolutely positive that having a great friend to run this whole race with (yes, we stayed together almost the entire time, until about mile 12!) made it a bajillion times more fabulous. i wouldn’t have wanted to do it any other way.


we talked, laughed, sang a little bit, and encouraged each other to keep up a strong, steady pace, and it seriously felt like i was just going out for a great morning run on an absolutely gorgeous day with a friend. i was honestly shocked by how strong and healthy i felt the whole way through. at one point, we passed two girls who were running together, and one of them commented, “you two just look like you’re out for a leisurely jog together!”

well, to be honest, it kinda felt that way, too. and i was lovin’ it.

the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon & Half-Marathon truly was an ideal race, especially for my first half. the course is entirely flat and downhill, which is a runner’s dream, and the last four miles drop you onto a bike path right beside the Hudson River. it’s an easy, lovely run, with plenty of water and Gu stations, and enough sporadic spectators to make you feel loved & encouraged but not so many that it’s overwhelming. i thought it was a very well-organized, awesome race.


oh, and the foliage wasn’t so bad, either.

talk about a fantastic time of the year to run a race in upstate NY! seriously, God. thanks sooooo much for this golden day!

i didn’t have one single moment where i thought i was going to die, and my knee didn’t start acting up until about mile 11, so i really felt so great throughout the entire race. i made sure to conserve enough energy throughout the first 12 miles to build up to a strong finish, and my adrenalin kicked in for sure when i saw that finish line up ahead.


so thankful for friends who came to cheer us on and take action shots! 🙂

oh, and my time: 1:57:59! absolutely thrilled. i was hoping to beat 2 hours, so i couldn’t be happier.

and a big “THANK YOU” to these amazingly special people who made this day sooooo incredible with their encouragement, support, chauffeuring, and multiple water-stop & finish line cheering:



have i mentioned before that i have the world’s best parents? because i sooooo do. for about 4839 different reasons…and today is just a really big one. 🙂

so my first half was an absolute smashing success in every way imaginable. THANK YOU so much to everyone who supported me, prayed for me, and encouraged me throughout this entire process — you mean more than you can imagine and i love every last one of you!

and of course, we had to end it on a silly note.


because running for nearly 2 hours straight is enough to make the most serious person just a little giddy…

and you could say i’m pretttty far from serious.

 


well, thank goodness i’m doing something right, then…because nobody wants to see me after i run.

’nuff said.

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