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You might have just run your first half-marathon if:

It hurts to sit down to go pee.

You basically made sweet, sweet love to some Chik-fil-A nuggets and a salad.

You loathe the decision to ever live in a two-story home.

Despite eating two donuts and lunch after the race, you could probably still eat a whole meal.

You go to hop in the shower hours later and realize you still have KT tape on.

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Today I finished something I never, EVER imagined myself doing. A year or so ago I made the decision to start running, more as a social thing, and to stay in shape, never to be do anything competitively. Now here I am, having completed the Couch to Crazy program my crew puts on. We trained together for a 5k, the bridge to 10k, and now a half-marathon. A HALF-MARATHON PEOPLE. That’s 13.1 miles. THIRTEEN POINT FREAKING ONE MILES. And me, ME of all people, did it. This crazy running journey has had a lot of ups and downs for me. I was the Queen of Random Injuries in Okinawa, from heat exhaustion to a pulmonary embolism. I have had to overcome a lot about body image, and a lot of social anxiety and self doubt.  Now I find myself actually believing that I’m a runner. That may sound funny to anyone outside the running world, of course I’m a runner, I was a runner the moment I hit the pavement. I did not truly believe I was anything other than a really good jogger, until today. Despite some major IT band pain in my hips over my last few runs, I chose to run through it. I taped it up, took some Ibuprofen, and worked through it mentally. I overcame every feeling of doubt, every nagging pain, and every doubt it my mind. I finished. I finished dressed as Tinkerbell no less.
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Honestly I never would have done this without the women I have met through Stroller Warriors. Perfect strangers greeted me upon my return to the U.S. and immediately challenged me with new goals. Goals I probably wouldn’t have made myself anytime soon. Through all of this I became closer with friends I had made in Okinawa, created new friendships with people I already hold very dear, and learned a lot about myself personally. Now when I titled this post the way I did, I meant it. As a runner, as soon as you finish a race, you’re planning the next in your head. It turns into a habit pretty quickly, and a lot of runners will warn you about it being addictive. Boy were they right. I am currently wanting to sign up for a 21 mile trail run in early January. Um, WHAT!?

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I say, if you set your mind to it, you will do it. You could think you’re the worst runner of all time (something I personally had to overcome), to finishing a half-marathon and actually feeling pretty great. Sure, I’m a tad bit sore at the moment, but for a good reason. I am a more confident me, I am teaching my son to be healthy, I am doing so much more than running. I am accomplishing.

Race Rundown:
I was pretty anxious upon arrival, but joking with my husband and friends is how I calmed myself down, and reminded myself that this wasn’t something to feel pressured about, I was there to have fun. We started in the back of the pack with a little walk/jog warm up. The first 6 miles out went amazingly well, keeping at an 11 minute pace. A few water views and some gentle breezes, a little pine needle slippage and some wonky bridge planks. Kari and I are pretty stellar at intervals, and it definitely helped us keep pace for the entire race. At about mile 5 we each turned on some music, which actually happened to sync up on the same song at one point. We finally hit the half-way turn around and had a few more laughs thanks to a Marine in the barracks with a megaphone. After the turn around it was a matter of mind over pain for each of us, me with my old lady hip, and Kari with some knee/calf trouble. But it was nothing we couldn’t interval our way through at a 12 pace. So yes, our race took a little walking, but we finished before our goal time and feeling pretty great. Overall I am stoked on how my race went. I feel pretty awesome despite having run the furthest I’ve ever run in my life.

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Stroller Warriors has changed my life. Running has changed my life.
I have changed my life.

Have you seen this article? :

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324807704579085084130007974.html?mod=trending_now_2

It pissed me off.

As a young runner, who has a running family full of people from all different strokes and ages, this made me sad. Is this truly what the older crowd thinks? It’s a viewpoint I had never seen before. Certainly there is a better way of challenging us younger runners than by calling them out maliciously, and ultimately calling them slow? I think what this apparently ANCIENT man has missed is that there are such things as FUN RUNS. I started out in a small crew, to get out and meet other Moms and explore the area I lived in better. I had no intention of becoming a runner. Here I am, a year and a half down the road from that first workout, and a week or so away from my first half-marathon, which is yes, TIMED. I’ve done a few fun runs, where I wasn’t concerned with my time or what I got at the finish line. I run to have fun. The day it becomes something other than fun, is the day I stop running.

Everyone has to start somewhere. The more glow runs, colors runs, foam runs etc., there are, the more people are going to get involved in running. People who have probably never tried to run since grade school P.E. are getting out there. And SO WHAT if they do it for a medal, or just to finish. They aren’t sitting at home. They’re out, having fun, being healthy, and getting rewarded for it. They aren’t signing up for races to impress anyone. They’re building on friendships or family strength, and having fun doing it. Do I think people should spend time training for races like the Chicago Marathon? Absolutely. But I’m not going to belittle anyone’s ambitions if they choose to do otherwise. I’d be more concerned with people not taking a Marathon seriously and injuring themselves, more than training in order to get a good time and beat other people. Competition is absolutely healthy, but it’s a race, competition is a given. People are going to feed off of support and run better with cheers rather than people judging them from the other side of the finish line.

I’ve been training off and on for this half-marathon. Let’s be honest, my goal IS JUST TO FINISH. Would I like it to be under 3hours? Sure. If it isn’t will I lament about it? Maybe a little. I do not however, look down on others for the time finish in, and receiving  a medal for it. In my thoughts, anyone who crosses the finish line behind me, is just as deserving. Now obviously, if they’re drinking sodas and eating chicken wings along the race route, they probably shouldn’t be rewarded for it. But I’ve never met a runner who did a race and wasn’t proud to finish. The fact is they’re out there. And I HIGHLY doubt anyone is signing up for races like the Chicago Marathon without any sort of training or effort. You have to qualify for certain corrals, so even though they have options for an almost 7 hour marathon time, you STILL HAVE TO TRY.

I just think this article was ridiculous. Everyone has a reason to race. Everyone wants to just finish. It’s up to the race coordinators on how to hand out medals. It’s up to runners to register for races based on what they want out of it. The bottom line is that they’re out there, running it. People compete against their own demons enough, they don’t need to worry about the people finishing before them thinking they’re weaker or didn’t make enough of an effort. Runners struggle with their own pressures. Your life must be insanely sad to have to bash other people’s motivations for races. Finish your race, take your medal, and shut up. This is the running family, we’re supportive, encouraging, and we challenge each other. We certainly don’t make people feel like shit for not being as good as we are, or beating each others times across the finish. Enjoy your Denny’s Senior Special sir, I hope your well earned medal doesn’t clink too much against the bowl.

I am for one STOKED that more younger people are starting on this road to running.

Happy Fall Y’all

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Fall has finally arrived officially! Here in North Carolina we have been celebrating the on and off cooler weather. It’s a big deal when you don’t step outside and melt into a puddle of human with a frizzy ball of hair on top.  It also makes for better trips outdoors when the mosquitoes aren’t all over you and the sweat stays at bay a bit. Half-marathon training is also going a lot smoother. I am just not built for heat and humidity. With the cooler weather there’s also about a thousand more options on things to do. We have festivals, fairs, and races out the wazoo. AND JEANS! I can wear jeans again! Not sweaters quite yet, or scarves, but I will soon, and it will be glorious.

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We’ve already done a little hiking (well nature walks I guess. No actual hiking here!). No crafting just yet, but I’m on it. This season also makes it a lot easier for someone who has a zombie themed kitchen to find cute decor, haha! I do wonder what the homeowners face is going to look like when he comes to visit at the end of this week. I sure made this rental home ours, haha. I’m super nervous to meet him. I’ve never really had a landlord come over to check out the digs so I’m paranoid about it, of course. “Hey, you know how your house is kind of an epic fail inside? Well I made it pretty. I can make it prettier if you take it out of our rent.” Seriously, there is a complete iron mark on the carpet in our master room. Who the hell irons on the floor? Actually, who the hell irons? We have the awful wallpaper, odd outside paint job, marks all over everything, ugly counter tops… I could go on. But it’s our funny little home and I love it.

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I am again, appreciative for the awareness I have of how awesome it is to be back in the U.S. for actual seasons. I have Okinawa to thank for that. Being home for the holidays has been pretty amazing. I suppose now that I’ve been on the sidelines for them before, some of the things Americans do for holidays is pretty silly. The pumpkin spice crave is definitely one of those things.  I am just not a fan of everything I eat tasting like potpourri. Wait unless it’s actual potpourri, that’s allowed to be pumpkin spice. And pie. Mmm…. pumpkin pie.

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See? Pumpkin spice smelly stuff. HAHA!

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We have a lot on the ol’ bucket list this season. I plan to conquer it.
So Happy Fall Y’all as they say here in the sort of South, I hope you get out an enjoy it!

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All I want to do after running is eat peanut butter sandwiches and take naps.

I have to re-learn how to walk after long runs.

I whine at my husband about having owies.

Potty Break. Potty break. Potty break.

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Look at that countdown! I can’t even believe how close I’m getting. I’m still sticking to the Hal Higdon beginners training plan as best I can, though one week I was all over the place and barely ran. Boy did I feel that one on the one run I did accomplish. So I’m feeling motivated still, especially since I’m actually registered for the race now. My name is on that list. I HAVE to finish what I’ve started. It’s actually pretty crazy looking back and realizing I started this off with the Couch to 5k program, and have reached my final race in the Couch to Crazy challenge my running group put together. In all honesty I’m not sure I would’ve ever attempted this without the women I run around. I promised myself if I finish this half without dying, I will register for the 21.5 mile Neusiok trail run in January. The fact that that is even a goal in my mind terrifies me. I’m not a runner, what in the hell am I trying to sign up for? Okay, maybe I’m a runner.

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The furthest I’d ever run was 7.5 miles, and that was with a 15 or so minute break in the middle. I’m talking sitting down on the ground, slightly dying, dousing myself in my own water bottle, type of break. Then I noticed this week that a bunch of people in the Virtual Race group I belong to were going to run 9.11 miles in honor of 9/11. I thought this was a fantastic idea (seriously, who the hell am I!?!). My training plan called for 3 miles, but I set out with a new goal of 9.11. My first few miles were actually pretty stellar, mind you this is factoring in pushing my 40ish lb toddler in a stroller that apparently had flat-ish tires, and it’s over 85 degrees outside. I hit two P.R.’s; the first was that I ran two straight miles without stopping, which is huge for me, and the second was I hit my fastest mile with a stroller ever! So I was feeling great. Mile 5 came around and my left hip went out. We’re talking 80 year old broken hip status. We’re talking someone better hand me one of those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” buttons before you find me on the pavement peeing myself. I walked it off a bit, and kept on chugging. Which I’m also proud of. I gave myself a 3 hour goal to finish this in, and ended up finishing in 2:25. My pace was ridiculous and all over the place, and as you can tell from the map, I had to be very creative with my neighborhood. Lots of cul-de-sac turn arounds which took more time than I anticipated, and a lot of arm strength. I. AM. WHIPED. I also discovered a lot about the people that live around me. Maybe a little more than I wanted to. You there, with the ducks as pets in your yard, stop that.

But I did it. I feel better about my half-marathon. I now have new goals to look towards.

Oh and I should definitely carry more than one water bottle and one Powerade, because hose water from a stranger was looking pretty good at about mile 7.

Thoughts Over Coffee

That’s the trick, isn’t it? When you’re 26, you’re still young. When you’re 26, a mother, and a military wife… you’re old.

The majority of military wives around here are at least 5 years younger than me. Still referring to their pets as children, and drinking with friends in their apartments because they’re not old enough for shady bars. I’ll be clear, that’s the majority, not the entire group. I’m sure there are some that sit around knitting or working hard at jobs they’re over-qualified for. I don’t sit around struggling with my age, in fact I forget that around here, I’m an old gal. I don’t think that’s just in the military world either. I think there’s a ton of 26 year olds out there contemplating whether they are actually feeling the oldest they’ve ever been, or that they’re somehow younger still.

I’m still young. I have so much more to experience. I have so many goals and dreams I lose count.

I do not use my time wisely enough.

Mind boggling.

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I can appreciate the simplicity and hard work of Amish life. I cannot, however, imagine actually doing it longer than a week or so. But man do they have a kick ass safari park. While in Ohio, the relatives said we were gonna head out to Amish country. My only other Amish country experience had been in 8th grade on a trip to Intercourse, Pennsylvania, and basically all I remember is constant giggling about the name and the dude squirting milk straight out of a cow at us. This was a far better experience. It was a gorgeous day, the kind that makes you actually appreciate the middle of nowhere. I had no idea what to expect from an Amish zoo, but I imagined it would be something like the dilapidated animal parks in Okinawa. Man was I off. My grandmother was in the front with me, and the little was running amuck in the back with his Grandma.

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SO I guess we know where I get my creature whispering from. My grandma could basically get anything to come up to her. I on the other hand scared zebras because I decided to stick half of my body out the window at them. So needless to say I would not fair well on an actual safari. I am really really good at making friends with Giraffe’s though. They’re my favorite.

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Dreams made real, people.

I have ALWAYS wanted to feed giraffes. I pet them, baby talked at them, made faces, and almost cried. It was amazing. You feel so tiny.  I felt like racing home, building an odd shaped barn and having my own giraffe. Okay let’s be honest, I couldn’t handle that, but still! It was such a fun day of animal feeding and laughing. I couldn’t believe this was run by a bunch of Amish people, though I do see the appeal, and the money flow is probably tremendous. I did wonder though if there was an Ark hidden somewhere on the land.

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I took about a thousand photos, and had to edit and narrow it down quite a bit. You’re lucky I didn’t bring home the mini donkey, husband. After walking around to see every single creature they own, we headed off to the market and winery for more goodies. I can’t imagine there’s much else to do in Amish country aside from what we accomplished in a few hours.

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I’m still finding animal food pellets in my Jeep.

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This is the wall in my kitchen. Not only is super motivating, it also reminds me that maybe I shouldn’t eat that third cookie.

I am officially training for my first half-marathon. I know, my stomach does the gurgle-ees (gurglies? gurgles? gurgleups?)  thinking about it too. The wonderful ladies of Stroller Warriors here at Camp Lejeune are throwing together a half marathon on October 5th called Have to Half. Not only is that a super cool name, but it’s also the end of my “Couch to Crazy” series. No seriously, I started on my couch and am now attempting a half. I have done a few 5k’s and 10k’s now, but nothing of this magnitude. I expect the first 6 miles to go pretty well, and the last 7ish to basically be the end of the World.

For someone who doesn’t particularly rule at running, this is a FREAKING HUGE DEAL. To me it is the equivalent of “You there, super fat guy in sweatpants! Do a back flip!” I am tempted to have my husband stand at mile 6 or 7 with a doughnut or beer to make sure I finish. Luckily, I do have a lot of wonderfully supportive friends who are encouraging me to not die, so I’m sure it’ll be fine. No seriously, the girls I run with are extremely motivating, our fearless leader is pretty well known for her mid-run ass slaps now, and unless you’re booking it, she’ll nail ya. I on the other hand cannot do anything but run and breathe, and sometimes I struggle with just those two. So when one of the gals passes me, and they say “Good job, Jess!” or “You’re doing great Jessica!” I reply with a “Thajkhdgkhdg (enter Darth Vader noises) Yuhhhh!” Which translates to Thank You in exhausted runner language.

I hear you asking the question “Why the crap would you run 13.1 miles FOR FUN!?!” And my answer is, “I HAVE NO IDEA, MAKE MY FRIENDS STOP MAKING ME DO THIS!” Well that would at least be part of it. The other half of my answer would be because it’s bucket list material and also I eat a lot and should therefore do a lot of cardio. Plus, ya know, zombie apocalypse. The whole reason I joined Stroller Warriors back in Okinawa was to get out of my apartment and make friends, and now here I am on a different continent, same group, doing even bigger things. That’s called motivation people. Or at least forced participation/friend pressure. Either way I love it. I hate running, but I love the feelings afterwards. I love being covered in sweat, gurgle tummied, wanting to pass out in the nearest grass even though I hate that stuff, and needing a cold beverage. That’s the moment reality sets in. That even if your pace sucked, you finished. Then all of these glorious tingly feelings come racing up to you and you feel like you can do it all over again.

So there’s my warrior update! I am currently training to finish the crazy train, and once I’m off the crazy train, I will be, AGAIN, training for a 20+ mile trail run in January.

[Whistle Noise] ALL ABOARD THE CRAZY EXPRESS. NEXT STOP: DON’T SHIT YOUR PANTS WHEN RUNNING!