Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Not A Marathon Runner | Kathy Kliebert

I am NOT a marathon runner. 
To be honest, I thought I might be.  I had never run more than a half-marathon and never ran more than 10 miles in training for those, but since I did seem to get faster the longer miles I ran I just thought that maybe, just maybe, I could be a marathon runner.

I am halfway through my marathon training and can unequivocally state that is not the case. 

Last weekend, I ran 15 miles. That’s the most miles I have ever run at one time. During that run, I decided not only is marathon running not what I was made for, I actually despise it. The frustration grows deeper with every mile. I run on for hours, getting more and more bored with running.

I strongly believe in exercise, but I haven’t figured out any good reason to run more than one hour in a row.  I don’t think I am getting any additional physical or mental benefits from increasing my running regime from one hour to three or more. So, I am finding it incredibly difficult to continue to do something I think is this excruciatingly boring.
I am somewhat attention deficit and when I am running I can’t seem to focus on the run for very long – instead I focus on the weird feeling in one knee, the blister forming on my toe, the tightness in my hip and the weird sounds coming from my stomach.  I am sure at any given moment my knee will give out, my legs will cramp and I will vomit.  Also, I am quite sure that I am doing some massive damage to all parts of my body.  In reality, my body is holding up quite well. Most of my discomfort is very temporary and I never seem to have any physical reason to stop a run and my recovery is not bad.

All the same, I  could spend all day talking myself out of doing a marathon. In an attempt to find some motivation and purpose to what I now believe is a rather tedious activity, I asked other marathon runners their thoughts.  They said they run for the peace and quiet. I can get that in a library. They said they run for the mental fortitude. I can get that doing crossroads or playing words with friends. They said that eventually my legs will get stronger. While some of the after run soreness had diminished, my legs still feel pretty weak during the runs. They said they run for the sense of accomplishment. I can get that from a medal finishing a 5K or 10K or many other activities that don’t involve pain.

So, how do I get through these next two months mentally?  I have thought about this extensively over the last two weeks.  One thing is for sure – I won’t quit because I do want to meet the end goal of completing my first (and probably last) marathon.  Many of us that work in government recognize that sometimes we have to do some things that appear illogical to accomplish the end goal.  So, I will follow my training program as much as possible. I do think it was designed for a younger person so I have added a couple of extra rest days when needed.   I’m now listening to a book on the iPhone and am scheduling some runs in different places to help with the boredom.

Whatever distance you are training for, trust your coach or your training program and don’t give up on that end goal.  Try a new approach if the old one isn’t working – just keep moving toward the finish.   I’ve learned that in the end it will be worth it. You will have figured a little bit more about yourself and what you value in the process.  The journey to the goal is just as important at the end game. Here goes trying to remember that as I go out for my 17 mile run this weekend.

Kathy Kliebert
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary

Kathy is an avid triathlete, taking on the challenge of her first full marathon with the 2015 Louisiana Marathon. When she isn't running a state department or keeping up with her triathlon training, she loves spending time with her grand kids. Follow Kathy on twitter @KathyRunsLaDHH

Real Runners | Chelsea Bennett

Somewhere around the third week of training, I started running on the levy on Sunday nights. It’s a peaceful kind of run, quiet and breezy with the fall weather just rolling it. The wind is always so intense that close to the river. For me, it’s almost like a propeller pushing me along.

I have a distinct memory from early October of what was probably the first “good run” of my life. Maybe it was watching the sunset on the bank of the river turn into downtown lights reflecting on the water or the crazy winds rolling in, but I finally started to understand why people run. I had a rhythm and didn’t need to stop. I discovered a breathing pattern and everything synced 

For the first time, I felt unbelievably powerful - and I loved it.

I’ve got about nine weeks of training under my belt, which is crazy to even think about, and I’m still not sure if I count as a real runner yet. My training consists of running 45 seconds and walking 15 seconds, endlessly and excruciatingly, four days a week. Accurate or not, I don’t think I’ll actually call myself a runner until I’m running a full 5k without stopping

Even though I won’t actually call myself a runner, I feel like I’ve pretty much earned the right to. Sometime around week 7, I was having a lot of problems with shin splints. I was stretching, icing, buying new shoes and googling solutions endlessly. Nothing worked. On a regular after work run, I decided I was probably doing more damage than good and quit with a quarter of the route left to go. I’m proud to say that that is the only time in this journey that I’ve quit. I followed up that quitting with five days off, along with some serious ice time and came back even stronger. I still constantly have to tell myself things like: “You are hurting, you aren’t going to die.” or “Your legs aren’t giving out, you are quitting.”, but at least now I know those things are true.

If I’m not a real runner, at least I might look like one now. Somewhere in all of this I also went from running in old college t-shirts to actually wearing real running gear. I don’t know if any of this actually counts towards me being a real runner, but I ended up with a light up slap bracelet for running in the dark, a sweet sweat band visor, shoes bought more for effect than cuteness and more dri-fit clothing than you can shake a stick at. I think the shoes were a real turning point. Suddenly, it didn’t matter if they came in hot pink, I just needed them to help my legs feel better.

I think I’ve finally got some real runner inspiration, too. During our Team DHH and Team DOA Louisiana Marathon BBQ, I had the privilege of hearing Jenni Peters speak. Jenni Peters started the Baton Rouge running shop and institution Varsity Sports, which is home to some of the most intense, nationally competitive running groups in the area. In my mind, Varsity was started by someone who loved running from day one, which was probably the day they left the womb. As it turns out, Jenni was almost exactly my age when she ran her first 5k. She had never run a day in her life and really only went to hang out with her friends. Now, she’s transformed into a respected running guru, competing in Olympic trials and owning three running stores in Louisiana. Hearing her story had an unbelievable effect on me. All of a sudden, running wasn’t something reserved for the always-athletic. It could be mine too. I wasn’t late to the game, I was right on time - and if she could do it, so could I.

About a week after hearing Jenni’s story, I decided I’ll be running the Louisiana Marathon Half in January 2016. How’s that for a plot twist?

There are ten weeks left until race day with the real runners. All of a sudden I don’t care only about making it through the race, I want a great time too. That’s got to be the best thing about this journey – the mental transformation. Nine weeks ago, I couldn’t run down the block. Now, I feel like the real runners and I aren’t that different at all. With ten weeks to go, all of those real runners better keep up, because I’m not sure anyone wants it as bad as I do now.

Chelsea Bennett
DHH Public Relations Specialist 

Chelsea is a 22 year-old, taking on the challenge of the 2015 Louisiana Marathon Advocate 5k. A lover of all things southern, she is an LSU grad, completely infatuated with the sweet Louisiana life and everything quintessentially “Baton Rouge.” Find her by the pralines or follow Chelsea on Twitter @GeauxChels