Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: Part 2

I woke up suppperrrr early on Sunday…I think around 3:45 in the morning. I wanted to make sure I left my house no later than 4:15 to get to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center parking garage before streets began to close. Last year, I ran into problems because roads closed much sooner than they were supposed to, so I couldn’t get to the garage I planned on parking in. This year, I made it with no issues at all, so I was very very grateful for that! I gathered my stuff and made the quick walk over to the Westin for the SCRR pre-race lounge – one of the best perks of being a SCRR member.

When I made my way to the lounge, I set my stuff down, grabbed a bagel with jelly and forced myself to eat.

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Eating before a big race is difficult for me. My stomach is usually upset because of nerves, so I have to force myself to eat because it’s necessary. Once my friends started showing up, I perked up and was able to relax my brain. When it was time to leave the Westin and head to the start line, keeping track of my friends was a lot like trying to herd a bunch of cats. Every time I turned around, someone else disappeared. Normally it wouldn’t matter much, but we wanted to cross the start line together. Eventually, we all got together for a few group photos and made our entry into Coral D.

We were in the corals for maybe 30 minutes after the gun went off.

Just before crossing the initial timing mat, our group chanted “WHO RUNS? WE RUN?” It’s been a tradition over this training cycle, so it was a must! I went into this marathon with the mindset that it was a training run, so I had absolutely no time goal in mind. The first few miles are always a blur because they are filled with so much excitement! I do remember having terrible left knee pain that literally came out of nowhere, Abbie running over to her hubby in the North Shore and Carla screaming “BALLS” several times. If you know Carla, that will not come as a surprise.

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Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: Part 1

I’ve been participating in Pittsburgh Marathon weekend events since 2012. It’s my favorite weekend of the year, and it never gets old – that hometown feel. Many of my running friends and I can agree that it feels like Christmas morning for runners in Pittsburgh. We spend months training for this special weekend; early mornings and a winter in Pittsburgh can truly test one’s limits.

Because I’m impatient, I took Friday off and headed to the expo when it became open to the public. Last year, as an official blogger, I got to head into the expo 2 hours early and watch the ribbon cutting ceremony. It was a cool experience that I hope to enjoy again in the future!

This year, I had to park about a 1/2 mile away from the convention center, but the walk wasn’t bad since it was basically a straight shot…good for me because I get easily lost! Once I entered my way into the convention center and headed into the designated area for the expo, I almost immediately bumped into my long time friends, Michael and Jennifer. They had their little boy of 2 years with them; he was signed up for the Toddler Trot (THE CUTEST RACE EVER!). After chatting with them for a bit, I went over to packet pickup to retrieve my bibs/shirts for the 5K and marathon. *One odd thing about Pittsburgh Marathon packet pickup is having to go clear across the venue to get our goodie bags. So, you have to juggle your items for a while.* This year, we got a pretty cool additional item with registration – a Pittsburgh themed pair of Goodr sunglasses!

I did a few laps around the expo to check out the merchandise and socialize, but I my best to not really spend any money. All I purchased was a meal and some fudge because carb loading.

I went home and took a nap; I tried to get in as much sleep as possible because I never sleep well the night before big races between the excitement and nerves.

The following morning, I woke up and got ready for the 5K (the first part of the Steel Challenge).

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Becoming A Runner.

The thought of running can be scary. Before I became a runner, I HATED running, or at least thought I did until I met one. He talked about 100 milers, gels, foam rollers and so much more – things that mean nothing to someone who doesn’t run. I thought he was crazy. Who wants to do this for fun(?!?!?!), I thought to myself. Running, to me, was perceived as a form of punishment during gym class or participation in “real” sports. Hell, I didn’t even want to play tag because it meant I had to run, even for short bursts. But the longer I knew this person, the more my views changed. I saw running in an entirely new light, and I had to see for myself just how life changing it can be. I’m here to give you advice on how to become a runner if you desire.

Invest in the right pair of running shoes: Obviously, to begin running, you need a pair of shoes. When I first started running, I made the mistake of grabbing a random pair of New Balance shoes at Marshall’s because they were cheap (~$30) and they looked like running shoes. I didn’t give it any thought at all. I’m not saying you need to sell your soul for a pair of soles (#dadjoke), but it’s important to find a proper fitting shoe that also works with your biomechanics.

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My first pair of running shoes were a size too small because I went with my usual shoe size. A good rule of thumb is to purchase a half size to full size larger than your everyday shoe because your feet will expand as you run. If your shoes are too small, you put yourself at risk for black toenails, blisters and foot pain. I also recommend heading to a local running store for a free gait analysis. Staring blankly at a big wall of shoes can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming, but don’t worry, the specialists will spend time with you to get you in the correct pair of shoes.

Set small and achievable goals: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to become a runner overnight. Running will not give you instant gratification, which so many of us yearn for in life. Therefore, it’s really important to set small goals for yourself that you are confident in achieving. Having visual landmarks to run to is very helpful (e.g. the end of the block, the next tree/sign etc.) as well as running preset time increments. Running success takes time and patience. If you set your goals too high in the beginning, you’re going to set yourself up for disappointment, failure and possible injury. Doing too much will suck the joy out of running. Running shouldn’t feel like a chore!

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Chase fear. Challenge fear. Conquer fear.

During a run, I overheard a couple of my friends discussing their confusion over ‘chase fear’ and the meaning behind it. “Why would you want to have fear stick with you,” they questioned. I don’t chase fear only to have fear remain a sidekick in my life. So, came my explanation. This post is to help others understand where my mantra came from and what it means to me now.

How did my mantra come to be? I started my original blog back in 2011, which I regretfully deleted, after discovering my love for distance running. I’m really big on deep meaning, so I wanted my blog name to be something that was short but still expressed my philosophy and approach to life. The word ‘fearless‘ was an important part of my weight loss journey. I donned a bracelet with the word as a way of keeping me motivated. Fear has always been a part of my life and was the number one thing that held me back the most. Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of the unknown. Things changed for me when I started confronting my fears. That’s how ‘chase fear‘ was born.

So, what does ‘chase fear’ mean to me now? It can be broken up into 3 parts.

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CHASE FEAR: Chasing fear means taking back control of your wheel. Fear has placed me in the passenger seat of my life, fear being the driver. I know that fear can’t be destroyed. Fear is a part of human nature to help us avoid potential dangerous situations. However, fear is a double-edged sword in that we sometimes allow fear to shut down goals, dreams and aspirations only further pushing us into the backgrounds of our own lives. That’s what I allowed fear to do. It controlled my actions, or lack thereof. One day, it clicked. I just had to take a chance on myself, and better days would soon follow. My weight loss journey was my first ‘chase fear’ moment. Today, I continue to face my fears every single time I lace up my shoes.

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Bad Runs Are Actually Good

Let’s face it. Running is hard. It’s really f*cking hard. Early on, I learned that you get out of it what you put into it. It took weeks (okay…months) of consistency, dedication and a lot of patience to begin seeing progress in my running journey. Anything worth while is going to be tough, so it’s incredibly easy to get discouraged. My first outdoor run was nothing short of a disaster. My running journey started on a treadmill, so I had a very rude awakening when I ran outside in warm weather on hilly terrain for the first time. I recall vlogging about it on my original blog, all while panting and sweating in places I never knew existed. I was frustrated, but I wasn’t mad. I just used this run as a learning experience, which in turn, helped me with future runs.

Signing up for a goal race keeps me motivated – especially when I have not-so-good runs. Running is a crazy, messy and wonderful sport. I’m here to help you see the bright side of the runs that make you want to crawl into bed and hide for a while.

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It helps you tune into your body: Sometimes, there are very concrete reasons why a run may go awry. If a run starts to go south, I do a mental head-to-toe assessment – maybe I readjust my form or try to control my breathing better. Sometimes, it’s a quick reset that can help get my run back on track, but other times, it could be a warning sign that something is wrong. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re injured and need to stop running. It could just mean that you need to take a step back, whether it’s cutting back mileage, incorporating more strength/cross training or taking a few days off.

It helps you tune into your mind: Mental health is just as important as your physical health. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for years, so occasionally, my mind just isn’t into it. I still get out there, even if one mile ends up feeling like 100 miles. It’s running that helps me cope and remain connected to myself so I don’t lose sight of my mental well-being. But more often than not, even if my mind isn’t into it, I still come out on the other side of a run feeling much happier and better about myself. I quickly learned that the hardest part of any run is getting yourself out of the door, and when I do, I don’t regret it.

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