91 Thoughts During a Half Marathon I Didn’t Train For

This past weekend, I visited Verona, Italy.  I coordinated this trip so it fell on the same weekend as the Verona Marathon/Half Marathon/10k.  I had been planning on doing the 1/2 for many months…since before I even ventured over here to Italy.  I had training runs all planned out. But then, most of them didn’t happen for one reason or another.  I ran occasionally, maybe once a week, and usually around 3 or 4 miles with my longest run being 6….not at all prepared for 13.1 miles. And before I knew it, the day of my 10th half marathon was upon me and my brain was all over the place, unsure of what to do.

  1. I shouldn’t do it. I’ll just go visit the city sights
  2. Well I already paid for it so I should at least go pick up my race packet and free shirt
  3. Oh look, my name is on the wall with the other half marathoners!Verona Half Marathon
  4. Look at all the people! Ahh I miss running races.
  5. These are my people
  6. Wow, this is a nice race bib. They even put my country on here! I feel like an Olympian Jen Runs Verona
  7. Maybe I should run the race anyway and see what happens
  8. Let me Google this, I’m sure other people have run without training
  9. That was a bad idea.
  10. Cardiac arrest?! Cardiac arrest is a possibility if your heart is not trained for this
  11. Well, it’s not like I’ve just rolled off the couch. I have a little experience
  12. I’ll just run intervals. I’ll be ok.
  13. But what if I die here in Italy?
  14. Plus I am feeling a bit of a sore throat. What if I just make it worse?
  15. I’ll sleep on it and decide in the morning
  16. Ok I couldn’t sleep and am up early so I might as well stretch just in case
  17. I’ll just get dressed and head down to the start and then I will decide
  18. An old woman just passed me, looked at my race bib, and said “Brava!” I can’t let her down
  19. It’s a little chilly out this morning, it’s actually pretty good running weather.
  20. Ahhh! So many people!
  21. These are serious athletesVerona Marathon
  22. I think I am the only one wearing a cotton shirt
  23. I think I am the only American
  24. It would be sad if the only American decided not to run
  25. I wonder if I can switch to the 10k
  26. ‘Did Not Finish’ is better than ‘Did Not Start’
  27. I’ll just run as long as I can and then quit
  28. The race is about to start. I’d better get to the start line
  29. There are a lot more spectators than I thought there would be. That is kind of cool!
  30. Well, I think I’m in the correct corral, I can’t really tell.
  31. Oh! We’re moving! I’m really doing it! I’m running the world!
  32. Ok well, I haven’t really done it yet, but I’ve started
  33. I know I can make it at least 6 miles without any trouble
  34. Running on cobblestone streets is harder than I thought
  35. My nose is running already
  36. Juliet’s balcony is just down that road and to the right!
  37. Oooh! A vineyard!
  38. Oooh! A castle!
  39. Not as many spectators outside of the city center
  40. At least there are a lot of police and medics every ¼ mile or so…just in case of cardiac arrest
  41. Ok the 10k turns off up there. The ½ and full marathon keep straight
  42. What if I just take the 10k route and say I made a mistake?
  43. But the 10k runners don’t receive a medal
  44. But my bib does say half marathon on it. Maybe they’ll give me a medal anyway
  45. But I didn’t really EARN it. I’ll always know
  46. Ugh ok. Continuing forward
  47. Ooooh! A vineyard!
  48. I’m glad Verona is not very hillyVerona Half Marathon
  49. Ok halfway there!
  50. My nose is still running. I wonder if any of these police officers has a tissue
  51. How do you say “tissue” in Italian?
  52. Whatever, I’ll just keep using my sleeve
  53. Ok! Mile 8! Only 5 more to go!
  54. I’m getting tired now
  55. I can’t stop coughing
  56. Oh there is a van that says “servizio ritorno”…I could just get in there and they will drive me to the finish
  57. But then I still wouldn’t get the medal.
  58. I guess I’ll keep going
  59. Oooh! A vineyard!
  60. Ugh! My nose!!
  61. I definitely need to change my shirt as soon as possible.
  62. Why do these water stops serve tea?
  63. I would give anything for some Gatorade
  64. The 15k mark! Only 6k more to go.
  65. That’s just a little bit more than 3 miles. I can handle that.
  66. So if I can maintain a 10 min mile pace, I only have 30+ more minutes
  67. Which still wouldn’t be my worst half marathon time
  68. I wonder how many people are behind me?
  69. Ugh a photographer.
  70. He really should have been at the beginning of the race when I looked a little better
  71. Oooh vineyard!
  72. Ok if I just walk the rest of the way, I will still be able to make it before the 3 hour time limit.
  73. Oh people are watching. Gotta run
  74. Ooooh a castle!Verona Half Marathon
  75. I just realized I did not see a single spectator sign throughout this entire race.
  76. Maybe that’s an American thing?
  77. Keep. Going.
  78. *cough cough*
  79. I got this! Only 1 more mile!!
  80. WOW! All the spectators are still here!! Lining the streets!
  81. Everybody is cheering!!
  82. I can’t see the finish, but it must be close
  83. There it is!!!
  84. Yay! I did it!
  85. The announcer called my name AND pronounced it correctly!
  86. Give me that medal!
  87. I can’t feel my legs!
  88. Where are the post-race refreshments?
  89. I would do anything for a banana and water right now.
  90. For real, nothing?
  91. Oh well, I guess it’s time for me to take a selfie next to this ancient arena Jen Runs Verona

So, I ran the race, didn’t die, and got my medal.  My legs/knees hurt so badly the day after and I did, in fact, make my cold much worse by running.  I did not go to work the following day and stairs quickly became my worst enemy.  I would absolutely NOT recommend what I did to anyone.  But I’m pretty impressed with both my mental toughness and my healing capabilities, as my muscles were good as new 2 days later.  In the end, I am glad I did it and it was definitely a great way to see Verona!

~ Jen

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Rock N Roll Marathon Recap

934 miles.  I’ve heard a marathon is made up of hundreds of miles. The finish is the last 26.2.  Over the past 2+ years of running, I have accumulated 934 miles….all leading up to the finale, the Rock N Roll San Diego Marathon.  The marathon is a distance I never had any interest in completing.  In fact, when I first started consistently working out about 2.5 years ago, running 400 meters without stopping seemed like an impossibility.  And even after I eventually began to enjoy running, I said I’d never do a full.   Then one day, it was time.  And I was lucky enough to have one of my best friends beside me for the experience!

Not only had I never run a marathon prior to this trip, I had also never done a Rock N Roll race, nor have I ever traveled anywhere specifically for a race.  I had a lot of firsts! We arrived on Friday to prepare for the race on Sunday.  I went for a short, slow 3 mile shakeout run on Friday evening.  I really love running in San Diego.  I don’t know how residents don’t run everywhere they go.    Saturday was a day of taking it slow and trying to rest.  I focused on hydrating, spent a bunch of money at the expo, and was in bed by about 9.

Rock N Roll San DiegoAt 3:45 Sunday morning, my alarm went off. I already had my outfit and everything I needed laid out.  We got ready quickly and were out the door, catching the shuttle to the start line.  All I ate for breakfast that morning was a White Chocolate Macadamia Clif bar on the shuttle ride there….not the most nutritious meal, but I was really too nervous to eat anything else.  My nerves were definitely at an all time high waiting at that start line.  It was a crazy feeling.  Standing there, not sure what to expect, thinking about how incredibly far I’ve come, knowing that at the end of the day I would be a different person.

San Diego Rock N Roll MarathonThen at 6:15am, it began. Well, technically it started for me at 6:20 (which seemed like a lifetime of difference) as I had to wait for the first few corrals to go.  As the horn sounded, I started my run tracker and my music.  Tuck looked over at me, we gave each other a double tap and crossed the start line.  While Tuck is generally a much faster runner than me, he wanted me to pace him so he didn’t go too fast, too quickly.  I tried to keep a 10 min/mile pace…but actually ended up being slightly faster in the beginning, due to all the excitement.  We also decided to use the Galloway method…so we ran 10 minutes, walked for 2.  It worked well in our last few weeks of training, but after the first 10 minutes of the marathon, when my timer went off for us to walk, it was the most difficult 2 minutes of my life.  All I wanted to do was run!!! I had to keep reminding myself though that this was literally a marathon, not a sprint and I really had no experience with what happens after mile 17, so I’d better save my energy.
San Diego Rock N Roll MarathonThe scenery was awesome.  We began with running through Balboa Park, through the streets of downtown SD, next to Petco Park.  It was a pretty cool start.  I loved the energy of the spectators in the city. And one of my fav race signs of the day was right near the beginning.  It was at the .2 mile mark. It said “.2 miles. Only 26 more miles to go!”  We made sure we were stopping at every water and Gatorade station, and I dipped into my supply of GU energy gels every 6-7 miles or so.  Around mile 10, the spectators were a little more spread out as we were getting further from downtown, but the other runners and Tuck kept me going pretty easily.  I was feeling good.  It was definitely a different kind of feeling than I’ve ever had at any other race.  Normally my goal, like most people’s, is to go as fast as I can and get to the finish line as quickly as possible.  But I was intentionally trying to enjoy the race, taking it all in.  You only get one first marathon.  Almost right at the halfway marker, right along beautiful Mission Bay, we stopped to stretch.  We were making pretty good time.  In fact, I had beaten my most recent half marathon time by a few minutes.

Then it happened.

San Diego Rock N Roll MarathonTuck’s quads started cramping badly and at the same time the side of my left knee began to hurt.  We had no choice but to walk.  We stopped at the medical tent, but not much could really be done unless we wanted to quit.  I have NEVER had problems with pain in my knees, so I didn’t really know what was going on.  It wasn’t completely unbearable but I was a little nervous about it.  Tuck, however, had to stop after just a few steps every time we tried to run.  After the trip to the medical tent at mile 14, he had told me to go on without him.  I refused.  We had made it so far side by side.  I couldn’t help but think how cool it would be to cross the finish line together.  But I also didn’t want to walk the next 12 miles.  I had decided that if he didn’t feel better by mile 16, I would continue on.  We got to the point in the race where a lot of people started dropping off.  Every medical tent we passed had people sitting in the cots.  People who weren’t going to make it to the finish.  It was a mental test, for sure.  I didn’t even care about my time anymore.  In fact, it was around that time that I shut off my run tracker.  I also wanted to save my battery as much as I could as it was taking longer than I had originally anticipated.

Then we reached mile 16.  I asked him one last time how he was feeling.  He said he couldn’t run yet.  So I said my goodbyes.  It was very Titanic-esque.  Jack drowing, Rose surviving and continuing on.  It’s hilarious now, but at the time, I was actually terrified.  When I began running again, my original plan of running 10 minutes and walking for 2 became running until my knee started to hurt and walking as long as I felt like it.

When I had researched this race, I read that it was a beautiful, fairly flat course, with one big hill at mile 20.   I had no idea what I was in for.  Right at the end of mile 19, there was a very steep hill which was leading us onto a shut down interstate.  I had to walk to get up it.  I ran down.  Though, I realized that the downhills were actually worse for my knee and I was basically running with a limp by this point.  After that hill, I figured I was in the clear. I was wrong.

San Diego Rock N Roll MarathonBy the 20 mile marker, we were officially on the interstate. No spectators in sight.  Every so often there would be speakers blasting music (I was at the Rock N Roll Marathon, after all).  Generally it was pretty boring.  Another mentally taxing portion of the race.  Then the real hill came.  The hill at mile 19 was a walk in the park compared to mile 20.  So here I was, on this closed down interstate, on a steady incline for well over a whole mile.  Nobody around me was running, including myself.  It was the only time during the race that I stopped to take a picture.  It was kinda creepy and reminded me of The Walking Dead.

San Diego Rock N Roll MarathonFinally relief came and we were off the interstate and back on regular roads, inching ever so closely to the finish.  At right about mile 22, I saw a familiar face.  Our good friend, Joe, flew all the way to San Diego to support us. I had actually been looking for him the whole race and I was almost scared that maybe I missed him somewhere.  Seeing him and the awesome sign he made definitely gave me an extra boost of energy.  Well, that and the handful of Jolly Ranchers a stranger gave me about a minute after that.

San Diego Rock N Roll MarathonThat’s another thing I didn’t expect, but did love, about running a marathon.  Strangers pass out candy and it is a gift from the heavens.  The next few miles actually were a blur.  I was pretty much on autopilot by that point.  My knee was hurting so badly I had tears in my eyes for every downhill.  But there was no way I was going to stop.  I was almost there.  At mile marker 26, with only .2 miles left, it became real.  I thought about the girl I used to be in high school at 200lbs who would get winded walking up a flight of stairs, the girl I was before I found fitness (or it found me), before I started running. The girl who now had people cheering for her thousands of miles away at home and even a few right there at the race.  I had come so far, conquered so many things that I never even dreamed of doing or thought I could ever do.  As I turned that last corner, I saw the finish line, down a small hill.  The knee pain seemed nonexistant and the tears in my eyes became tears of joy and pride (and maybe a little exhaustion).

After five hours, thirty four minutes, and twenty six seconds, I crossed the finish line and I became a marathoner.  

San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon

~ Jen

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Miles to Go

If Ferris Bueller has taught me anything, it’s that life moves pretty fast.  The past few weeks have been full of so much awesomeness!! While I am really excited about everything, it hasn’t left much time for anything else….like updating this blog on a regular basis.  I’m still in the midst of marathon training.  The toughest part is yet to come though.  It is starting to become unknown territory.  My weekly long run is tomorrow.  It will be the longest I have ever run at one time. 14-15 miles on deck.  But I’m ready!  And I’m getting more and more excited for my full marathon in June!!

Quick recap of the past few awesome weeks…

First PlaceI ran a smaller St Patrick’s Day 5k…and for the first time ever, I took home a first place trophy!! First place in the 20-29 age group! The race started later in the day (10:30) so it was definitely hotter than I’m used to.  I took off sprinting at the start…which I generally try NOT to do.  I kept an eye out for women around me, trying to see which ones were around my age.  I made sure no woman that looked around my age passed me.  It was a lot of fun and ended with a free green beer.  I am definitely excited for next years!  In addition to my own win, my boss/coach/bff also placed first in his age group and my lovely friend Cindy placed 3rd in hers! It was definitely a really fun day and I got to wear some cool St. Patrick’s Day knee high socks.

4th Half MarathonJust one week after the St. Patrick’s race, I ran my 4th half marathon! It was a somewhat spontaneous race.  I wasn’t going to do it, but my coaches talked me into it.  Positive peer pressure.  I technically was scheduled to run 13 miles that day anyway, so I knew I could do it.  Race day got off to a rocky start though.  My tummy was not cooperating all morning. In addition, the traffic getting to the start line was backed up by the time we got there.   It took FOREVER to park and get myself together.  Then I heard it…the sound of hundreds of runners, coming towards me.  The race started without us!! We were still about 400 meters from the start line.  Thankfully, I was not pushing for a PR.  And my main goal for the day was just to get through my regular long run.  So instead of running for the start line in the opposite direction of these runners, I waited until it looked like I was around the 10/11 min mile runners…and jumped right in.  No pre-race warmup, minimal stretching. Definitely not ideal.  However, the race went well.  I ran the whole time (minus my gatorade stops).  It was cloudy, which helped keep the beating Florida sun and heat at bay.  I didn’t have a chip time, but my clock time was 2 hours 16 min.  Not my half marathon PR BUT it was a minute faster than the half I did the month before.  The best part of all though, once I got to the finish, I did NOT feel like I wanted to die.  I felt like I could’ve kept going….which made me even more excited for my first marathon in June!!

Beast Family

Since that half (two weeks ago) I haven’t really run that much.  No more than 4 miles at a time.  But when I do run, I love running with my Beast Family! They keep me going some days.  I know some of them look to me for running inspiration…but really, they all inspire me.  My runs have been faster than usual and a lot more fun!  I’m used to running alone.  But I’m finding it to be more motivating to run beside friends!

And, perhaps the coolest thing that has happened in the past few weeks was my first tattoo I got a week and a half ago!!! I’ve had the idea for this tattoo ever since I ran my first half marathon a year and a half ago.  It’s a line from Robert Frost’s poem, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.  It’s a poem that I’ve always loved, means a lot to me for various reasons, and is also running related.  To say I was nervous was an understatement.  Especially since I wanted it on my foot, a location I’ve heard that is not ideal as far as pain level is concerned.  But, as it turns out, it wasn’t that bad! It was definitely unpleasant, but not unbearable.  I had to take a few days off afterwards but everything is healing great! I don’t like wearing shoes anymore because I like looking at it.


There are a lot of exciting events coming up in the next couple months so stay tuned…including my first marathon in 57 days!! (but who’s counting?)

~ Jen

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Third Half Marathon= Complete!

Disney Princess Medal

Work has been CRAZY lately.  Working 13-14 hour days, planning and executing awesome events, etc.  I’m not complaining by any means…just means that when I get home from work, I typically just go right to bed.  This leaves Jen Runs the World on the back burner.  But regardless of my posting habits, I’m still focused on my goals of becoming a better, fitter me!

Waiting for the start!

On Saturday, after helping to host an awesome event for work, I drove straight to Orlando to prepare for the Disney Princess half marathon!! I got to the hotel around 9 and was asleep by 10pm.  The alarm went off at 3:30 Sunday morning.  I dragged myself out of bed and dressed in a vague interpretation of a Minnie Mouse “costume,” made some oatmeal, and was out the door by 4am.

Finding the start line was a small challenge.  There were swarms of people everywhere.  Well over 20,000 people participated in the race! But, runners are the friendliest people, I made a friend and we found the start line together. (Tammy, wherever you are, I hope your 1st half marathon was amazing!!)  Being that I was at Disney, even waiting for the race to start was entertaining.  There was a stage, announcers, Disney characters, even Miss America was there!  They found a woman in the crowd of runners and began a basic interview with her.  She said it was actually her birthday.  The Disney interviewer said they would do something special for her on her special day.  On the gigantic screen by the stage, a video played of her husband who is serving in Afghanistan, wishing her a happy birthday and awesome race. I definitely cried.  5am is too early for emotion.

IMAG7331The race finally started.  Fireworks went off as I went through the start line.  I knew going in that I was not going to set a PR.  I have not been training for speed.  I was just focused on having fun.  Around mile 3, I felt it.  I had to pee. Bad.  Port-a-potties were all throughout the course but I have NEVER had to stop to pee for any race.  As I said though, I was just running for fun…and a full bladder for 10 more miles would NOT be fun at all.  So I decided to stop.  This turned into a small ordeal.  I went to the first door that was green (i.e. vacant) and opened it to find a guy peeing who had forgotten to lock the door! Now, the sun had still not come up so I definitely didn’t see anything but it left me slightly flustered.  I quickly scurried into the next one, trying to make this unplanned stop as quick as possible.  However, this would not end up being the case.  As soon as I pulled my pants down, I heard something fall to the ground.  It took me a moment before I realized that my car key had fallen out of my pants pocket!! So, in this dark port a potty, I took my phone out of my arm band to use the light to look for it on the ground.  I found it quickly enough and in my excitement to get this show on the road, I lost the grip on my phone, nearly dropping into the black hole of I-don’t-want-to-know.  I finally got it together, but that definitely set me back more than I would’ve liked.

I didn't want to stop for the it turned out very blurry

I didn’t want to stop for the picture…so it turned out pretty blurry

My favorite part of the race was running through Magic Kingdom.  Cheering spectators lined the streets of Main Street USA, giving me an extra boost at the halfway point.  I ran through Cinderella’s Castle with photographers snapping photos from all angles….there was even one laying on his back on the ground! Lines formed at various points on the course for character photo ops.  I didn’t stop for any this time.  I set in my mind that I would only stop if I saw Beast to get a cool pic with me in my Beast Athletics shirt.  But alas, he was not around.

I crossed the finish line after 2 hours and 17 minutes.  While it was my worst half marathon time, I still finished in the top 10%, had a great time, and got a pretty sweet medal.  After my first half, my very first thought was “I’m never doing THAT again” and my second was “I don’t understand how that is half of anything.” This time when I crossed the finish I thought “I can’t wait till my first full marathon in June”

I’ve come a long way, for sure.  From not even being able to run an easy 400 meters to now having completed 3 half marathons, I am so proud of myself.  Anything really is possible if you refuse to give up!! 3 Half Marathons!

~ Jen

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Still Alive

To say I have been busy would be an understatement.  But it is that time of year.  Between my two jobs, training, taking recovery more seriously, and holiday madness, I barely have time to breathe.  But, I am happy to report that I am staying somewhat on track with nutrition/fitness and having a great time.



On Thanksgiving I ran all three races of the Turkey Trot on somewhat of a whim.  10 miles in total, in MUCH colder weather than I’m used to, and was very close to a 5k PR that day.  It is a Thanksgiving miracle I didn’t injure myself.  But I definitely earned my pumpkin pie that day!

 100lbsquatLast month, I set a few new/different fitness goals…and now I can proudly cross one of them off my list! This past Tuesday I successfully reached my goal of squatting 100 pounds….which I did 15 times.  It used to be a tremendous struggle for me to get past the 75 pound mark.  I wish I had gotten down a little lower but I am still happy I was able to do it at all.  I’ll be squatting my body weight in no time!!

3rdplaceOne of my other goals I had set was to run under 9min/miles….and achieve a PR in the next month or so.  I am SO close right now.  I haven’t been running as much as usual.  Focusing more on building strength at the moment…at least until half marathon training begins again (first week of January).  BUT last weekend I was only 4 seconds away from a 5k PR. I’m calling it my Florida PR though.  My actual 5k PR took place in San Diego.  However, I was still very proud of my time last weekend (25:34) and I even placed 3rd in my age group!!  I was determined to place and I did!

~ Jen

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