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The whole Official Blogger experience has been nothing short of AMAZING!!!!!! I have had the opportunity to interact with many folks through my blog as well as my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JamieJohnstonsJourney). I also love the fact that the wonderful folks at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon provided me with an entry to give away for any race during race weekend. Through my giveaway I have met an incredible lady, Katie! Katie WON my giveaway and used her free entry for the Half Marathon. THIS WILL BE HER FIRST! I thought it would be great for Katie to let us know a little about her and her training. So please read the following guest blog post by Katie =) Also PLEASE, please leave her a comment below SHE’S BEEN WORKING DARN HARD!
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Katie’s Journey to her FIRST Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon

I am not an athlete. Never have been, never will be. Friends use to ask me to join leagues with them (volleyball, softball, etc.) but my response was always “I don’t DO sports.” In the tenth grade I decided to join the track team…I quit after two practices. True story. So what am I, the chick who doesn’t DO sports and who quits track, doing running a half marathon? Proving to myself that, while sports may not be my thing, running can be.

I started running three years ago to lose weight, but instead, found myself. (Wow, that sounds totally cliché, doesn’t it??) But it’s the truth. At the time running came into my life, I needed to escape reality, and that’s what it offered me. It didn’t solve my problems, but it did give me perspective. It helped me to realize that there is nothing more important than the need for forward movement. And oxygen…lots of oxygen. I wasn’t fast, but I was defying my odds. I was already doing better than I did at that first track practice! That year I told my husband that I wanted to run a 5K….I’m pretty sure he thought I was crazy, but he seemed to understand that I needed it. So, on May 14, 2011, two days before my 30th birthday, I ran my first 5K.

5k, The Dart Frog Dash 5/14/11

5k, The Dart Frog Dash 5/14/11

The weather was miserable, but the race was jam packed. There were hills (W…T…F…I need to train for hills?!?!?). There were walkers who passed me…talk about a humbling experience. But I ran, or jogged rather, to the finish line and nearly burst into tears when I crossed it. I finished with a time of 37:32. Not great, but my very first PR! I went on to run four more 5Ks that year and learned the harsh reality of an automatic PR – I had to really work for my next one.

I continued running off and on for the next year, only running in one 5K, but pulling out a PR on that one and renewing my love of the race. Early in 2013, a friend asked if I was interested in training to run a half marathon with them; I respectably declined (13.1 miles?!?!? Are you crazy?!?!?). Instead I focused on improving my 5K time and becoming a more consistent runner. Then another friend decided to train for a half marathon for the fall of 2013. There it was again…that ridiculous number. But this time I was more intrigued than freaked out, and decided it was time for me to build my endurance. No, I didn’t sign up for a half marathon, but the next best thing, a 10K. It was a nice stepping stone for me and, more importantly, it was obtainable. So that was my goal for the summer of 2013, to train for my first 10K. I went into that training only knowing what my friend had been sharing with me about her training and what I had read in Runner’s World. I built my base, and then started adding distance a little at time. I can’t even express into words the joy I felt the first time the little voice on my phone announced 4 miles, then 5, then 6, and then finally 7 miles! I was more than ready, and had discovered something new about myself – I enjoyed the longer distances! My first 10K was, in one word, Awesome. The weather was miserable yet again, but perfect for running. It wasn’t a pretty race for me, there was a lot of walking due to high winds, but I finished in 1:08:18, which was under my goal of 1:10, and I loved every minute of it!

After my first 10k, Findlay Red, White, and Blue Half and 10k, 10/6/13

After my first 10k, Findlay Red, White, and Blue Half and 10k, 10/6/13

After that, I was mentally ready to consider a half marathon. As my friend prepared to run her second half of the season, I told my husband about some of her experiences at the race. His response was a typical non-runner response – why would anyone do these things to themselves willingly??? I knew the answer, but how do you make one understand?

With the holidays approaching, I put the idea of a half on the back burner, especially since my runs had become a little lackluster. I knew I wanted to do one, but was I truly ready? I started talking to another of my running friends who had also just finished her first 10K. We both talked about wanting to run a half, but did we have the time and would our spouses understand??? At first we looked at a fall 2014 half, but then I spotted the Cleveland Marathon and felt in my gut that was the race for me. It was in my hometown (born in Solon and raised throughout NE Ohio, Cleveland was home base), my family is in the area, and it is two days AFTER my birthday (four days after my race “runiverssary”). Could it be anymore fitting???? I broke the news to the hubby. He actually took it rather well. I think he knew that I was gearing up for it. (One of the many reasons he is so great!) So there it was…the decision was made. What now?

My supportive husband Shaun!

My supportive husband Shaun!

Thankfully the internet has given us so much access to, well, everything. I knew I couldn’t go into this without a training plan of some sort and I knew I would need time to build my endurance back up. My “half” running friend and her hubby had always used the Smart Coach training plan through Runner’s World and it worked for them (they both finished under 2 hours so it had to be good, right?!?!?). I printed out two schedules to see which felt more do-able – the only difference between the two was the number of days I could dedicate to training, I chose the one with less and sacrificed some distance because of the limited time I had available to actually run (I am a “dark ‘O thirty” runner due to my husband’s work schedule). There I had it – the next 20 weeks of my running life planned out for me. Tempo runs, speed runs, easy runs, and long runs with my first run on December 30th.

I started my training, but still had not actually committed to the race yet. One week into training my ovaries decided to hate me and sprouted some cysts. And while my doctor told me it was okay to continue training, I was terrified to register. (I had to have emergency surgery before due to a cyst, so I was a tad gun shy, to say the least.) During my panic over registering I found that the official marathon bloggers were running contests to win race registrations, so I feverishly started entering. I figured if something came up, they could easily transfer my registration to someone else and there would be no money loss for me. Seemed like a win-win. Well, winning one of these contests is easier said than done. I kid you not, I did at least 5 other contests and no matter how many or how few entries I had, I always lost. With the prospect of surgery still out in the air, I entered Jamie’s contest. It was a long shot, but I figured one last try, then I would just pay for the registration and risk losing it if surgery happened. Two days before Jamie closed the contest, my doctor cleared me. My ovaries didn’t hate me anymore!! Woo hoo! Okay, it was time to commit. We booked our hotel and waited, knowing that I wouldn’t beat the price increase, but “what’s another $10??” Then I got a text – “OMG, you won!” Seriously?? I don’t win things. But there was my name on Jamie’s blog. The winner! Woo hoo! Again!

Training kicked into overdrive and that’s when I really learned what training for a half was all about. Never before did I have to think so much about what I was putting into my body for fuel, how and when to refuel, water stops, bathroom stops, planning around work schedules, all while running in one of the worst Ohio winters ever. I’ll admit, I’m a fair-weather runner. I was treadmill bound for the worst of it, but it had its benefits. Speed training and tempo runs are easier on a treadmill because it controls your speed for you. However, running on a treadmill for one hour is the most boring hour ever (Jamie, I don’t know HOW you do it!!!). Once the arctic decided to recede back to where it came from, I headed back into the world. Yay for running in the streets again!

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In the last 6 weeks I have seen parts of Findlay I never knew existed, almost got hit by two cars (in the same crosswalk within seconds of each other), and learned where every bathroom is in a 5 mile radius. I’ve tested gels, chews, sports beans, water additives, sports bras, socks, hats, head bands, and broke in a new pair of Mizunos. I’ve discovered I prefer to run with no music, but still take it with me so I don’t get lonely on my long runs (and so I can call the hubby if something happens). I ran my fastest, unofficial, 5K time yet – 30:20! (That was a serious high point for me!) Most importantly I learned the power of a positive attitude. I’m not saying I’m a negatively minded person, but let’s just say, my glass is generally half empty. I have a lot of distrust in the world and often doubt myself, but when you’re training for something that is 90% mental, you can’t think that way.

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Every time I gave into the idea that I was burnt out from running, my runs would fall short. And the worse my runs were, the worse my attitude became. It was after a less-than-stellar long run that I realized what I was doing to myself and decided to become my own personal cheerleader. (I also took it upon myself to be a cheerleader for a friend who needed it – and she just finished her first half marathon in 2:31!)

So here I am, two weeks out from my first half marathon. It feels crazy, and looking back on the last 18 weeks, I’m not sure how I got here. So much sacrifice went into this training on my part and my family’s part. My husband and son have been very understanding about planning around my long runs and they have had to endure the tired, cranky bee-yah who rears her ugly head after early morning runs and long, painful runs. I am so thankful for their support during all of this and can only hope they understand why I needed to do this – to prove to my non-athletic self that it can be done and that while some of the goals in my life may never be realized, this one can not only be achieved, but improved upon. Who knew so much clarity could come from running 13.1 miles???

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And for those who are interested, my goal time if the sun, moon, and planets align is under 2:20, my realistic goal is under 2:30, but ultimately I just want to finish, even if I’m crawling across that finish line. And as my husband said before my 10K – the only way I won’t finish is if I quit, and I’m not a quitter.

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Good luck to all the other runners – may you have swift feet and a strong heart to carry you to your goal!

Relentlessly moving forward,
Katie =)