I usually take an in-depth look at my decisions retrospectively and assess what I could have done differently for a better outcome. I can look at my life in both directions whether forward or backward, but I see running unorthodoxly because there is always something new to do next, such as running faster or further. I do not recall that I regretted either a race or workout. For me, running is a one-way path.
Some of my friends wonder why I run. My answer would be for many reasons; some of them health-related and others are not. The health-related reasons would be physical and mental wellbeing, while the non-health ones are food-loving behavior, so I can have little extra food. I sometimes run to just have something neutral to talk about.
Whatever my reasons are, I really enjoy running.
For me, being typical is boring. Being is more adventurous and fun. You may make stories and share experiences by being different and unpredictable.
I like to run when the weather is nice “typical.” But this does not happen often, so I do not wait for the weather to decide for me the best date and time to run. Instead, I choose when to run even when it is rainy, cloudy, or even cold.
In one of my trail runs last summer, I got lost because the trail was not clear to me, so I ended up in this random spot you see in my picture. I thought that my town looked more beautiful from Above than below.
I drove to Richmond to spend the night where the marathon would be held. The hotel that I stayed at was nice and neat. After checking in, I went to my room and started my carb-loading process by eating almost everything I had, such as bread and potato. But unfortunately, I felt nauseated with unexpected loose bowel motions. I was concerned because I was losing electrolytes which would not optimize my performance for tomorrow.
I started hydrating myself with water but I needed to replenish the electrolytes that my body had lost. Part of my running package was six calorie-gel packets that were supplemented with caffeine and electrolytes, so I decided to have one of these gels. Shortly after I took one, my body felt warmer and my heart started pounding faster and harder; then, I realized that the caffeine had kicked in and its effects were more prominent than I expected.
I thought the effects would wear off after a while, but they did not; so I became more nervous and anxious. I went to bed at nine-ish so I could get up early and travel to the race site, but I could not fall asleep because of the calorie gel and my nervousness. I do not even remember closing my eyes, and I know I did not get enough sleep. I even snoozed my clock before 5 AM which was the time that I set the alarm clock for.
I got up and put on my running gear; the most exciting thing about my gear was the sports bra, which for me, was the most effective method to avoid chaffing. I went to the hotel lobby to have my light breakfast, and went back to my room to do some stretches to warm up; It was like 25 F outside.
I packed my stuff and checked out at the front desk. I drove to the race site and parked where I was supposed to; I was walking to the start line by following the crowd; there were so many people coming from different streets from every direction. I got distracted for a second on where the start line should be, so I asked a young guy who was walking by me, and his reply was that he did not know where to go but we would follow the crowd. I had a running conversation with the guy, for whom this marathon would be his third. We warmed up together by having short runs. At the start line, the guy told me that we could start together at a slow pace but he would speed up shortly after we start, and I said that would work for me.
The race started and the cheers went louder. I ran at a slow pace and tried to maintain it till the end. It was my first marathon so my goal was to reach the finish line and not to achieve an incredible personal record. Gradually, the guy started disappearing in the horizon after two or three miles.
Throughout the race, I saw many runners passing me but I kept my cool by focusing on the fact that I was doing this for fun –
and it SHOULD be fun – so I started paying more attention to the cheerful crowds and their motivating signs, natural scenes, and beautiful music; at some point in the race, I took short pauses to dance.
Everything went well. I did not feel any pain or discomfort which could have been because of the cold weather. At the mile of 23, I felt exhausted suddenly and saw many runners suffering from muscle spasm, and many of them had to walk while others had to stop running altogether. I slowed down and kept moving because I felt that moment was the time to prove to myself that I could do this after almost three months of training.
Amid that struggle, there were a few people offering small cups of pickle juice to runners; my understanding was that pickle juice could help to lessen your muscle cramps, so I had one. I did not really know if it was the juice itself or just a placebo effect, but I was able to boost my run for one extra mile.
At mile 24, I was not really motivated to keep going and I thought of giving up by walking the remaining two miles. Then, an idea came up to my mind which was asking my self the following question,”How you feel, Bear*?” This was a question that my Krav Maga instructor asked us in class, and the answer would always be, “GREAT!” It does not matter how exhausted or tired I was; the answer should be, “GREAT!”
For the next two miles of the marathon, I would yell at myself by asking and replying to myself that question. It may sound weird but that was what pushed me to go beyond my limits.
I finally saw the finish line which was like a dream came true, and this was when I increased my pace and passed many struggling runners. I did it! I did! That was what I told a paramedic professional who approached me and asked if I was okay.
I got my finisher medal and started taking pictures to document that moment which felt really amazing. I went to the rest area to get fluids to hydrate my body and do some stretches to reduce muscle cramps and prevent joint adhesions.
After taking cool pictures and having good food, I went to the nearest gym that offered their showers to the marathon runners. I went and I took a cold shower which would help to reduce muscle inflammation and hasten the recovery process.
The Richmond Marathon taught me how attitude could push my limits. How confident I became to do another marathon in 2018!
*My nickname was Bear.
Some people tend to think that running is harder than it should be because we do not see its immediate benefits objectively. It takes a lot of work to reach the point when you realize that you are able to maintain your weight, modify your lifestyle, and know more about running. But there is something that motivates us to run until we reach that level of commitment, what is that thing?
Is it the post-race meal? Is it the selfie that we take after each run? or it is the fantasy of winning a race, or it is a mix of all of these. Personally, it is the feeling that I enjoy after each workout that drives me to run on a regular basis. It is about how we feel and not how we look.
Three weeks to go and a few miles to add to my training plan. During my training, I felt some soreness in my left knee which was not bad, however, I did not want to make it worse. After consulting with friends and searching online, I believed that the ideal thing to do was to make sure that I was using the right shoes that could support my feet and knees. I went to a specialized running store and the staff did a foot scan which was fancy, but I got to explore the dark side of my feet. The result was that my feet were not equal in length and their arch heights were not even remotely close. The running expert recommended me new brand shoes that I had never known before with a size of 11.5, could you believe that? All my shoes were between 9.5 and 10.5 in size and the new recommendation was beyond my rational expectation. Honestly, I put them on and I fell in love immediately once I stood up, maybe because they were new or just the bright red color. Additionally, I bought a few of calorie gels (the caffeinated ones) that would replenish my energy stores. I gave my self one week of rest to allow the left knee to recover, and to be mentally prepared for the next workout.
The night before the 22nd of October, I decided that tomorrow would be the day that I would hit the 20-mile limit. I woke up at 6:00 AM, got my food supplies in my running pack and put on my running gear, and took off with no hesitation. It was still dark and little chilly, but it felt just perfect for me. I started running slowly to preserve some energy for the final miles and increased my pace gradually as I could, and I used one of the calories gels every 45 minutes to fuel my muscles. Everything went smoothly; with the comfort of the new shoes and knee-pain free, I was able to surpass the 18th mile with excitement, but still, I had two more miles to go. I pushed a little harder believing that this would be my best chance to hit my goal. Within my sight, I saw a banner that said, “Congratulations, this is the finish line,” which must have been for another race. These few words created a mental image of me reaching the finish line in the Richmond Marathon, and I believe this triggered the runner’s high which alleviated all my discomfort and boosted my energy. The high level of the natural endorphins helped me running until I reached the 20th mile, which was my goal for that run.
Today is the end of 2017 which brings an end to my running challenge, “You VS the Year 2017,” which is sponsored by Under Armor (UA). I completed this challenge with the excitement of finishing 902 kilometers of running throughout 2017. This is almost three times what I ran last year for the same challenge. “You VS the Year 2017” has nine incremental goals of hitting certain kilometers: 1 km, 21 km, 42 km, 100 km, and 300 km. Then, it increases every 200 km until the end aim of 1017 km. You get a badge every time you achieve any of the above goals.
I signed up for this challenge on January 11th, 2017 and recorded my runs sporadically because I did not think that I would achieve these three-digit goals. I reached the 300 km goal on June 4th, 2017 when I ran my first half-marathon. It took me six months to reach the 300 km goal, and from nowhere, my obsession with this challenge began. I started recording every run, whether short or long, as long as I met the challenge requirement of at least 20 minutes. This approach has progressed well as I have noticed that I earn a new badge every two months – two hundred kilometers every two months until December 30th, when I surpassed my 900-kilometer goal.
I have taken a major leap toward adopting a healthful lifestyle in the past few years. I can say that I am an active person generally but I do not stick to a healthy diet for longer periods of time. Maintaining a healthy diet is hard for me because of my major weakness: I love food. Eating is one of my coping mechanisms for stress; I wish that I were the kind of person who does not eat during stressful times.
Running definitely helps me to unwind and keeps me in a good spirit, but it also gives the opportunity to enjoy having a little extra of the food I love. In March 2017, I had a routine doctor’s visit and I got to know that my cholesterol numbers were off the charts. However, my overall risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) was minimal because my good cholesterol was high, but still, the abnormal numbers freaked me out! I decided to watch my diet while keeping running as my preferred method of exercising. In a few months, after cutting down on my drinking and smoking, my cholesterol numbers dropped dramatically; most of these numbers were almost normal, which motivated me more to maintain my healthy lifestyle… until the holidays. Holidays and peer pressure have had a great influence on breaking some of my healthy eating rules lately.
I will not have any resolutions for 2018 because I know that I will change my goals as I go through 2018 based on emerging circumstances, but I will join “You VS the Year 2018” for sure to see how far I can go in the year to come.