The Day I Became A Runner: Part 1

On Saturday morning, I battled through pain, cold weather, and “the wall” as I finished my fifth half marathon.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t hit my goal time of 2:45. But I don’t think this race was about getting a PR. My race was about proving to myself that I AM a runner.

Most importantly, this race taught me that the heart and determination from a complete stranger can transform your world.

Race Morning

I have nightmares about oversleeping and missing my races. My wake-up call was at 5 am. I wanted enough time to stretch, eat a good breakfast, drink my coffee, and take pictures with Bandit. You know- just a normal day.

But at 5:50 am, I woke up in a frantic! Did I hit snooze on my alarm clock? Was I in such a deep sleep that I missed my alarm clock going off? I reached for my phone and checked my alarm clock.

5 PM. I set my alarm clock for 5PM instead of 5 AM.

No wonder I always have nightmares…I know myself too well.

But thankfully, I still had 50 minutes to get ready before Chad picked me up.

I brewed my morning coffee.

Pumpkin spice on race morning?
Check please.

I ate my pre-race breakfast (toast and peanut butter + a banana). Oh, and yes this time around I had to take my antibiotic to cure my staph infection. Because – you know- I have the best luck ever.

Notice the warning label on the antibiotics warns about diarrhea.
Twice. So, yes I was afraid I might be that person with running farts.
Or worse.

And I took a pre-race before picture alone. Bandit decided it was too early to get out of bed.

7312. My new lucky number.

Chad picked me up around 6:45 am (and thankfully so because I get super stressed out about driving and parking alone). Usually on race morning, I am nervous wreck. I don’t spend a lot time chatting on race morning– because I am PRAYING I survive the morning ahead of me. Instead, Chad and I talked about our expectations, goals, and plans for the morning. We found a great parking spot and started walking to the start line.

Here we go!!!
PS I didn’t want to leave the warm car, but at least I was bundled up!

He was shooting for a big goal at (or slightly under) two hours, so we definitely weren’t starting together. But thankfully, we ran into a group of our friends at the start line.

Two of my favorites.
Team Iasta.
I have the best coworkers in the world.

The Start

I walked to my corral (the area where you start your race, which is based on your pace). I looked for the sign that said 12-13 minute miles.

My goal pace.

The air was cold, but I was bundled up. I overdressed knowing that I would be throwing off my jacket, gloves, and hat. Volunteers collect the clothes and donate them to shelters across the city.
I looked around trying to recognize a familiar face, but I didn’t find one…I was alone.

Just me.

My headphones.

And my heart.

I turned to the guy next to me.

“Is this your first race?” I asked him, desperate to calm my nerves by making conversation with a complete stranger.

“Actually, it’s my second,” he said. “My first half marathon was the Indy Mini in May.”

“That’s awesome!” I said. “I can’t believe how hot and humid that race was…I bet you love this weather.”

“Yeah, it was really hot,” he said. “I had trained through the winter months, so I wasn’t prepared for that kind of heat. I saw people dropping left and right.”

“Scary stuff,” I said. “Do you have a goal for today?”

He looked over with a big smile and said, “I don’t care what my pace is, I just want to run the whole thing.”

I admired his goal. It’s something I’ve never done. At that moment, he inspired me to focus on running instead of intervals. The gun went off and the race started. We started walking forward (it took us 8 minutes until we crossed the start line). Just before we separated, I asked for his name.

“Rob, it’s nice to meet you!” I said. “My name is Ashley.”

Before he took off, I yelled at him.

He turned around.

“Rob- I know you’re going to hit your goal today,” I said. “Good luck!”

I turned on my iPod, played “Hats Off to Larry,” and drifted away to memories of my grandpa.

Miles 1-5

Okay Ashley, don’t look at your watch.

Run slow, but don’t stop to walk.

See how far you can go without stopping.

I knew I didn’t train to run the entire thing, but I wanted to challenge myself.

I wanted to prove to myself that I AM a runner.

I felt great as I rolled past Mile 1 in 11 minutes.


You got this, Ash.

As I was approaching Mile 2, I ran into Carla – my running buddy! I stayed with her for about a mile and we chatted about life, the city, and the beautiful weather.

“Girl, this is your race,” she said. “I am going to take a quick walking break- but you go ahead.”

“Are you sure?” I asked. I felt bad not staying with her. I ran my last half marathon alone, and I know having someone by your side makes a huge difference.

“Yes!” Carla said. “I’m positive. Get running. I’ll be chasing after you!”

She makes my heart happy.

I put on my headphones, and started running again. For the next three miles, I only stopped to walk during water station breaks.

I started to tear up. I was so proud of myself for staying strong. I let my music help my mind wander away and tried to focus on anything, except for running.

Just think, you’re only running a mile or two at a time.

Then you get a break.

And water.

Just then, I heard someone yell my name from a car. It was Sabrina, one of my previous running buddies. Last year, I ran this race with her by my side. I was happy I got the chance to see her.

“Sabrina! I’ve only been walking through water stations!”

I am 99% sure she didn’t hear me, but she gave me a thumbs up anyway.

At mile five, I came up to a water station full of high schoolers. I heard them shooting and cheering for people as they ran past, so I wanted to give them something to shout about.

“WHOAA!” I yelled as I ran through them.

I lifted my arms in the air and everyone started screaming.

My body filled with happiness.

I felt like I was flying.

Someone handed me water, another person gave me a high-five, and I overheard a girl say, “She was awesome!”

“Move It Like Bernie” came on and I smiled all the way through the next mile…

Are you sucked in yet? Don’t worry, Part 2 is coming soon!

Much love,

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