“It’s Just Another Marathon”

OP: https://nationwidechildrenhostpitalcolumbusmarathon.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/its-just-another-marathon/

It was eerily quiet. You couldn’t hear a thing, not a bird, not insects, not even the wind. Badlands National Park was like being on another planet. But it was also the most beautiful and unique place I had been to in a long time.

This past weekend my husband and I had the opportunity to travel out west to South Dakota and the Rapid City area where we got to check out things like Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, and the Black Hills National Forest. We were also there because I wanted to run another marathon in another state.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I’ve been struggling with staying positive about my running and training. I don’t know if it’s the weather, the fact that I’ve done this enough times that I know training is (at least for me) mostly unpleasant. Originally I thought I wanted to run Columbus in under 5 hours and that was going to be my big goal for the year. However, this goal just wasn’t helping me get out of my funk, so I had to re-evaluate what it was I wanted to do with my running.

So, the new goal became, run a marathon in all 50 states (don’t worry, still running Cbus, it’s my favorite). Which is what brought me to my 4th state and 9th full marathon in Spearfish South Dakota, the Leading Ladies Marathon. My finish time was a personal worst at 6:23:08, which makes sense because my longest run going into it was 15.5 miles (do as I say folks, not as I do!).

But that wasn’t the real story.

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For the first time in years, I was in the best place mentally the ENTIRE race. I was incredibly anxious before the race because I knew being under trained would complicate things. As soon as I got started though, I just took my time and enjoyed the (mostly downhill) ride. Our course took us entirely through the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Byway. The hills in that region are older than the Grand Canyon and they were utterly magnificent. Sure, it got hot, and I got tired of running through the canyon and having to worry about the traffic flying by me, but I knew deep down that this race was for me and my confidence in my running. If I could do this, if I could gut it out and stay consistent then I would have won. And that is exactly what I did! I ran downhill and got spit back out the other side with a greater appreciation for what I was doing.

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(A view of the trees and hills around mile 7 or 8, the woman in orange was running her 355th full!).

I think what is so unique about running is how much it can reflect where we are at in life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes we hit those slumps that we just can’t find our way out of. In this case, I just needed a little nature and camaraderie with other like-minded folks. Some years we are running machines, we are fast, we feel like we can conquer anything. Other times, it feels like a cheesy disaster movie, or one of those ‘end of the world’ films. Then, we come out the other side with a new perspective on running and life. I think that is what this race gave to me. A chance at some perspective. As the lady in orange above said to me when she passed, ‘don’t fret, it’s just another marathon.’ That wasn’t meant to undermine what we were doing, but in the grand scheme of life, it was just that, another marathon. With almost 355 under her belt, I think she had permission to make that case.

In the end, just remember, the training and the race are just one journey out of many that you will be blessed with in your life. Enjoy the ride!

Instagram: @BuckeyeRunnerGal

Follow Shannon at: https://runforthebuns.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BuckeyeRunnerGal/

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Marathon Training Week 1

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So….it begins. Training for my 9th full marathon started this week. I am really really scared. It probably sounds insane since this is my 9th full marathon, but this is a distance I have ALWAYS struggled with. I have never come under five hours, there have been seasons where I have trained exactly as I should have and still the race went terribly.

Since the last time a race went poorly, I kind of put my head in the sand and decided to avoid my own training by becoming a coach. I had always enjoyed being a pacer for races, and I did want to take my knowledge and share it with others, but I also didn’t want to have to worry about myself either. It was easier to avoid then try and figure out how to change or alter my strategy.

But, I figured I can’t avoid this forever. I am at a point where running needs to be something different, or I won’t keep doing it. I’ve finished. Now I want to finish well.

So my plan is this.

Step 1: Join Marathoners In Training
Step 2: Follow the Intermediate Schedule during the week and the Advanced for long runs
Step 3: Add weight training
Step 4: Blog weekly about how training is going
Step 5: Eat more fruits and veggies

This week went fairly well. I missed one run on Friday, but I got myself out the door for my long run by myself. I also lifted weights twice this week. My runs are getting stronger. During the week I can more easily run an 11:40 pace, but the weekend long run is still at a 13.

I figured taking it one week at a time would be the most manageable.

So here we go, Columbus Marathon 2017…

The struggle with diet

It’s been almost 6 months since I last posted a blog. I haven’t really run any races and I haven’t really worked on my other health issues.

It’s odd when you know exactly what you need to do, but you have trouble taking the leap to making it right. I think so much of it has to do with a level of comfort that one has with the status quo. I have never been great with change, I struggle with it. This is an enormous change that I face, changing how I have spent a lifetime eating. Breaking habits and food associations I developed as a young child.

The truth is, I think this might be my last resort. I’ve been given a variety of medications that are ‘supposed’ to make me feel better, but they haven’t. Even if those medications were working, I wouldn’t want to have to be on them for the rest of my life anyways.
The one thing I know I have control over, let me say that again for good measure, I HAVE CONTROL OVER THESE CHOICES, is the food that I am eating and the exercise that I am getting.

So, how am I going to go about making these changes? One thing I know about myself is that I need to make small changes over a longer period of time that become habits.

This first week, I want to remove two things from my diet, delivery pizza and Chinese. If I were being honest with myself, these are staples to my diet and I need to get rid of them until I find alternative recipes for making them. I also plan to add at least one fruit and veggie each day to my meals.
In the exercise department I am going to get back into my running which was halted due to a recent head cold, but I also want to start regularly lifting again, hitting the gym at least twice this week.

Slow, but steady, wins the race. It’s about a lifetime of changes, not just today or tomorrow.

2016 Columbus Marathon

In all the years I have either run, or spectated this race, it has never been 60 degrees at the start. It was going to be a warm day. However, it has been a really warm summer.

As a coach for Marathoner in Training, there is a tradition of meeting all of the MIT participants downtown before the race, to get plenty of pictures, hugs, and words of encouragement before the race. I am not really a morning person, but you can’t help but get excited at the prerace gathering!

This season I had the pleasure of coaching with two wonderful guys, Tony and Ron.

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I am so grateful to have these  two as part of the team that coaches the 13 minute pace group. They are two gems and our collective personalities match well. There was plenty of hugs and words of wisdom going around the room and of course, plenty of loud music in case you weren’t awake yet.

At 6:30am, the entire cohort of MIT made it’s way to the start line of the Columbus Marathon. I had not participated in the race since the start was moved away from Broad St. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the new location. Other than being a little cramped in the first mile, I thought it was very efficient and organized.

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There were fireworks set off at the start of the A&B corral and then again for C,D,&E. It was a fun way to kick off the event-and of course, lots of friendly faces and positive energy at the start line.

During half marathons, I try not to think too hard for the first few miles and just run. Especially this time around. When I met with Race Director Darris Blackford, he was big on running for the joy of it. I hadn’t been enjoying running much lately and so I decided to approach this race with only one goal: come under 2:50 which was the time I had been pacing at for other events. Also, I wasn’t going to wear my watch.

What is unique about Columbus is it’s ties to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Participants are able to register as a “Children’s Champion” and fund raise for the hospital. Each mile marker is also dedicated to a “Patient Champion” a current child who is being assisted by the hospital. Race participants are able to ‘high five’ these kids and families come out to cheer on the runners and walkers.

I was really excited by how good I felt during this race. The warmer weather really didn’t bother me too much until Mile 10. The course had tons of crowd support and I had friends who came out and cheered me on.

The finish was much improved over previous years. I really liked how easy it was to move along  and get the medal, water, and snacks. The family meet and greet area was packed, but signs designating where to find your runner by last name were posted.

I am so proud to regularly be a part of this event, whether as a runner, spectator, or guest blogger. I love what the community is able to come out and do-and the positive attitude that the race reinforces. I can’t wait for 2017 to come around, until then- Happy Miles!

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(Oh, I finished in 2:44:20 🙂 )

Tomorrow is Another Day

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This is me. I’d be lying if I said I don’t cringe a bit when I see this picture. I know, I just finished 31 miles and I raised money for an incredible organization. But I am really uncomfortable with this version of me. I am 25 pounds heavier than when I started graduate school, and quite frankly, I eat total crap. It’s time. I have laryngopharyngeal reflux, or “silent reflux” that causes a chronic cough. My body has aches and pains that it didn’t used to have.

I need to do something about this.

So, why isn’t easy to take care of ourselves?

The truth is, we all actually know how to do this right? Movement every day, eating mostly vegetables and fruit, with some grains and lean protein.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it were just that easy!

I’ve watched every food documentary out there, Food Matters, Food, Inc., Hungry for Change, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. You name it and I’ve probably seen it. I know there is an inordinate amount of sugar in our foods today and that our ‘fresh’ foods are grown far away and lose most of their nutrients by the time they reach our grocery cart.

Yet, I can’t seem to pull it together and change. My friend Julia recommended that I use my blog to figure this out. Maybe as I go on this journey of self-improvement it’ll help others and others will throw me a bone.

They say the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Well, here is my first step in a new direction. I’m overweight guys, my body fat percentage is way too high. I can’t run and eat whatever I want and I need to start taking care of myself.

So here it is:

Weight: 145

Body fat percentage: 35%

Sigh. Time to make that change.

What was it that Scarlett O’Hara used to say? Tomorrow is another day.

 

An Afternoon with Race Director Darris Blackford

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(Originally published for the Columbus Marathon, http://www.columbusmarathon.com)

Confession: I might have been a little star struck. OK maybe VERY star struck. But it isn’t every day that you are given the chance to chat with the Race Director of the Columbus Marathon and I had been given that chance.

After my last blog I had this idea that it would be cool to get to know Darris Blackford a little bit better. I’ve run Columbus numerous times, but really knew little about the man running the event. As a runner from the back of the pack, I was curious to see if I could relate to him. I have often wondered if race directors notice the folks in the middle and back of a race. I could not have been more surprised.

When I arrived at Thomas Worthington High School for my afternoon walk with Darris, I was greeted by a very unassuming looking middle aged man, with graying hair, and the proverbial lean build of a runner. But he offered me a wide smile and quickly came over to greet me as though we were longtime friends.

For the entire week leading up to this meeting, I had been thinking that I might just do a formal interview, but in that moment, I thought that it would be nice to just walk and talk. Sometimes the best way to get to know someone is to keep the conversation casual.

So, at 6pm we set off for our walk. I knew that Darris had injured himself the previous weekend while taking part in the Burning River 100. However, Darris was quick to check and see how my back was doing after injuring it the week before. After getting some general chit chat out of the way, we got down to business. “So why are we here” Darris asked. I told him that I wanted to take the time to get to know the man behind the race a little bit better. I asked him about his experience running 200 marathons and if he could identify a favorite. He was surprisingly quick with his choice, “Marine Corps, there is something about being able to see DC while on foot with no traffic.” For the next twenty minutes or so, Darris was happy to give me these little tidbits about himself, and sure, this was interesting and fun to learn about a fellow runner. Yet, when I was driving home and found myself still smiling from my encounter, I knew that I had gotten so much more.

More than anything else, Darris is a man who loves people and the community he calls home. This is what drives him to make the marathon the best experience possible, for both the participants and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. His passion for the race and his work left me feeling inspired and proud that our city had such a fine event. More than that, I was no longer doubting that he notices ALL of his running and walking participants. He was more than encouraging about the 12 hour run I had coming up and reminded me that I needed to have fun that day.

Yet, some of our conversation was at times sobering and I had a glimpse about the realities of managing such a large scale event. I admit, it is easy to take for granted all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into executing a marathon. While positive and engaging, Darris was quick to point out that the negative feedback about the race could sometimes be tough to hear. I got the sense that, his drive comes from trying to ensure that all participants have an enjoyable event, so when he hears otherwise, he takes it personally. He admitted that he has had to grow some thicker skin over the years. As someone who has finished four Columbus Marathons, the quality continues to improve every year. I know this is due, in large part, to the dedication of Darris and his staff.

In the end, I can’t tell you every little detail I learned about Darris over the course of an hour. What I can tell you is that Columbus is truly lucky to have such an individual as the race director. I can tell you, that he made me feel as though I was just as important as any elite athlete out there. I can tell you that he greatly cares about the health of the community here in Columbus-hence the partnership with the hospital and the desire to raise as much money as possible, so that children can continue to get the healthcare they need.

I can also tell you that one message was very clear, “be kind to yourself and have fun.”

Thank you Darris for your time and inspiration! Hope to see you October 16th!

About the author: Shannon McLoughlin Morrison has her Ph.d. in Education Policy and Leadership. She is an avid runner and coach for Marathoners in Training. She also has two pet house rabbits.

2016 Cap City Half Marathon

This past Saturday, I ran my 22nd half marathon. When did I suddenly find myself having run that many half marathons? It wasn’t so long ago that I was floored to run 7 miles in a training run…

It doesn’t seem to matter how many half marathons, or other races I have run, I still feel terribly nervous at the start. I know the routine, I know EXACTLY what to expect (for the most part), but I always find my adrenaline hiking up just before the race.

This was the first time in a long time that I was running the half marathon and not pacing the event. It has been a few years since I have run an event, or raced one. I was really hoping, based on the way that my training had gone, that I would hit somewhere between a 2:40 finish or 2:30. I was pretty confident I had that in me.

At the start I was about a minute behind the 2:30 finish pacers. Right around mile 4 the wheels fell off. I got really sick at my stomach. I had been doing water-then Gatorade at every other station. I couldn’t seem to handle the motion of running without feeling queasy. Running through campus and German Village was a nightmare, all the restaurants were prepping food for the day and it made the nausea worse.

But, I am stubborn. I know what it is like to run when you aren’t feeling well. So I stuck those 9 terrible miles out. I dug deep and kept trudging forward. I didn’t meet my goal and I was terribly disappointed, but I am proud that I kept moving forward.

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Overall, M3S does a really nice event for this half marathon. It is one of my favorites in town and I feel strongly about it like I do the Columbus Marathon. My friends look at doing races in other towns…not sure I am ready to part with it. I still need to slay this course someday!

The course takes you from downtown Columbus, through OSU’s campus, back downtown, out to German Village, and then returning downtown. There are water stations at every 1.5(ish) miles. If it had been warmer, they could have had them more frequently, but we lucked out with good weather this year. The medal was a beast.

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I mean, this medal was kind of ridiculous in its size. But the faux diamonds were neat and I liked the “I am a Champion,’ written on the side.

All in all, a really fun time and race. I would certainly recommend this one to people. It is a good time!