Charles St. 12 Race Recap

I’ve been trying to do at least one race per month and was searching for an August race around my birthday when I came across info about the inaugural Charles St. 12 race in Baltimore. Hmmmm. August in Baltimore. The thought wasn’t too appealing, plus the info was a bit sketchy initially. No race course yet published or many race details at all. So I put the race on my tentative calendar, ‘liked’ their Facebook page, and checked in on their website from time to time.
Bit by bit, more info was given. The race was point to point, with busing provided to the start. There would be an awesome premium of an Under Armour hoodie, embroidered with the race logo, and the course had a decent net downhill elevation. So finally, I registered. The weather had been exceptionally mild in the weeks leading up to the race, but the eventual forecast was calling for a high of 91 degrees on race day. Eeek!
The morning of the race, I left my house about 3:30 am to head down to Baltimore. Packet pickup at a Towson, MD shopping center was open at 5:30, and I arrived there about 5:45. Due to lack of parking at the start, the runners were encouraged to park in one of the many parking garages near the finish, and take the provided busing. However, the last bus was scheduled to leave the finish area at 6:45 am, so I felt pressure to quickly get my packet and get down to the Inner Harbor area. I easily found space in the garage closest to the bus pickup and was directed to get in a quickly moving line for a bus. The whole process was well-organized and painless. Even the bus was comfortable and well appointed. When we arrived back in Towson, our bus driver called out with a smile “how was your ride in a $500k bus?”
I looked for the porta potties to make one last pit stop before the race and was initially surprised to see no lines at all. A minute later, I realized how wrong I was. There was actually one single file line snaking around and around all through the parking lot. After 20 minutes in line, suddenly the dam broke and the single line became multiple lines, one per door. Fortunately, I made it through with a little time to spare.
Shortly before 7:30, announcements began, the national anthem sung, and we were off, right on time.
The first couple miles, I was running pretty easily at a 11 min/mile pace, which is fast for me. In mile 3, we hit a pretty decent uphill and my pace definitely slowed. I think I walked for the first time in the steepest parts. We were going through some nice neighborhoods and passed by Towson University.
After that first uphill, I really expected the course to be all downhill and while it certainly was a significant downhill overall, it seemed to make the little uphills that much harder for me to run. Around mile 4, I started getting some stomach discomfort. This is the first time this has happened to me and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. I was drinking water from my hydration belt but it seemed unclear whether water was making it worse or better. I saw a couple porta potties around mile 4.5 but there was a line so I decided not to stop. Fortunately, it wasn’t too disastrous of a decision, but I never did see another porta potty on the entire course.
The police presence during the entire race was awesome. From the very start when motorcycle cops accompanied us (although I could have done without their exhaust!), to multiple cops at every intersection, and considering we were running through downtown baltimore, there were plenty of intersections. I would guesstimate that several hundred cops were working the race. Even at the busiest, largest intersections, runners always had the right of way and I never had to stop.
I really started feeling tired heading into mile 9 and running became more of a struggle. My walk breaks became more and more frequent and I stopped caring about posting a decent time, I just wanted to finish. The very last mile, we headed along the promenade in Baltimore’s inner harbor. That was interesting because now we were no longer on a closed off running lane, but competing for space with shoppers and diners out walking around. I had to dodge families a few times.
Finally, I could hear cheering around the last corner and I came around the bend and crossed the finish line. My legs were screaming and my time was an un stellar 2:36:18, or an overall pace of 13:02. Definitely not the time I had anticipated. I think I partly ran out of energy because I was afraid to eat many of the sport beans I had brought as energy food, due to the ongoing stomach problems. Also the lack of sleep the night before was definitely not helpful. Still, I really enjoyed the race overall.
Especially for an inaugural race, it was exceptionally well run. It’s one of the few that I hope to run again next year. And yes, I plan to crush this years time. πŸ™‚

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Women’s Moon Half Marathon Race Recap

I planned to visit family in WA state over the 4th of July so why not do a race while I’m there? Another state to check off in my quest to run a half or full marathon in every state. I found what looked like an awesome half, a women’s only half marathon being held in Olympia, WA. The course looked relatively flat and the finisher’s medal was a beautiful sterling silver necklace. Sign me up!

The day of the race was a pretty warm day for WA state. The race didn’t start until 5 pm and we had a family barbecue at noon earlier the same day. I’m pretty sure barbecue is not recommended in pre-race fueling but what the heck. My main goal in travelling to WA was to see family, the race was just a side bonus. I usually like to get to races at least an hour early, to walk around and settle my nerves but we were running late from the barbecue and I felt my anxiety kick in a little bit when we got there with only 20 minutes to spare, and I saw the porta potty lines. Fortunately, they moved pretty quickly and I got to the starting line fine. It was great to have family at the race start to take pictures since I am usually solo. I believe there was a 300 racer cap for the half but there might only have been 225-250 women running it and somewhere around that same number of women running the 4k event which started an hour later.

The course started off with one lap around a high school track and then around a half-mile onto a wooded trail near the high school campus. The trail was pretty narrow and we were pretty much on each other’s heels in single file. I think I was already sucking wind at this point and thinking what a big mistake that barbecued chicken was. Or maybe it was the cake afterwards haha. It was also hot! Before too long, the trail opened up we ran around some neighborhoods and then eventually back alongside the high school. My parents still hadn’t left (I had told them not to wait, as I anticipated it taking at least 2.5 hours for me to finish) and I got to scream ‘Hi Mom!’ at my mom waiting on the sidewalk.

A lot of the men from the local running club hosting the event were participating as course marshalls, some in tuxedo tops and shorts. πŸ™‚

We headed into some more neighborhoods and to my surprise and dismay, Hills! Either I didn’t look at the course elevation closely enough, or that chart was seriously lacking. Ugh. Hills and more hills. They had water stops about every two miles and each one had a little rain shower setup you could run through and get misted. If I hadn’t been worried about damaging my phone, I would have gotten more soaked at each one. The dampness felt great though. At one point, a neighbor was sitting out on her lawn, offering to spray people down with her hose. That felt good too.

At about the 4.5 mile mark, we got close to the Evergreen State campus and the course went onto some wooded trails. It was amazing how much I felt my motivation and my speed increase. The relief from the sun and heat felt so great. Right about then, the leaders started passing me on their way back. They were moving pretty fast.

Finally I hit the halfway point and turnaround. They had some energy gels available so I grabbed a couple and refilled my water bottles. Ok halfway, I could do this. Along the way, they had women on bikes checking on the status of all the participants. They were also handing out plastic baggies of ice and so I grabbed one and stuck in the front of my bra. It probably looked weird but who cares. Until it melted completely, I kept grabbing a single piece and slathering it all over my face and neck to cool off.

Back through the wooded trails, then back to the hills. The hills on the way back seemed much worse. I walked a lot. A whole heck of a lot. At least I had passed a number of people after the turnaround so I knew I was not anywhere close to being the last to finish.

A couple women were using the Galloway method and while I was not doing any formal run/walk, they would pass me during their run cycle, and then I would pass them running. This went on for at least a couple miles.

Finally, we were back in the vicinity of the high school. But wait, we were in sight of the finish line, we could see the runners coming around the track and hear the loudspeaker, but we still had 2.5 miles to go! So cruel and inhumane. Not to mention, this was uphill.

I felt really unmotivated after that but I kept plugging along. Back through the local neighborhood, back toward the high school, back onto the wooded trail. It was all I could do to keep running. Finally back to the track and one lap. I wanted to walk so badly but how could I in sight of all the people? Yes, here is the finish line. I tried to smile and raise my arms in victory but it was a halfhearted attempt.

I crossed the line, was handed my beautiful silver necklace and offered some chocolates and water and I was done. So happy to be done. My legs hurt really badly so I did some stretching on the grass while I ate my chocolate.

I still don’t know my official time except I’m sure it was just over 3 hours. Pretty dang slow. Over 20 minutes slower than my previous half marathon time. I’ve come to the conclusion that a)I should have been doing more hill work b)I shouldn’t eat barbecue a couple hours before a race and c) evening races are not for me. Still, I’m super happy that I did it, and that I finished it. Yay!

Me and my mom at the start:

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Buffalo Half Marathon 2013 Race Recap

A couple of weeks ago, running this half marathon was seriously in question. After an ordinary 3 mile run, I started having shooting pains on the side of my knee. After visiting my pcp and the PT, I learned it was IT band syndrome. The PT visits helped immensely and the Friday before, I decided things were going well enough to go ahead with the run.
My daughters and I made the 5.5 hour drive from PA early Saturday morning and got checked into the Embassy Suites. This hotel was only 2 blocks from the race start/finish so it was perfectly located. We walked down to the convention center to pick up my race packet and check out the expo. The expo was very small but I picked up a few nice goodies and some great socks at a discount.
Outside of the foot traffic in/out of the convention center, Downtown Buffalo on a holiday weekend was kind of eerie, with mostly shuttered businesses and deserted streets. There was an indoor mall that was also half empty, and only a couple customers.
That evening, we walked down to the pasta dinner,which was free for racers and only $5 for guests. It was a bit of a disappointment, with just some basic penne pasta, a slice of white bread and iceberg lettuce salad. Two Oreo cookies were the dessert. After that ‘feast’ there was plenty of time to retreat to the hotel pool and jacuzzi for a good soak before bedtime.
The hotel was very accommodating for racers and opened up extra early for breakfast at 5 am. In the morning I was able to eat a small yogurt and a bit of fruit and didn’t even need to leave the hotel until 20 minutes before gun time. No need to line up for the porta potties at the start,which was a huge plus to staying so close by.
I walked the two blocks around to the start and they were funneling racers into the start area, checking for race bibs. There weren’t truly corrals but I did see large signs along the edges of the street, with various pace times. Not sure how many people actually adhered to those times. As a slower runner, I stayed toward the back of the pack anyway. The gun went off right at 7 am and the crowd started moving forward. It took me about 4 minutes to cross the start line after the gun went off,which wasn’t too bad.
I quickly located the pacer for the 2.5 hour finish time and stuck to him for the first mile. This first mile looped around through the downtown area and there was plenty of crowd support here. The first water stop was at the 1 mile mark but I skipped that one. I did have a moment of regret when I realized it would be 2 miles until the next one. The 2nd mile, I was still with the pacer but gradually pulled ahead of him. I was hoping to bank some time to allow for future water stops. Miles 2-3 were on closed-off, wide streets with a mix of commercial and residential. Right after the mile 3 marker, we were running along Lake Erie for about a mile, which was awesome. At mile 4, we headed slightly inland and then into the marina. The course narrowed quite a bit here, and for the first time became part of an out and back, so I could see just how many faster runners were ahead (lots!).
The mile 5 water stop was right at the end of this little loop, and just before I got there, I started feeling the familiar twinges of pain in my knee. Uh oh. After getting my water, I stopped for a sec to readjust the IT strap I was wearing just above my knee. I cinched that thing tightly, hoping it would help. It did somewhat, the pain was still there but not as sharp.
I started running again, taking a couple pictures on the way.

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Up until this point, I was still ahead of the 2hr30 pacer, but now my pace dropped significantly and at about mile 5.5, he passed me and I never saw him again. Still, I hoped to at least get a PR, even if I was going to run a sub 2.5 hour like I had hoped.

Other than my brief stop to adjust the strap, I had been running continuously and feeling pretty good. The knee pain was annoying but not debilitating. At the next water stop, I took the ibuprofen I had brought along. The next few miles were not particularly scenic, a few uphills on overpasses but otherwise the terrain was pretty flat. One overpass was a metal grate and my shoes kept catching on the metal. On the way back, I made sure to run on the cement sidewalk alongside the road, and avoid the metal part.

There were several bands playing along the race route which added a nice touch. Most of the middle part of the race otherwise didn’t have many spectators. At about the 9.5 mile point, I made it to the roundabout that meant the course was now heading back downtown. The knee pain was coming and going but I just tried to tough it out. I did slow to a walk during the last uphill overpass but picked it up again once I hit the summit.

At 11.5 miles I texted my daughter that I would be getting to the finish soon. I was still on track for a PR, but that window was getting smaller and smaller. I think my pace was all the way down to a 13 minute mile. I took another brief walk break at 12 miles but then was re-energized for a strong finish. I could see the finish line way up ahead and so I gave it all I had to get this thing done. I crossed the finish line with a 2 minute PR, certainly not what I was hoping for, but better than I feared when the knee started acting up.

I got my medal and space blanket, then chowed down on the orange slices at the finish. I also took a banana and water bottle. I saw a small box of chips so I grabbed one of those as well. That seemed to be it as far as post race refreshments, which really surprised me. Even the local no frills 5k series I ran had a much better spread of food. The race ended next to the convention center so we wandered in there to see if something else was going on other than the awards ceremony. I think they were giving beer out, but since I’m not a beer drinker,that didn’t interest me.
So my girls and I headed back to the hotel. Again, it was lovely to be within 2 blocks. Breakfast was still being served so I had a delicious cooked to order omelette which really hit the spot. There was even time to hit the pool/jacuzzi again before checkout.

Overall, I really enjoyed this race. I think the food could have been greatly improved, both the pasta dinner and the post-race items, but otherwise I have zero complaints. The water stops were well run and course marshals did a good job of organizing and directing people. It’s probably not one I would run again, but I’m glad I did it this one time. Oh yeah, and if you’re into bling, the medal is pretty cool, shaped after the buffalo nickel!

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Philly Broad Street 10 Mile Run Race Recap

I had been really looking forward to this race for a while. Characterized as the largest 10 mile race in the US, this was the first year the race organizers went to a lottery system for registration and fortunately I got in. Originally, my husband and I were going to run the race together but he hurt his foot a couple of weeks ago and had to pass.
The day prior, the kids and I went down to Lincoln Financial Field (home of the Eagles) for the expo and to pick up the race packets. I was hoping to find a pair of red socks as it was being urged to wear red socks in support of Boston, however I struck out. Several vendors had brought red socks to sell but all were sold out. The Scholls booth was doing a free photo of people that would show them on the Runners World cover and so my 12 yr old and I posed for one.

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The next day, I got up at 4:30 and left the house by 5 to drive to the Sports Complex area. I was worried about how to know where to park but it turned out to be a non-issue. I even got a spot very close to the Pattinson subway station. The Broad Street line was free for all runners and I just followed the crowd of people. From there, it was a 30 minute subway ride to the start of the race. Upon emerging from the subway, I still had about 1.5 hours to kill before the start o the race so I hung out in a Dunkin Donuts for a little bit and downed some coffee. It was still pretty chilly outside but I had to get my sweatshirt checked before 8 am so reluctantly I gave it up at one of the gear check busses. Due to security concerns, no bags were allowed in gear check except for the clear plastic bags they had provided at packet pickup. I was given both a sticker to put on my race bib and a wristband that listed the bus number and my bag number.
With about 30 minutes before the start of the race, I headed toward the porta potties. And wow. I can’t remember how many porta potties they had, but the (many!) lines were still insane. It took almost the full 30 minutes to get through the line. After that I took a few moments to take some pictures and video of the crowds. From my vantage point, I couldn’t see either the start or the end of the crowds of people in the street. While surveying the crowds, I heard the distant sound of the starting gun and the crowd cheered. From there, we slowly shuffled forward for about 30 minutes until my corral made it to the start line. Sweet Caroline was playing over the loudspeaker in honor of Boston and we finally were off and moving!

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I really didn’t have a specific plan for how I was planning to run the race. I just figured I would take it easy and finish comfortably. I hadn’t run a longer run than 6 miles since my 1/2 marathon last month so I felt a little undertrained. Although billed as a flat race, it wasn’t truly flat but the uphills were pretty easy and gentle. Crowd support from the start was truly awesome. Tons of people lining the road and cheering, bands and orchestras every mile or so.
Before I knew it, the first mile was done and I was feeling great. Only 9 more to go. Approaching mile 2, we passed the Shriners Hospital and I remember seeing a young patient in a wheelchair, shaved head and head fixed in a metal halo, but smiling and waving an American flag. We all cheered and waved back at him.
Shortly after the mile 2 marker was the first water stop. The crowd was still relatively packed so I didn’t even see the water tables until I was passing them. Fortunately they had many tables for a good stretch and I was able to maneuver over and grab a cup. I’m still not good at drinking and running, so I managed a double fail when I not only spilled water on myself but also splashed a fellow runner when tossing my cup. Oops.
At some point after mile 3, I started thinking about taking a short walk break. I had never run more than 4 miles without doing some walking up until then. However, no one around me was walking and I certainly didn’t want to be the only one so I kept running. Mile 4, same thing. Now I was heading into uncharted territory. People with funny signs made me smile, including the solemn boy holding the sign ‘Run like you have diarrhea’.
The next mile,we could see City Hall getting closer and closer. Hi Ben! (Franklin, in case you don’t know his statue is on the top of City Hall).

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Between miles 5-6 we were running around it. And yes, I was still running! I was trying to think in mile increments, e.g. Ok, I’ll take a walk break at mile 5. But then I would get to that mile marker and revise my internal goal.

Once around City Hall, the crowds definitely got a bit thicker and the spectators equally got more numerous. I kept seeing supporters of the Black Girls Run group, what an awesome running group that seems like.
There were 2 water stops between mile 6 and 7, it almost seemed like too much. I skipped the 2nd one. Still running. I thought for sure I would take a walk break at mile 8.
Now I was seeing signs for the Sports Complex, kind of exciting to know I was getting so close to the end. My pace was definitely slowing. Runkeeper had my overall pace at 11:30 for the first half of the race, but now I was approaching 12 minute miles. My legs were feeling heavy but I forced them to keep moving. It was all mental at this point.
Mile 9! Still running. I wanted to walk so badly but I kept thinking of how awesome it would be to say I ran the whole thing and somehow the legs kept plugging away.
Mile 9.5, I see the Naval Yard Sign! Almost there, 6 more minutes. Surely I can run 6 minutes. There was a slight downgrade and I tried to pick up the pace but my legs felt like they were on someone else’s body. I saw the photographer and raised my arms in a victory gesture. Hopefully I’ll have a decent race photo but if so, it will be a first. πŸ™‚
Finally, finally I see the finish line. I manage to keep moving until well past it and in the line for the medals. OMG, I did it. I just ran 10 straight miles without stopping. A day later and I still can’t believe it.

Official time is 2:03:14. Slower than I had hoped, I really wanted a sub 2 hour finish but attaining a different milestone is definitely exciting too.
The volunteers handed me a cold water, and then a bag full of refreshments and I made my way out to the lawn to stretch out my already sore legs.
Bag pickup was super easy and I boarded a shuttle bus to head back to the Sports Complex. This is where things broke down a little. Due to the afternoon Phillies game, and several accidents, traffic in the general area was a mess. It took over an hour to drive the couple miles on the shuttle. I finally got home about 2:30 pm, hugged my kids, and immediately took a long nap.

This was such a fun race, I loved almost every minute of it and hope I make it in next years lottery!

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A decent race photo, except don’t ask me why my fuel belt is hiked way up above my waist!

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Garden Spot Village Half Marathon race recap

I almost can’t believe I am a half-marathoner! A little over a year ago, when I weighed close to 300 lbs, I would have thought even the idea was crazy. But now not only do I have the race under my belt, I am busy planning all my upcoming races for the year and even into next year.

So here’s my recap of the event. My 3 younger kids and I left for New Holland, PA soon after they got home from school on Friday. We live close enough that it would have been feasible to drive there on race day but I didn’t want to add the stress of driving for my first half. We arrived just in time for the pasta dinner, which was free for my two younger ones. They ate their money’s worth and then some! Afterwards I picked up my race bag and we checked out the teeny expo. Oh yeah, we had to buy some Amish whoopie pies to eat for later.
I laid out my clothes for the next day and after some tv, tried to get some sleep. I remember at one point being very irritable because my girls would not stop talking and it was close to midnight! I think I slept well after that but in the morning I remembered my vivid dream of running the race and it was getting dark because it apparently took me the entire day to run a half!

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I was paranoid about oversleeping and had set two alarms but I was quickly up and dressed after the first one and decided to head down for breakfast with my 8 yr old. He wanted a waffle and in a rash moment, I decided to eat the other half of his. In retrospect, this wasn’t the greatest decision. They say, don’t do anything differently on race day, and I certainly don’t make a habit of eating waffles for breakfast! The other not so great decision was to leisurely drink my coffee so I didn’t finish drinking it until 20 minutes before gun time.
Our hotel was only 2 miles from the race start so it was pretty easy to get parked and in the start area. A few words from the race director, the national anthem and a prayer, and we were off! I was doing it! Running a half marathon!

The first couple of miles were pretty easy. I was right behind the pacer for 2h30. Then the coffee kicked in and I had to make a pit stop. Fortunately there were water stops about every 2 miles, with porta potties, water, Gatorade, and even Gu/cliffs shot blocks at every stop. After that stop, I lost sight of the pacer group.
It was fun to see all the Amish buggies backed up at intersections, waiting for a break in the race to cross the road. Even though we used to live in this area, I still love seeing buggies. Mile 4 started a long uphill stretch and I had to start taking occasional walk breaks. I tried to limit them to about 45 seconds, just long enough to take a breather.
Mile 5 marked the end of the closed off roads and also there was a horse auction happening on the race route, so it got a bit confusing about which side of the street to run on, with big horse trailers coming down the road. More than once I had to cross from one side of the street to the other.
Heading into mile 6, the 1/2 marathon lead runners started passing us on their way back. They were moving fast! Especially since I was now on a downhill incline and they were heading up. Mile 7 marked a sharp turn with a steep downhill. I couldn’t enjoy it knowing I was soon going to be running back up it. Pretty soon signs advertising the 1/2 marathon turnaround appeared and right about then I saw the 2hr30 pacer group again. I would guess I was about 1/4 mile behind them at this point. It was sure great knowing that I was more than halfway through.
After running around the cone and heading back the direction I came from, I took some comfort that I was far from last, even though I was pretty far in the back of the pack. Heading back up the steep hill, I had to do a complete walk, although I tried to make it a power walk. Through mile 10, it continued to be a moderate but continual uphill. There were signs attached to cones along the way that made me smile ‘Toenails are optional!’ Or ‘Run like you stole something’ or ‘This doesn’t hurt as bad as a kidney stone’.
Finally I got to the 10 mile marker and the course official announced ‘the next mile is all downhill!’ Oh thank heavens. I picked up some speed and tried to make up a bit of time. I even passed quite a few runners, most of whom looked younger and fitter than me. I told myself it was only a 5k left. Easy, right?
Right at the 12 mile marker, the pace car and eventual full marathon winner passed me. He was moving at a good clip. Someone passed me on a bike and yelled ‘catch up to him!’ Uh, yeah right.
The very last mile was fairly flat and I felt myself running out of steam. I was still running but it was a slow shuffle run. As soon as I approached the end of the course, I could hear the cheering and that motivated me to find a bit more energy to finish strong. I ran through the finish line and was handed my medal and given a space blanket. I immediately looked for my kids, thinking they had seen me arrive. Um, no. They hadn’t even arrived yet! Apparently it took them an hour to walk to 2 miles from our hotel. 😦 At least they made it eventually.
There was a good spread of food in the race recovery tent and I took my time recovering and eating.

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I felt surprisingly good afterwards and after eating my fill, headed back to check out of the hotel and leave for home.
I’m already planning my next half marathon and can’t wait for it!

April update

Last month was a pretty busy month. To briefly recap, I ran three races, a 5 miler, a 5k and a 10k. Prior to that, I had only ever run 5ks. I had a goal of sub 60 minutes for the 5 miler (don’t laugh at my modest times, any speed demons reading this!) and I met that goal at 58:46. For the 10k, I was really hoping to do sub 70 minutes, and didn’t quite make that, coming in at 1:13. Still my ultimate goal was not to be last, and there were about 15 people finishing after me. Β This coming Saturday is my first half-marathon. Β I will definitely be run-walking parts of it so I’m anticipating a finishing time of around 2:45. Any faster than that and I will be thrilled! πŸ™‚

Intro

No one would ever call me, by any stretch of the imagination, an athlete. For all of my adult life, I have been severely out of shape, not even capable of walking 1/4 mile without huffing and puffing. However, 2013 is the year this changes. At 47, I’m certainly never going to be an elite athlete, in the accepted sense of that term. I may never become a “fast” runner, as compared to others who’ve been serious runners. But that’s not going to stop me from getting into the best shape of my life and working to compete only against myself. In this blog, I plan to detail my progress toward that goal. And I have some lofty goals planned for this year! (gulp)