Giving Thanks for Motivation

Lately I’ve been hitting a wall when it comes to running and exercise. Maybe it’s the changing weather, or that I’ve been doing the same thing for a long time, but I’ve been finding it easier and easier to come up with excuses when I exercise. If I’m on a treadmill, “wow your legs are really starting to feel this, huh? Probably because you’ve been running the exact same pace for a half hour. That’s big because when you’re outside you don’t keep an even pace. No big deal if you want to stop.” Or, if I pre-determine to run a certain distance outside, I’ll find some obscure reason for cutting it short “the wind is moving faster than 2mph, I really should finish this up quickly.” (I’ve never actually done that, but you get the idea.)

I called up my cousin a little over a month ago to see if she wanted to run the Buffalo Turkey Trot, an 8K, with me when she came to visit for Thanksgiving. She had run a marathon in the past, and even though she just had a baby (yay! new cousins!) I knew she would still be able to run it, and at a slow enough pace that I could keep up. At the time, I was comfortable running a 5K, which I thought gave me enough time to push myself toward a longer distance. We had registered, which then meant I had to start training!

It sounded easy in my head, but I kept finding excuses at the gym and outside to only run two or three miles. It was a bizarre phenomenon, where I would give up, get home, and be immediately angry with myself. Well, Jackie, if you’re so mad about it, why don’t you shut up and quit making excuses? Yes, I agree friends. I suck.

It was getting closer and closer to race day, and I had been doing well at least GOING to the gym, and going to spinning classes each week, but I was getting more and more nervous about the distance. My minimum goal for the Turkey Trot was to run the entire race without stopping, hoping that I would find motivation in running with my cousin and the energy of the 14,000 other runners that day. I set a “reach” goal for myself of finishing in less than an hour…something that I basically ruled out as I approached the start line yesterday.

Unfortunately because of the bad weather, my cousin never made it to Buffalo to visit for Thanksgiving, which meant no running partner for me. Hooray! Another excuse to not run! (Not to say that I didn’t want my cousin to visit, obviously!) But I had made the decision that I would get up and go alone, unless it was snowing/sleeting/Buffaloing (you upstate NY-ers get what I mean, right?) the day of the race. Then I remembered that a friend was planning to run the race alone as well, and made plans for us to carpool and run together.

She had set a goal for herself as well – finish with a 10:20 pace at minimum (maximum? numbers…). When she told me, I thought it was reasonable for me too, because I’ve run that pace or faster in the past, but shorter distances. We agreed that if she wanted to kick off to keep pace, she could. I was just hoping I could keep up.

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We got to the start line on Thanksgiving morning, with a temperature of 17 degrees and thousands of other people around us jumping up and down trying to warm up before the race. The last time I had gone on a run was in the gym, on a treadmill, where I intended on running four miles but only completed three. I was so nervous for myself but tried to scour my brain for some motivation.

We kicked off, and had a slow first mile – over an 11 minute pace – because of all the weaving and bobbing we had to do to avoid the other runners and walkers. We expected it though. All of a sudden we hit the 2 mile marker, and I was feeling pretty good. I had taken my gloves off because my hands were getting warm (which wasn’t the best idea as I now stare at my red, dry, cracked knuckles), and the feeling came back in my feet. We were keeping a good pace and talking the whole time, which made the race fly by. Once we hit the middle of the third mile I couldn’t even believe it, because I wasn’t hurting like I normally do. I had a little pain in my ankles, but my usual exhaustion wasn’t even taking over. I was ready to finish strong!

We hit the fourth mile no problem, realizing we had to pick up the pace a bit if we wanted to make it in under 10:20. Looking back at our tracking apps on our phones, we had the quickest mile right there – somewhere under 9:30. Less than a half mile before the finish, she had kicked off, but I stayed within eye sight of her, finishing around 30 seconds after she did.

So, not only did I complete my goal of running the entire distance, but I finished in 52:19 according to my timer – that’s under an hour, right? 🙂

I guess it really does help to have a running buddy, or someone to hold you accountable for completing your goals! Earlier this week, I could barely push myself to four miles, and four days later I finished five and felt good afterwards. It was certainly something to be thankful for this year.

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