1/2 Way More to Go

My friend, Vidita, and I trained and ran in our first half marathon together and finished in 2 hrs and 8 minutes without stopping once!

Other than burning several thousand calories and feeling super sore, post-race Taylor hasn’t felt too many immediate changes.

Instead, all of the changes have taken time and patience. The transformation, both physically and mentally, has been a slow and incremental journey.

Post-race recovery.

Prior to training for a 1/2 Marathon…

I never enjoyed walking

At age 6, my mom had to throw away my stroller at Disney World because I despised walking. You could say, I was a very lazy child.

I never enjoyed running

I used to think, what’s the point?! You start at Point A and end at Point A. Left foot, right foot, left arm, right arm. Repeat indefinitely. How boring!

I was adverse to setting goals and intense competition

I used to do competitive alpine ski racing but didn’t cross train because I feared getting stronger and my potential success. As a result, I never fully committed to going all in.

I was insecure

Prior to training for this half-marathon, I would huff and puff through 2 miles. From my perspective, I felt relatively mediocre compared to the athletic people around me. And although I did exercise, I severely undersold my own stamina and “athletic abilities.”

Holding up my mom’s handmade sign after running 13.1 miles. She is the best.

So it’s crazy to say that…

It took more than 150 miles of running before I could run 13.1 miles on race day.

I ran the length of almost 6 marathons before I could even run one 1/2 marathon…

That’s insane!

It only goes to show that no one is born a 1/2 marathon runner or even a marathon runner.

The endurance, the mentality, and the preparation takes time… patience… and practice.

Ran into my friend Saad during the race. (Picture by Rico Cabredo)

How did I personally go from 2 to 13.1 miles?

Step 0: I gathered the materials —

The great thing about running is that it is quite a low-maintenance sport. At the bare minimum…

  1. A good pair of running shoes
  2. Clothes that can get sweaty
  3. Water
  4. A place to run.

Step 1: I made it a official

I set a challenging but also realistic goal for myself (run a half marathon non-stop) and then registered for the race.

If you are interested in something similar, even if it’s not an official race, you can set a date you’d like to accomplish your goal. Let’s say, 5 miles by the last day of the month. And then write it down, and put it somewhere you’ll see every day.

Be specific.

Step 2: I committed to a race plan that worked for me

I chose Hal Higdon’s Beginner 1/2 Marathon Training Guide for first time half-marathon runners (aka me).

Depending on 1) how much time you have, and 2) how much time you are willing to dedicate to training, there are workout plans for all levels. Consistency is the most important part. You are building endurance and resilience. You are training your mental stamina and practicing a sport in order to get better every day.

Remember: This all takes time.

Step 3: I asked friends for advice

I texted my friend, Jenna, who loves running marathons for advice on diet tips. She advised me to keep it simple: Eat healthy, eat consistently, and if you feel like you need more energy, eat more.

This ended up working really well for me. I didn’t take any supplements except for vitamins. I just tried to minimize unhealthy foods and maximize fresh and non-processed foods instead. (Note: I did drink one protein shake the morning of the race. Thank you for sharing, Vidita.)

Step 4: I integrated training into my daily routine

Ah, I loved this. Cross-training and strength training was crucial in helping me run farther each week.

Weekly HIIT (high intensity interval training) exercises increased my endurance threshold. Lifting weights not only made me more toned, but also built stronger muscles so I could protect my knees on longer runs. Swimming was my form of stretching and meditation.

I made sure to pencil in my daily workouts along with my meetings, classes, and other obligations until eventually, I didn’t have to think twice about preparing for my weekly long runs.

Step 5: I told people about my specific goal!

I would tell my friends over lunch, my cousins at Chinese New Year, and my professors in class about this. It wasn’t so much about who I told, but more so that I was able to verbally reaffirm to myself that I was actively pursuing this goal.

It kept me accountable.

Step 6: I took breaks, including a whole week of no fitness

While training, I learned that I didn’t need to run non-stop to reach my running goals.

One time, it took me 2.5 hours (aka a very slow 15 min/mile) to run 10 miles because I took several breaks throughout the way. One week, I didn’t run at all because I was leading a service learning trip in Washington DC. Another time, I got sick and was unable to reach my goal of running 7 miles during the weekend.

While these mini setback were stressful and worrisome, I always had to remind myself, worst case scenario, I won’t run the full 13.1 miles. I’ll walk the 13.1 miles instead.

Also, self-care is very important. Take it day by day. Step by step. Left foot, right foot. It is very important to run when you feel both mentally and physically ready. It is equally important to take breaks to let your body and mind rest and recover.

Step 7: I listened to podcasts!!!

Because I was progressively increasing the length of my workouts, from 30 min at the start to 90 minutes towards the end, I found it necessary to listen to a story with a definitive beginning, middle, and end. Beyond just a good musical beat, I enjoyed keeping my mind occupied with intriguing podcasts because I was always learning about something new like…

  1. The recent US election
  2. The correlation between FB ads, ethnic affinities, and racial discrimination
  3. A Mars mission simulation on Hawaii from the perspective of a female scientist
  4. The significance of movies like “Get Out” and “Moonlight” from the perspective of Jordan Keyes
  5. A 30 year-old, single, virgin, Mormon’s story about her personal identity struggle
  6. Angela Duckworth’s talk about grit, perseverance, and “fostering a passion” rather than “following a passion”
  7. And plenty more topics I knew nothing about…

Step 8: I tried my best to savor the experience

This journey was more than just about the running. If it wasn’t, I would’ve stopped a very long time ago.

The more I ran, the more I was able to stretch out time and embrace the present. Running 2 miles used to feel like an eternity. Today, running 6 miles is a doable, leisurely run. The distance I travel has become relative to what I am familiar with.

For me, training time =

  1. Me time
  2. Meditation time
  3. Stress reliever time
  4. Listening to podcasts time
  5. Learning how to slow down time time
  6. Temporarily running away from home time
  7. Escape from “real life responsibilities” time
  8. Excuse to talk to the fisherman by the Raritan River time
  9. Burning calories so I can eat garlic knots and seasoned french fries time
  10. Time to invest in myself — to give myself my best shot at success in life.

Although I’m still not head over heels about running, I can at least better understand the intrigue and interest. Even if I had not reached my goal of running 13.1 miles non-stop, I know that running is about more than just starting at point A and ending at point A.

I am so proud of objectively quadrupling my running distance ability from 3 miles to 13.1 miles… That’s a 400% distance increase!!! The human body is insanely amazing.

This has been a very satisfying and self-inspiring journey about incremental growth… about making subtle progress bit by bit… about always remembering, no matter what, to just keep swimming forward.

What’s next?

For now, I am taking some time to rest and relax. Looking ahead, you can expect another update about my next adventure. Another half? A full? Maybe even a triathalon?

We shall see 🙂

Me and Mom and the finish line.

Originally published at tayzau.com on April 18, 2017.