We are pleased to be involved again in the Saucony #26Strong program, in which running mentors/coaches are paired with a "cadet" to be trained for her first marathon. Dimity didn't sign on this year due to her plantar injury, but I--Sarah--jumped on board the #26Strong bandwagon a mere two weeks before I fractured two bones in my ankle. I am still going to coach my Portland-based cadet, Laura Baughman, to the Chicago Marathon, and I plan to cheer her along the course on October 11. If you're taking on 26.2 this fall, join us in the AMR #FindYourStrong Marathon Challenge. Laura is part of the Challenge, and here's her backstory.
My running story begins with a bike ride. Last September, my friend Andy and I rode 100 miles from Portland to the Oregon coast as part of an organized fundraiser. It was the first century ride for both of us, and I had ridden increasingly longer rides each week throughout the summer to get my muscles ready for the big day. The ride itself was exhilarating and exhausting, not unlike a marathon.
But after the ride, all I could think is “What now?” I had trained so hard over the summer, and right when my fitness level was peaking, the cycling season was coming to an end. I had only been biking for a year and wasn’t hardcore enough to continue through the rainy season with neoprene booties and goggles. I decided running would be the best way to keep my quads strong.
Being a goal-oriented sort of gal, I wasn’t content to simply run around my neighborhood; I wanted to have a reason to keep going when things got hard. So I signed up for my first half marathon, three months down the road, and jumped on a 12-week training program. I was 45 and had never run farther than six miles.
The runs were short at first, and I was never overwhelmed physically because of all my cycling. But running regularly was still new to me and I had the long runs to get used to. I began using the stopwatch on my iPhone to time my runs, and was proud when I ran faster than 10-minute miles.
A few weeks into the program, Andy’s wife, Kelly, started running with me. Kelly is a fast and an experienced marathoner, and sometimes I had to work to keep up with her, but she also taught me to go slowly on the long runs. We’d take turns planning routes, talk about our kids, and encourage each other when the rain came down hard. I had my first BRF!
In mid-December, it was time for the Holiday Half, and Kelly decided to run it, too. Race morning was cold and clear, and Kelly and I shivered together at the starting line. I had a vague idea I wanted to finish in two hours, but I wasn’t carrying my phone, so I couldn’t tracked it. Kelly and I ran the first two miles together at what felt like a blazing pace. I remembered reading we were supposed to start slower to save our energy, but everybody else just took off, so I did, too.
A few minutes later, Kelly sprinted away, and I settled in. I actually enjoyed myself for the next eight miles or so. I felt strong and even passed a few runners. But by mile 10, I was slowing down and desperately wanted to walk. The 8-minute-mile starting pace had caught up with me. My legs felt weak, and I was miserable. I was just about to give up when I overheard some other runners congratulating each other on setting a PR. “Yah, we’re at 1:54 right now,” I heard. What? We were closer to the finish line than I realized, and as soon as I heard “1:54,” I starting sprinting with that 2:00 finish in mind. I crossed the finish line at 1:57, with Kelly and my family cheering me on. I was hyperventilating from the sprint, but I was psyched!
Since then, I have run two more half-marathons, each slightly faster than the one before. My husband, Tom, gave me a GPS for Christmas, and I have learned to incorporate speedwork into my training. Last fall, I barely knew what a tempo run was, and now I’m running strides at the local track and training for my first marathon in October. Who knew?
I’ve also hired a personal trainer. Now that I’m gearing up to run 26.2, I can finally justify the expense. Yup, I am actually paying someone to force me to do planks, squats, and hip hinges to build up my core and glutes. I know I’ll run a better marathon if I’m stronger overall, and I'm aiming for buns of steel by summer’s end. (Editor's note: Aren't we all, Laura, aren't we all?!?)
Looking ahead, I really can’t wait to run the Chicago Marathon in the fall. I am over the moon to be Sarah’s cadet in the Saucony #26Strong program and to be training with the AMR #FindYourStrong Marathon Challenge. Naturally I am disappointed Sarah and I won’t be able to run together over the summer, what with her broken ankle, but I hope she’ll heal quickly enough to run a mile or two with me on race day. (Ed's note: That's my dream, too, Laura.)
Finally, I can’t wait to “meet” the other #FindYourStrong Challengers online and to share our experiences with each other. My BRF, Kelly, is sidelined with an injury and I will need all the companionship and encouragement I can get even if it’s virtual via Facebook and Strava. I’m looking forward to training with all of you and know we are going to have a blast!
To get in on the 26.2 action with us, sign up for the AMR #FindYourStrong Challenge. If your marathon-of-choice is October 3 or 4, training starts next Monday, June 1 (gulp!). If your race is after that, you'll start later. Find all the details here.