Run | Laugh | Eat | Repeat

Mind Over (Half) Marathon

on October 13, 2013

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan

If I could have a super-power, it would be to be able to hear what is going on in each runner’s mind during a half marathon. But since I don’t have that ability, all I can do is imagine that everyone’s thoughts are as strange and war-like as mine. For me, each mile has its own personality depending on how I feel on the scale of “enjoying this run in the fall weather” to “my heart is literally going to come out of my chest and I will need emergency assistance soon.” What’s beautiful about a half marathon is that both of those feelings and SO many more are possible in just one run.

Yesterday I ran my third Murfreesboro Half Marathon (The Middle Half) in a row! I have yet to run any other halfs (halves? I don’t even know) besides this one. It’s October, it’s flat, it’s chilly, we get to run through the Square, it’s pretty, I’m familiar with all the roads…I just love it. The Middle Half is honestly one of my favorite days of the year. I couldn’t even sleep the night before; it felt like Christmas Eve. I am obsessed with races in general because I LOVE the camaraderie of so many runners getting together to do what they love, compete with their own personal records, and cheer each other on. It’s great.

AND, this year was so fun for me because my dad and my roommate both joined me and ran their very first half marathons!

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So here is a little history of the halfs in my life so far: 2011 was my first Middle Half, and I ran it with a pulled groin muscle. I really shouldn’t have done it, but after paying for registration and training all summer, I was way too stubborn to sit it out. So with the help of some painkillers and two 800mg Ibuprofens (don’t follow my example), I managed to block out the excruciating hip pain and run it in 2 hours and 10 minutes, although my goal was 2 hours.
After that, I was unable to run for about 5 months. Then, after several other small but frequent leg pains/injuries, I realized it was time to add some strength training and STRETCHING to my workout routine. It has done wonders. So that’s why everybody does it.

Last year, I ran the 2012 Middle Half with a goal of 2 hours again (and no leg injury) and ran it with a time of 1:57! This year, my goal was to get a PR and hopefully run it in 1:55 or less. After getting pressured by some of my running role models to go faster, I decided to shoot for 1:45, and that was stretching it. I’m not a fast runner, and to hit 1:45 you basically have to run 8 minute miles  (which I never do) for all of 13.1 miles. I was so nervous about this time because I really wanted it. I wanted to hurt myself for 1 hour and 45 minutes. I wanted to blow myself away and push my body to do something I never even would have tried if my friends hadn’t have joked “if you take 1:55 that is ridiculous, I want to see nothing over 1:45.”
I read somewhere that running is split into three parts: you have to run with your mind, your personality, and your heart. Nowhere does it say legs. Yes, I think you have to train and practice and work your body up to running long distances, but no matter how ready a person’s body is, 13.1 miles is no walk in the park. It’s long, it’s hard, it’s tiresome, it’s frustrating, it’s joyous, it’s a whole new mind game. Every. Single. Time.

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Mile 1: As soon as I crossed the starting line, I psyched myself out. I found my 1:45 pacer and I sprinted to not only catch up with him, but pass him. I wanted him behind me so that I was SURE to make it. So with the help of my running app, I started the race at a 7:30 pace. And I was struggling immediately, but I tried to get my body in a good zone and my mind to another place. The Outer Banks, Colorado, who knows where. But I was not in Murfreesboro, TN. I was excited, confident, and I was telling myself I could easily run the rest of the race at this pace. It was cold, the sun was coming up, and I was in runner’s paradise.

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Miles 2-4: You know how they call it a “side stitch”? Well, I had a “whole stitch” all over my stomach for this part of the run. Thanks to a pretty good sized breakfast I woke up to eat at 3am, thinking it would give my body plenty of time to digest and fuel myself up.

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Have you ever seen two people happier about waking up at 3am?

All I could think during these miles was “why did you eat such a big breakfast?” I still enjoyed this part, because we run through the old historic streets of Murfreesboro and around the town square, so this is always my favorite part of the run. It just feels like fall, well, probably because it is fall. But it’s the fall-iest part of the run. But still. Why did I have to eat that breakfast? I didn’t think I would ever get rid of the cramps, but I just kept breathing and refused to slow my pace. I listed to Icona Pop’s “I Love It” probably 10 times on repeat, also. I’m not sure why but during a half I always get stuck on one and only one song that will pump me up. All the others seemed like a waste and only “I Love It” could keep me going. Overall, I was hurting but I was happy, thankful for my favorite day and race, and loved everyone in sight.

Miles 5-7: This is where I started to get hostile. Really. I hated everyone in sight. I didn’t want to look at anyone, I didn’t want to smile at the spectators/cheerleaders, I didn’t want to make conversation with any fellow runners, (well I never do–I don’t like to talk and run), I didn’t even want to run next to anyone. I honestly think I caught myself blatantly moving a few feet away anytime another runner came up on my side. I was so absorbed in my labored breathing, my cramped legs, and the sweat dripping into my eyes that I couldn’t even bear to be near another human being. I kept thinking to myself “this is ridiculous.” Before the race, I gave myself a temporary tattoo of a dodo bird. It was Courtney’s, but she borrowed my tank top so I needed a little piece of her too so we were even.

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We found so much humor in this dodo bird that I swore every time I was really struggling I would look at it and find strength. And believe me, I looked at it. A lot.
Mile 6-ish is also where my pacer passed me. Apparently I was slowing down, but I like to think he was speeding up. Who knows.

Miles 8-12: I like to call the second half “The Blackout Period.” I lose my mind during this part. I remember some of my thoughts, but I don’t remember the people, the scenery, anything. This is where “I Love It” and some other fun songs on my playlist became T.I. on repeat. In mile 8, my mindset went from “this is hard” to “this is a war.” I became so competitive within myself and I was having such a hard time keeping my pace up that the only way I could prevent myself from falling to my knees or throwing up was to give myself repetitive pep talks. Mile 8 is where the twists and turns stop and we get to the long, straight roads with no end in sight. The entire time I said to myself over and over “This is where we separate the men from the boys.” Actually, I had fun with it and came up with different variations, including “This is where we separate the warriors from the b****es” and my personal favorite “This is where we separate the dodo birds from the robins.” At least I got some internal laughter out of it. There were so many points that I almost stopped for a quick breather, but the only thing keeping me going was my competitive soul and how badly I wanted to at least get CLOSE to 1;45. By this time, my pacer was pretty far ahead of me.

Mile 13.1: Mile 13. Here we go, Kerstyn. You have just ran 12 miles and you only have 1 to go. Icona Pop was back on repeat and I just needed water. “Sure, maybe I’m still dying, but this is the last mile and people are watching and you better at least make it LOOK like you’re finishing strong.” Even if I did start out too fast and lost steam halfway. All of my work friends were at the Reeves-Sain water table, located about half a mile from the finish. I don’t know if I would have made it if it weren’t for them screaming for me and giving me the last little boost I needed for the remaining few minutes. I felt triumphant, relieved, emotional, you name it. I was almost there. I kept thinking “You can do anything for less than a mile. LESS THAN A MILE.” So I picked my pace back up and pounded it to the finish line, with a chip time of 1:48:56. Hey, it’s not 1:45 but it’s pretty darn close. I don’t care, I love it!

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And 5th place in my age group!

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My Reeves-Sain runner ladies: Lauren, Jess, and Hope

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I am so proud of my dad and Courtney!

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My mom and I pre-race

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A huge thank you to The Middle Half team for another wonderful half marathon!

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3 responses to “Mind Over (Half) Marathon

  1. Jenn says:

    Loved your recap! Hilarious and real and inspiring.

  2. Dirk says:

    I ran even splits. Clock time 1:45:04. Great write up. The dodo bird rocks.
    1:45 pace guy

    • kmotter says:

      I’m amazed that you happened to find this post!! Thank you so much. And thank you for setting a great pace – even though you were far ahead of me by the end, I saw your sign bouncing up and down and you were so motivating to me!

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