By, Kara Casey (@KARAGRACECASEY)
I hated exercise. Yes. Despised it. But it was in August 2015 that I decided to become a runner. Yes, the form of exercise that 99.9% of the world dreads. I’m going, to be honest; I didn’t want to become a runner to be “fit” or have the glorious “runner” body. I really just wanted to kick my weight loss plateau out of the picture. Eating right, and stepping on the scale to see zero progress was not a part of the plan. It is quite frustrating. Prior to 2015 with Weight Watchers, a lot of measuring, portioning, and Pinterest recipes--I lost 30lbs (yay me!). Being in high school/college, and trying to lose weight is NOT EASY. However, it had to be done. My dad has always been a runner, so since he knew all the tricks of the trade, I figured I’d follow in his footsteps, literally.
Goal 1. Run a 5k (3.1miles) without stopping. I trained for about 2 months for this and it was death. All races have a course time that you have to complete: the race in which is generally a 4mph pace or a 15-minute mile; I figured I would start there and hope I didn't pass out. I ran about 4-5 times a week running with a short, medium, and long run each week.
Starting out my short run schedule would look like this:
Short: ½ a mile. Medium: 1.5 miles. Long: 2.8 miles
Looking at this running plan 2 years later, it looks so easy, but at first, my knees were quaking my first full mile. Fast-forward to the bright and early 5k race day in Chicago--I was nervous but ready. At about mile 2, I was a sweaty-out-of-breath mess but I knew if I didn’t train for this I would not still be running! Determined to run the full course I picked up my speed and crossed the finish line to receive my medal, unripe bananas, and chips. It wasn’t until after the race that I realized I loved the atmosphere, gear, people, and free-ness running gave me. A couple of days later, I decided to train for a half marathon (13.1 miles).
October - December 2015
After being able to run 3 miles with ease at a faster pace, I kicked up my training with longer [long] runs. Listen now. Long runs will take away your weekends, and standing abilities within however long it takes you to run them. I missed so many weekends of going out with friends, because I either had to wake up early to do a long run, or I was so sore from a long run.
My schedule looked something like this:
Short: 3 miles. Medium: 5 miles. Long: 8-12 miles
I will say running in the fall was clearly better than the hot summer. Leading up to my half marathon, I decided to participate in the Hot Chocolate 15k which was about 9 miles, and it would determine if I would even be close to finishing a half marathon. Crossing the finish line to bowls of chocolate, and Hershey’s kisses were not what I had in mind after such a long run, but I’ll take it!
Half Marathon Month!! My dad and flew to sunny Miami to lace up our running shoes. I never thought it would be 50 degrees at 4 am in Miami [not to mention in the midst of January]. Kidding. Instead, it was 30 degrees in Miami and with thousands of runners out in shorts, we all huddled together trying to stay warm. Throughout the entire race, I don’t think I broke a sweat once. I was cold even to the finish line. Rewind a bit to the start, being nervous but high off of excitement! With it being so cold, that helped me to not overheat. I was fine up until about mile 7 when I hit the wall. I thought to myself…. “wow I have 5 more miles to go. WTF?"
My legs felt sluggish and I had to pee but at this point it was mental. Just one foot in front of the other. Approaching mile 11 I had a huge rush of energy realizing I was about to finish! Speeding up and crossing the finish line, I was so happy that I ran 13.1 miles! Snatching my beloved well-earned medal and snacks I laid on the ground waiting for my dad to finish his marathon. We both had a celebratory meal and went shopping, showing off of our sparkly medals. At this point, I declared myself a runner, [as I looked up my next race], still basking in the glory of a few hours’ prior to finishing a race.
February 2016 – March 2017
I was a running maniac. I ran a minimum of 5 miles a day 6 days of the week. I even felt bad on the rest days because I felt like I should have been running. In this time, I completed roughly 6 half marathons and signed up for the Los Angeles Full Marathon. My first marathon. 26.2 miles. Help me, Jesus. Training for that, I lost all my weekends. A few 16 miles runs and I was OUT for 3 days, [thanks to those long-running weeks].
Training like we should, my dad and I approached the starting line for the LA Marathon and we began--I was lit. Prepared with my wireless headphones, $200 running shoes, and sunglasses; living the runner’s life until mile 22. My legs hurt so bad I had to check if they were still there. At one point, I TRIED to walk but it hurt more to walk than to run. At least when I ran my legs went numb and I couldn’t feel anything. Again, at this point, it was all mental. A lot of times runners have to get past this wall of endurance, no matter how long the run. I picked up my speed and was so proud of myself as I crossed the finish line. I wanted to immediately collapse. I was blessed with a highly sought after marathon medal and a runner’s foil to keep me warm (and to wear the rest of the day because I earned it). My dad and I headed to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. The rest of the day I felt like a celebrity. Still wearing my medal and warmer foil; citizens were rolling down their windows to congratulate us, runners.
With a fresh bachelor’s degree and a newbie in the adult world, I am still a running maniac. I run 5 times a week, however, I have incorporated strength training into my weekly workout plans. Doing this really is helping me become a better well-rounded runner. So happy to say many people have told me I inspired them to pick up running. I never thought I would ever hear that I had inspired someone, [thank you]! My next goal is to crush my best each time. Getting faster and faster at every race I do by speeding up my pace. If you can recall my first 5k was done in 40 minutes. Running a 5k last week I finished in 26 minutes (omg). I know I will get better at every distance I run! When I beat that time, I will train again to beat the new time. It is a never-ending cycle that I am proud and excited to continue. Running made me realize that (it’s about to get cheesy), that I can actually do anything because I really didn’t want to run, not even a 5k. Now, I am willing to pay to feel like I got hit by a bus, and run 26.2 miles. People ask me how on earth can I run but really all you have to do is decide to!