6 Mental Leaps to Running a Half Marathon

Sunday, TJ and I ran the Mercedes Half Marathon in Birmingham.  Looking back, it was an awesome experience in so many ways.  I’m going to try and write several short posts about it over several days rather then a really long post.

My prep for this race was non existent.  Life got in the way and unlike any other half marathon or my 1 marathon, I did no training or workouts.  So for me this race was all mental.  I knew my physical conditioning wouldn’t bring me though.  Here are the “Mental Leaps” I had to take to actually run this race.

  1. Getting to the starting line.  The race registration was a Christmas gift from TJ (thanks TJ), but my race prep was non existent.  I have a lot of excuses, but non that matter.  Basically, I have been working crazy hours since last Spring and helping my Lovely Wife a lot as she hasn’t been feeling well. Many days I’ve been working /  erranding for 12 hours before I get a chance to run.  With it getting dark early and my hectic schedule, I end up only running 3-4 miles a day. So the race itself was a huge fear for the last couple of months. I even told my Lovely Wife that perhaps I’d show up and after TJ started the race, I’d go somewhere to sit and wait for him to finish (just not tell him that was my plan).  She didn’t think that was a good idea. But after the expo and talking with TJ, I decided to run the race and if need be, have a van take me back to the finish.  At least I’d try, fears and all!
  2. The 7 mile stretch.  I haven’t run over 7 miles for about a year.  Most days at 7 miles my joints and hips just shut down.  The pain gets pretty severe.  So on race day I knew at 7 miles I’d be half way through the race… A major mental leap for me.  The problem was that at 7 miles of running that morning, I was only at mile marker 5!  TJ and I ran 2 miles before the race just looking for a porta potty.  The only bathrooms were inside a nearby building and the line was a mile long.  We ran one direction and then the next.  Finally I asked a police officer and he said, “They are at 18th and 8th”.  I then got turned around and we ran the wrong way for 3 blocks.  When we found the potty, we used them, ran back to the line and… I realized I was too hot.  I had 2 jackets on as it was cold, but all that running made me realize I was over dressed.  So we ran 2 blocks back to the car, then back to the potty and back to the starting line.  2 miles of running and the race hadn’t even started.  Ugh.
  3. The Gu strategy.  My last half marathon nearly 2 years ago, TJ was pacing me.  He was an awesome pacer and he would give me a Gu every 3 miles to help me get the PR that I made that day.  So I tried to follow that same strategy during this race.  At mile 3 I got 2 Gu’s.  I put one in my pocket and eat one.  My “mental leap” was to keep looking forward to the next third mile.  At mile 5 when they gave out more Gu, I passed them up as I had one in my pocket.  Finally at mile 6 (mile 8 to me) I reached in to get my Gu and it was gone.  It must have fallen out of my pocket.  This was not good.  Just as I started to panic, there was someone giving out Gummy Bears. 🙂   I got a couple and at mile 7 an awesome little girl gave me more Gu.  I survived another mile.
  4. The half way point.   I made it half way.  It was not as bad as I thought.  I was trying to keep a 9:00 pace and was close to keeping that goal.  I ran the tangents like a pro.  Every inch that I could save I knew I would need.  At 6.5 miles I was still nervous and not sure I’d might need to walk some, but the goal I created at this point was to keep running and not walk during the race.  Miles 6-9 were pretty much up hill so I was beat, but this was the first point I thought I might finish the race.  I knew I was in new territory as I had now run 8.5 miles (with our potty runs) and my body hadn’t done that for a year.
  5. Mile 9 and mental gymnastics  I knew now I’d make the goal of completing the race and not walking.  But I’d have to do some brain tricks to keep going and I felt like I was fading.  I eat my Gu, I drank gatorade and kept going.  I would think to myself, “Only 4 miles to go”.  I’d think, “You made it past mile 8” – thus the mental gymnastics.  Each mile I’d be surprised that I was at that mile as I kept my brain a mile in the past.  I know this sounds crazy, but it helped being surprised that I was at mile 9 when I was thinking I was at mile 8.
  6. A new goal at mile 11  So far I made it to the starting line, I kept close to my 9:00 pace, but the hills set me back a bit.  I didn’t walk and I knew I’d finish.  My new goal at mile 11 was my biggest of the day.  According to the race clock, I was going to be just over 2 hours at my finish.  I knew I’d have to get below my 9 minute pace to beat 2 hours.  I was tired and my legs were killing me, but I sped up my pace.  I figured in my head that I had to be close to an 8:30 pace for the next 2.1 miles and I decided to go for it.  At the start of mile 12 my pace was down to 8:50.  I had to run faster if I was going to do this.  My 13th mile (15th with my potty run) I felt like walking.  I was really hurting.  I heard the finish announcers finally.  It was a LONG mile.  My app told me at mile 13 that I was at an 8:37 pace for that mile.  I entered the finish shoot.  I gave it all I had…

I crossed the finish line at 1:59:56!

All the mental leaps.  All the fear.  All the running.  The cold.  The Gu.  The awesome runners and volunteers.  This was the most fun I’ve had in a half marathon ever.  No PR – In fact I was about 18 minutes slower then my PR.  But I finished the race, I didn’t walk, I made it under 2 hours.  And in front of me was a battered TJ, all bandaged up from a fall at the finish line.

This is why I love running.  That 4 seconds under my goal.  Had I made one stop, had I walked, had I not pushed as much as I could that last mile – It all came down to 4 seconds.

It… was… awesome!

Retro Run 5K – Finishing the race!

I was so close.

I was only a step behind the couple that was running in front of me the whole race.

There was only 1/2 mile left in my 5K.  I know my time wasn’t going to be a PR, but I felt like I was running solid.  Actually I was quite happy as I hadn’t done any workouts or mountain runs in a while.  Just my 4 mile daily runs.

I had a thought.  I could push past them (that couple), but then I thought, “what if I run out of steam and they pass me – that wouldn’t be fun”.  We were running at a good pace and so I decided to hold back until later, right before the finish.

It was hot.  The race started at 7:00 PM in the South on a sunny July day.  My app read 94 degrees at the start.

As I pondered my finish to the first 5K I had run in 7 months, I thought back to the beginning of the race.  I was only about a half mile into the race and I had doubts.  I thought to myself that I couldn’t do this racing anymore.  I should just stick to my daily runs and be done.  What am I doing running a 5K when I hadn’t even run my mountain in over a month.  Nope.  Racing is not for me.  This will be my last.

As I got closer to the couple (back to the end of the race) – literally almost beside them – I thought to myself, “I’m enjoying this race.  It’s been hard and all, but I miss racing.”

The couple ahead of me were a woman and a man.  Both about half my age.  The woman was obviously in great shape and the guy was not.  He wasn’t overweight, but he was hurting.  This was probably his first 5K.  As we got closer to the finish, suddenly he stopped.  The woman looked around and begged him to keep going.  We were about 1/4 mile from the finish.  He had nothing left.  I moved on, but felt badly for the guy.  He had run a good race, but didn’t have enough in him with the heat.

As I rounded the last block, I passed another guy who was half my age.  He looked at me and told me to go for it.  That was so nice.  I said the same to him and he thanked me.

I pushed to the finish.  The line was directly in front of me.  My mountain legs had kicked in.  The last mile of this 5K was uphill most of the way.  Running a mountain once a week has allowed my legs to have strength to go uphill.  In fact, many times my pace goes up while going uphill.

This was the first finish of a 5K where I had strength to really push it at the end.  I gave all I had.  My Lovely Wife and daughter rooting me onward, I passed the finish in 22:32; 45 seconds slower then a PR, but very satisfying.  Before the race, TJ asked me how confident I felt.  I told him I had no confidence.  I was just going to go out and do the best I could.

I came in 2nd in my age group (the old guy age group).  I was thrilled as I had never placed in this race before and this was the 3rd time we ran it.  There were over 400 people and I came in 41st overall.

I don’t know what happened with that couple.  I never saw them after the guy stopped.  I was so hot and tired at the end, I really couldn’t think much.  I hope he pulled it together and finished the race.

Life is like a 5K.  So many times we either don’t want to be in the race or we want to stop right before the finish.  Ultimately the joy of the finish erases all the pain of the race.  My hope is that everyone could run as to finish the race.  Life is too short to give up in the middle.

I’m not sure why I wrote that last paragraph, but I hope it helps someone.

Have an awesome week and keep your eyes on the finish!

Final thoughts on the Country Music Half Marathon.. I think.

This post is a continuation of my Country Music Half Marathon recap post from yesterday.  

Here are my stats

I was 17th out of 561 in my age group – top 3%
I was 697th out of 19,057 half marathoners – top 3.7%

Honestly, I think this was my best race to date.  I credit TJ for running with me and being an excellent pacer and my mountain runs for getting me in shape.  Thinking back, I have really only been training for this for about 2 months.  Between injuries and other things that got in the way of my running, that was all I could do to train.  But the mountain gave me strength in my quads and took the pressure off my back and my calves.  It also helped me be able to pick my speed up and be able to handle the hills on this race without slowing down.

RS did well.  He struggled a lot though.  He had honestly not been running much until the last few weeks before the race.  His longest run before the race was 7 miles and he went out and completed a 13.1 mile race.  His time was slow because he had to walk to finish the last few miles, but it is amazing to me that he could complete that distance with so little prep.  This was his longest milage run in over a year.

TJ had been hurt leading up to this race; thus the reason he paced me rather then trying to run a PR himself.  His last half was completed in under 1:30 and he was in coral #1 for this one.  His choice to pace me was huge for me and I hope fun for him, though being a huge competitor, I’m sure he wished he was running his own race.  He is back in the saddle now and talking about another half in the fall and maybe running the Jacksonville marathon with me in December.

I had fun meeting my running friends @BigBigGeek and @David_Topping before the race.  They did well and I think were happy with the result.  This was @David_Topping’s first half marathon.  He has lost a  lot of weight and really been doing the work that made his run possible.

I was really concerned with this race.  I have never run with so many people.  My experience was a great one overall.  Not just the run, but everything from package pickup at the expo to parking at the race went very smoothly.  There was the obvious traffic, but I purchased a reserve parking pass and it put us right at the race with very little waiting.  The police presence was clear, but not over done.  Other then the helicopters flying overhead, there was very little that I noticed outside of the normal presence at any race.

The bands were great.  A few were loud (one was so loud it affected my hearing for a minute), but they helped overall and the crowd was awesome.  Being that we hung with the 3:30 pacer, there were a lot of cheers as we ran by.

Overall I rate this race very high.  Perfect weather, great attendance, plenty of food and drinks after the race.

Top notch.


Photographic proof. We did run that race! :)


Okay, I’ve gotten over my lack of recognition in this race and am glad that it gave money to a charity.  However, even though we are no where to be found in the results, below are pictures of TJ and me running and finishing the race (and stuffing out mouths with donuts).






It is now official for all time on the Internet and with the NSA that we RAN THIS RACE!

Have an awesome day!!!


Nailing the Doughnut Dash

The Krispy Kreme Donut Dash was a good race overall.

TJ and I decided to race the night before. I kept going back and forth on whether or not I wanted to go.  Finally on Friday evening I agreed to do it.  We wrote the race director and asked if we could pay at the race and they said yes.

So we got there and signed up.  It was about 25 degrees and 20 – 30 mph winds.  I was cold.  We waited around for a while because we wanted to get there early to sign up.  There was really no where to keep warm, but the bathroom was packed.  No porta potties (first ever for me), just a bathroom with one toilet out of service.

So the race finally began.  TJ suggested we run hard for the first two miles, since we wouldn’t know how we would feel on the last two after eating a dozen donuts.  I thought that was a good strategy.  I ran hard out of the gate.  I totally forgot to look at my time when I hit the donut station, but I think I was in the 7:30 range.  Then we were given a dozen donuts to eat.  It is hard to eat a dozen donuts when you are breathing hard from running 2 miles and it is freezing cold.  Also you had to show proof that your box was empty before they would let you continue.  So TJ was well into his donuts when I arrived.  Then he was off and I finished mine off.  I headed back the last two miles.

I finished strong.  I Ended up coming in 8th overall and TJ came in 2nd overall.  That was exciting.  Our first Donut Dash and we nailed it.

So we waited around for the giving of the medals.  This took an hour.  It was cold and my sweat made me colder.  When they called up the winners, they didn’t call TJ.  Hmmm.  Seems that since we signed up at the race, we weren’t included in the results.

So after all that, we turned and went home.  Sort of sad that we didn’t get our medals.  I would have placed first in my age group.  I think the race director should have told me that we could sign up at the race, but it would cost more and you won’t be included in the totals.

At least it was just a fun race.  Strangely I didn’t feel sick.  It was hard eating those donuts though and I don’t think I’ll be eating Krispy Kreme donuts anytime soon.

So that was it.  I’m proud as always at TJ finishing 2nd.  I guess I shouldn’t have waited to make up my mind.

Freudian Autocorrect

My youngest is a good kid.  He is 16 and gets along with everyone (other than his siblings).  Anyway, I thought I’d share a text I got from him last night…



Okay, I honestly think it was an autocorrect thing, but since I wrote mine in all caps, I wonder if there was some type of Freudian thing going on. 🙂  Now that I think about it, he never did let me know when he got home.

So TJ and I are off to the races in a few minutes.  It wasn’t until last night that I decided to go, so we have to register there.  Should be fun… 23 degrees, 18 wind chill at race time.  I’m glad I live in the South.

Have a great weekend.


It was an excellent race

The Magic City 5K will be memorable a memorable race for me!

The temperature was 30 degrees at race time with 10 – 20 mile an hour winds.  My app said the windchill was 17 degrees.  We froze.

TJ and me running warmup laps - reflection of us in the window of a building.

TJ and me running warmup laps – reflection of us in the window of a building.

TJ and I ran some warmup laps and then waited at the starting line.  The race started and he was gone.  After the first turn I never saw him again until the end.

For me, I enjoyed it a lot.  The first mile went great.  I managed a 7:05 pace which is good for me when I am training, let alone recovering from an injury.  After that mile I slowed down a bit.  My hip started hurting again right around the beginning of mile two (I know – I started to quickly).  It never got bad enough to make me stop, but I was wondering at one point if I might have to get a ride back to the finish.  Luckily that never happened.

As I entered my final mile, I could see only two people in front of me.  One was a 10 year old boy and one an older man.  We stayed about 30 yards a part the whole mile.  As we were on the last leg, the kid took off and passed the man.  I just watched from a distance.  I thought I might have a good chance of winning my age group since I didn’t see too many people in front of me and didn’t hear anyone behind me.

As I came up to the finish, I misread the clock.  My PR is 21:48 and the clock read 23:15.  I got confused and thought my PR was 23:48, so I pushed really hard the last tenth of a mile (I paid for that decision).  I finished at 23:53, which is a 7:41 pace.  I was thrilled to learn I finished 11th out of 379 which, even if it isn’t a PR, I’ll take it!

As I finished TJ met me with the news that he won the race!!!  Wow, he has come in second in a couple of races, but never won.  In fact he had to run behind the lead cop car for most of the race which meant he couldn’t run tangents.  Still he came in 1st out of 379 people – very cool.

We hung around for the awards ceremony which had already started.  TJ went up to get his metal – I was so proud of him.  When they got to the age group awards, I didn’t get one.  I did notice that we must have missed the mens masters.  Could I have placed in the masters?  When the awards were all given out I went to the guy with the results.  I asked about the masters and he look on his paper.  There I was, 2nd in the masters category.  Not bad for a gimpy old man.

All in all it was an awesome day.  We got to meet Ruben Studdard since this is a race he put on for his charity.

We finally got to head home and enjoy our memories.


Finishing the race!

I finally arrived at my mom’s and will help celebrate her birthday a day late. Better late than never!

Here is a recap of the marathon… I will write some more later about the interesting time we had outside of the actual race, but I want to write about the race alone in this post.

We started at exactly 7:00. I was so nervous at the start, but after we got 1/4 of a mile into the marathon, nerves turned into running. It was really crowded for the first 4 miles or so and then it spread into a manageable amount of runners.

For me, I started at an 8:00 pace. Fast for me, but I had my reasons. I really wanted a chance at my dream of running it under a 3:30 and I figured if I didn’t try, I wouldn’t know if it was possible.

It wasn’t. 🙂

I ran an 8:00 pace for 12 miles. Not bad. But that was about all I could do. Almost out of nowhere I lost the steam to keep the pace. So, knowing I wouldn’t make my first goal, I settled in to finishing the race and enjoying the run!

It was an interesting course. Fairly hilly in the beginning. Then we got to the river and the trail beside the river. For about 8 miles we ran this trail. Two grooves of dirt with grass in the middle and on either side. So runners settled into a groove and did the best they could to pass when possible. I fell in behind a guy who was keeping an 8:00 pace. For several miles I just ran his pace. That was nice, until he suddenly stopped to walk. Ugh. That messed with me a bit. But I kept going and finally got through that 8 mile stretch.

At the half way point when my steam ran out I ate gels and drank Gatorade to keep me going. That was a good plan. I ran for a couple of miles and walked through the water/Gatorade stations. As soon as I downed my sugar, I was running again. At mile 15 a woman handing out Gatorade asked me if I was okay. I said yes, but I guess I didn’t look that great. After that, I turned off my app and just ran as I could run. Not very fast, but not walking either. In my mind I kept thinking, “If I walk, I won’t finish as fast”.

At mile 20 I fully hit the wall. We had just run 16 miles of river trails and gone up a hill and now were running on gravel. I had to walk a bit. I then got a text from my Lovely Wife saying to keep going and she was pulling for me. I thought, I can do this. Not long after, I started running again. I never walked longer than a minute or two. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Finally around mile 22 we got back onto asphalt. I never thought I’d be so happy to see a road again.

This was the hardest part. Between mile 22 and 24. I hurt a lot. I would run a while and then have to walk because my whole body hurt. After a minute I’d start running again. Then I made it to mile 24. Another runner, about age 35 came up beside me and we began to talk. He told me he had run 3 other marathons but not run one in a couple of years. We talked for almost 2 miles. Wow, that really helped. At the point where the finish was a half mile away (uphill), he asked if I was doing okay and I told him I was and to head on as I could see he wanted to run strong at the end. He took off up the hill.

As I ran up the hill and onto the final stretch I was feeling much better. The finish was visible and I could hear the announcer on the loud speaker. So I went to my phone app and FaceTimed my brother. He had suggested that a few days earlier, but I didn’t know if I would be in a place to be able to do it or not. So I ran my last .2 miles with my brother and mom cheering me on. I saw the finish in front of me and was running well. Suddenly my right calf cramped. Ugh. Only a couple hundred feet to go and I was limping as I ran. It then worked its way out and I was running again, though a bit more carefully.

The finish line

My running friend of the last two miles finished ahead of me with his two toddlers running with him. How cool. I ran over the finish line only to see TJ there to greet me. I got my finishers medal and a water.

I did it. I finished. 4:14. I then, at TJ’s and my Lovely Wife’s request went to the medic tent for an IV. I was a bit out of it. After about 30 minutes I felt fine and finished with my Intravenous beverage and headed out to catch a shuttle home (a whole other blog post).

Tj finished amazingly fast at 3:08 (3 minutes off Boston Qualifying time). I am so proud of him.

Special thanks again to my big bro Jeff and my Lovely Wife for posting all the updates. Also special thanks to all of you. The support I have received from the blogging community was way more than I ever expected and had a huge impact in my marathon. When I felt the wall hit and wanted to give up, I would think of YOU. I couldn’t face not finishing and having to post that to this blog. Thank you so much!!!

That is it for now. I am more sore than I have ever been in my life. Right now my 85 year old mom could beat me in a race! 🙂

Ahhh. Life is good!

Quick update from me (Tom)

Thank you!!!

First, thank you to my brother Jeff and my Lovely Wife for posting updates and keeping you all updated on my marathon.

Second… Thank you for all your support.  This was a rough run, but a good one.  I had a great 12 miles and a tough 14.2 miles.  I will post a race recap tomorrow , Lord willing.

Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed running this marathon.  It was my first and I’ll never forget it.  I was thinking during the difficult times about the fact that 2 years ago I couldn’t run a 1/4 mile.  Well I did, but I had to stop and walk home!!!

Now I am a marathoner.  Crazy.  After a quick stop in the medic tent for an IV, I was back to normal… Sort of.

Anyway, you have been wonderful and I can’t thank you enough for your encouragement!!!

God bless!


Hangin’ with “The Dog” before our 5K

Feeling better today.

I had a long day yesterday and by the time I got home, it was late and I have my 5K today, so I only ran 4 miles.  They were 4 really good miles.  The heat didn’t bother me as much and I just felt good running.

Today is the Shake and Bake 5K.  TJ, RS and I are going to eat breakfast at Steak n Shake and then head out to meet Neill (@BigBigGeek) at the race.

By the way, I drank a bottle of the beet root juice.  Interesting to say the least.  Sweet going down, but the after taste is similar to soil.  🙂


“The Dog” loves her ball. I think she thinks I will take it from her. 🙂

Anyway, I’m just hangin’ with “The Dog” and playing ball as I wait to head out.

Thank you everyone for your encouragement.  This marathon training isn’t as fun as I thought it would be.  🙂

Retro Run 5K race recap

Wow, what a weekend.

To being with, our vow renewal went awesome Friday afternoon.  We had a great family time all of the day.

One thing I learned…

5 pieces of Pizza Hut pan pizza + 1 milk shake + hot weather + run immediately after = a really hard 4 mile run.  🙂

On to our 5K race yesterday.  I really had fun.  It was Birmingham in July at 6:00 in the evening and it was just under 80 degrees.  At the starting line it began to rain, which felt nice, but into the race a bit, it got very humid and hard to breath.

All in all I had a good race.  I didn’t know what to expect since I haven’t run much the past two weeks.  But I ended up coming in at 22:04 which is my second best 5K race time, so I am happy with that.

TJ, RS and my friends Neill (@bigBigGeek) and David (@David_Topping) all did really well.  Neill and David both set PR’s.  On a warm humid evening like yesterday, that is amazing.  TJ did incredible.  Just shy of his PR, but he has also run 360 miles in the past month.  I don’t know how he does it.  JR and HM both came to watch and cheer us on.  That is always a nice thing and really helps.  Thank you both!!  My Lovely Wife was home with her bad back, but she kept up with calls and texts.  I really missed her there, but I understand why she couldn’t sit there for 2 hours.

Today is normally my long day.  After averaging near a 7 minute mile for 5K just 14 hours ago, I may take today off or just go out for a short run later.  I haven’t run under an 8 minute mile since May and my legs are feeling it this morning.

Tomorrow starts a new week and hopefully I’ll be going back to my 45 – 55 mileage.  Marathon in 7 weeks.  Oh my!