As I am recovering from my big weekend I wanted to write this blog now so that I can put down all of the things I am thinking before I forget anything. First I want to say a million big thanks you to all of our wonderful, amazing and generous sponsors. The fine folks at Pace Setter Athletic, Celebrate Vitamins, Kay’s Naturals, and Ameriwell Bariatrics did one of the most amazing and selfless things imaginable. They gave me a wonderful gift and honestly a once in a lifetime opportunity to go and attempt to do the one of the biggest and hardest things I could have ever imagined. This ranks right up there with being brave, strong, and fighting the odds to have my surgery.
I have had to fight hard on the way to this half marathon. When I first won this contest I had several people tell me I was crazy and that no way could I do this. I was determined to prove them wrong. I will be honest I did expect that this was going to be hard but I never expected it to be as hard as it was. I’m not one to shy away from hard things because my entire life has been hard so sometime I’m blind to how really hard it will be a bit of a blessing (cause I will try almost anything) and a curse (when reality kicks me in the face). It was a bit of shock. Add to that shock that after my first 4 mile run my back went out and I was side lined from running for 6 weeks. I could walk during that time but no running. I was sad to lose that time and I think it may have played a role in the issues with training and time issues that I had. But I fought on and did the best I could. I was always a little under the pace that was needed to pull this off.
We did think that Pandora was going to be able to “drag” the time we needed out of me. But as we stood at the start of the race at 4am I was cold. I think that I also let a few things get in my head and rattle me. I was so cold I was in pain. Even as I was jumping around like a frog with ants in my pants I couldn’t get warm. I dropped and broke my brand new phone. Then as we were talking to some other racers we were talking about the pressure that I was probably feeling (which I had tried to block out) because so many people, sponsors and loved ones were watching and expecting performance. It was then that I started to panic because I knew that was true and I was overwhelmed with letting all of these people down. We finally got to where we were about to start and I was nervous. We got the official start and no matter what I tried I could not find a rhythm. I still was not in full on panic mode just yet. I thought that it would come but I still struggled at a little over 3 miles we got a warning that we were going to be swept. I told Pandora to leave me. She has been running for 3 years and I knew that she could finish this easily I did not want to take that away from her. As she started to go a few tears fell, she tried to stay with me but I wanted her to make her dream come true and I urged her to go and she did. I felt so upset and disappointed in myself. I had done so much better at home and here I was about to be swept in the very beginning and that was a sickening feeling. So I just decided that I was going to go until the sweeper got me. I picked up and just ran.
At the 4.5 mile mark I was about to get swept again. I suddenly had that moment where I knew I was not ready to be done and that no matter what I had to do and no matter if I dropped dead I would get half way come hell or high water. Suddenly that rhythm was there. I was able to run and go and make progress. I got to the 6 mile mark and was feeling good at what I had accomplished. I got some motivation at this mark as I watched people who were “over it” just sit down and wait for the bus. I was unwilling to do that and sad to see others do that. I was also shocked by people doing that. What a huge commitment to an event and then decide “I just don’t feel like it”. So again I was going to go until the sweeper legitimately got me. So again I stuck to the rhythm. I also got a lot of energy from the people cheering along the route. They had some great and funny signs that made me laugh and gave you a little wind. I got through miles 7 and 8 alright. OK that’s a little white lie. I had a friend texting me and I was telling him that I was hating it and that I was NEVER gonna do it again. I had also told Pandora at one point in the beginning that this was hell and no fun. That little convo is in her blog. At mile 8.5 I almost got pulled by the medical team. I had hurt my foot a few days earlier. I was so happy to be in the warm weather I wanted to wear flip-flops. I love flip-flops however they are not a good choice if you are going to be walking 9-12 miles a day. We went nearly non stop in Anaheim even with the bad foot. The medical team could tell I was in pain and having issues but I was able to convince them that I was ok and that I was going to keep going. We knew the sweepers were coming. We thought they were behind us and we were doing alright but what we thought were the sweepers were actually the clean up crew. At mile 10 the sweeper popped out from a side street and got us.
I was sad at first and nearly shed a tear or two but there was an amazing woman on our bus who told me and the others we had nothing to be disappointed about. We got out and did it. We should also not be upset and beat ourselves up as we have been surrounded by plenty of people who do that to us against our will so we should not inflict that ourselves. We did a great job. I got farther than a lot of people. I did not quit as a lot of people did. I kept going no matter how it hurt and I was honest and did not take any of the cheats that I did see others take. If I had taken one of those cheats I would have finished. But then the whole thing would not have meant as much and where is the pride of finishing if you took shortcuts. I did it and I made it a long way. I am a little disappointed that I did not finish but the pride and sense of accomplishment I have for what I did and how far I got (without cheating) outweighs that 10 fold. I will forever cherish that medal. I will always remember the trials of race day and knowing that I over came nearly being swept twice in 4 or so miles to make it 10 miles is a huge accomplishment and one that can never be taken away. I again owe that to Miss Pandora and all of our amazing sponsors. This truly was one of the best times of my life.
My advice to the next person who wants to do this is try, try, try. This is possible and it can be done. You have to not be afraid to try to go for it. But realize that it is also a lot of very hard work. You have to be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone. I did maybe take it a bit easy after I hurt my back as I was scared to get hurt and miss out totally. You have to believe that you can do it. I think you have to research what needs to be done. I never ate or took water on my training runs. I know now that was a bad idea and that I needed to do that. So I have learned a lot. I also learned that even though I hated it ( at first) and had some doubts about it, my making it 10 miles has made me want to try this again. So a huge thank you to Pandora for that. I do hope that I did our sponsors and Miss Pandora proud as I am incredibly proud of myself and what I accomplished during my trip.
This trip also provided a lot of firsts and some healing for me as well. I do not travel alone do to some drama in the past. I almost fainted at the airport on the morning of my flight but I did it. I went all through the airports alone surrounded by strangers and survived that. I was able to walk in Anaheim some alone and be ok. Most importantly I was able to do something I was not sure that I could do. I ran in a huge event. Hell I was able to run period. I do not handle crowds or strangers well and yet I ran with 15,000 people. So again I owe a huge thank you to Pandora and our amazing sponsors. Thank you also to Heather, Tammy, Sandy, Kelly, Logan and the godfather for cheering us on. It was great to meet all of you.
Yes you did read correctly. I am going to do this again. I am going to run another half the end of April. I am also going to start to train for a mini triathlon. I wanted to do it this year but it was only about 6 weeks away when I found out about it and I haven’t ridden a bike in 25 years so I think that was just to close for me to try it this go round. I am also going to go back to the Tinker Bell Half Marathon next year. I will finish. It is my mission to do that.
Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.
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Running a half marathon wasn’t something I ever thought I would do. If you had told me five years ago that someday I would be running my fifth half marathon while studying to become a personal trainer and working at a lady only fitness establishment, I would have asked you what you were smoking.
But just three short weeks ago I was crossing the finish line at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. The entire experience was amazing and I am thrilled to share it with you.
It all started back in June of last year when Father’s Day hit, and my mood was a little down. As many of my readers know, I lost my father, the champion behind my weight loss journey, just eight months into my story and developed a connection to him through exercise and running. When I woke up on Father’s day 2013 missing him more than usual, I headed out on what started out as a normal 5k run for me and ended up becoming my first half marathon. [ I ran a Half Marathon Daddy Happy Fathers Day]
The feeling of victory that I felt when I completed a half marathon was amazing, and something I instantly wanted to share with someone else, so I set out to put together the sponsorship to send myself and one of my blog readers to Anaheim, CA for the Disneyland Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend. I’d be doing my first official timed and bibbed half marathon, and I’d help someone else achieve that level of victory by crossing the finish line with me. That was my goal. [How Do You Celebrate Success Contest]
I fell a little short of meeting my sponsorship goals, but I did get enough funds together to pay one person’s way to the event. So that’s what I did. We had a contest on my blog, and one lucky winner received a trip to Disneyland to participate in the RunDisney Tinker Bell Half Marathon with me. [ Winner of Bariatric Fitness Half Marathon Contest Giveaway ]
With the help of my friends and sponsors at Pace Setter, I put together a 20 Week Training Program that intended to get us prepared for the event and we ran a virtual event for anyone that wanted to train alongside us and complete a half marathon themselves as event finale. I coached our winner through the 20 week training program, and provided her with all the possible encouragement and motivation that I could from across the miles; seven months later, just three short weeks ago, Dawn and I were standing in our corral at 4:30 am getting ready to start.
Dawn struggled from the beginning. Going from someone who has never run before to completing a half marathon in 20 weeks (after being benched for several weeks due to injury) was a big task and it wasn’t something that came easy. Of course, the coach and trainer in me says, “if it comes easy it isn’t worth having,” and pushing yourself is one of the main ingredients to successful long-term weight loss.
There was a moment during the race when we had just passed the 2 mile marker that I looked at Dawn and said “Remember this is fun, you wanted to be here, you won the opportunity to be here,” and she looked back and me and said “This isn’t fun, this is hell,” and in that moment, the response she got out of me told me that no matter what happened, whether Dawn finished the half marathon or not, the coach and soon to be trainer in me had emerged. If there was ever a moment that I doubted my destiny, the doubt had just vanished. I looked at her in disbelief, and the diatribe started…
“You think THIS is hell? Move your feet! Let me remind you what HELL is… Hell was 175 lbs ago. Hell was not being able to walk from your car to your front door without panting for breath. HELL was not being able to stand still in your kitchen because your body hurt so much. OBESITY was HELL … THIS is fun, THIS is easy, THIS is achievable. Now move your feet and give me a 60 second run interval Dawn.”
RunDisney has a pretty strict pace time. (16 minutes per mile) and when I say strict, I mean strictly enforced. At mile marker three and the 5K split Dawn and I were pacing out at 17:26 and the “Sweepers” as they call them–the RunDisney folks that remove you from the race if you are not making pace–were on our heels.
“You are behind the pace requirement ladies, if you do not speed up you will be removed from the route.” We’d been warned a few minutes earlier when I stopped to take a photo of Dawn that we needed to speed up. But Dawn was struggling and she and I both knew it. We’d had an agreement before the race that I would stay by her side unless she got swept and unfortunately, that moment seemed to be upon us. With my hand on her back, trying to literally push her forward I said “I need you to speed up Dawn, we’re way behind the pace flag and we’re going to get swept.”
As the words left her mouth they broke my heart, because I knew that there was nothing I could do in that moment to get her across the finish line and as we quickly said teary eyed good-byes I knew that what Dawn wouldn’t understand was that I wasn’t disappointed in her, I was disappointed in me. I had hoped that having me there at her side would help motivate her to make the pace she needed to make and help shave some time off her per minute mile. But in truth, Dawn’s times were slower than they were at home and I had to hope that by leaving her behind a sink or swim moment would kick in for her and that she would find the motivation she needed to finish.
I took off running. I turned on my headphones and played my Father’s memorial CD, listening to old-time country music by artists like Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty and Marty Robbins as I ran through Disneyland, trying to catch the pace flag. I ran as fast as my little feet could carry me and I didn’t stop until I hit the 7 mile marker and had to take a detour to the port-a-potty. I’ve never been so afraid to urinate in my whole life. What if that potty break cost me the pace time? I figured by what my Nike GPS+ Sports-watch said that I was pacing out somewhere near 15 min/mile and I wasn’t far off; RunDisney had reported my 10K split time to Facebook at 15:36 min/mile – I’d shaved 1 minute and 50 seconds off the my time in about 3 miles thus far.
As I ran through the streets of Anaheim I stayed focus on my goal. I had a half marathon to complete and people waiting on me at the finish line. Mile 9 came and went without much trouble, and surprisingly I wasn’t even feeling the need to put more fuel on board, though I did throw back a banana just to make sure I didn’t run out of energy along the way. My 15k split was reported at 15:03, so while the potty break cost me some time, I was still doing alright. I wouldn’t be seeing the twelve to thirteen minute pace times I was used to seeing on my runs, but that was alright, I wasn’t here to compete with anyone, I was here for the experience and to share that experience with Dawn.
I supposed I should have limited my hydration a bit, because Mile 11 hit and another potty break was eminent. In fact, if I am being honest, I was worried whether or not I was going to make it and hoping I didn’t end up with a repeat of my October half where I wet myself right before getting to a bathroom and had to strip down to my quick dry shorts and run the last mile while drying off and with a bag of wet pants and undergarments.
Mile 11-12 kicked my ass. I was struggling, and needed to take a moment to find a little inspiration so I pulled out my phone and checked in on Facebook to see what my cheer squad was saying. I started looking at all the names I was seeing liking posts about me running in the event. I started reading the comments and seeing the \O/ ‘s that people were throwing up. Then I saw a post by one of my best friends; my friend Kelly, who I’ve been friends with longer than I can remember, we went to grade school together, grew up in houses just around the corner from one another. There was a post with a picture of her son Logan; one of the cutest little boys in the whole world dressed up as a lost boy with a caption that said, “Lost Boy Looking for his Tinkerbell Pandora Williams \o/ You can do it!!! We’re waiting for you @ the finish line.”
That picture put the pixie dust in my tinker-toes and the next thing I knew I was hitting the 13 mile marker and hugging my Godfather, my friend Tammy and of course, Kelly, Logan and Heather as I made my way to the finish line. When all was said and done, I finished with a pace of 14:58 min/mile and an overall time of 3:16:08 which is proudly engraved on my medal, thanks to Kelly and Logan.
Standing in the finishers corral, I was reunited with Dawn, who did indeed find that inner drive to move her feet when I left her, and managed not to get swept at that 3 mile marker, and made it all the way to Mile 10. I’ll be posting Dawn’s write up about the event in the next day or two. I feel it’s her story to share with you, not mine, but what I will say is that as a coach and soon to be trainer, I am damn proud of how far she made it, and her overcoming the obstacles and fears that she had to get that far.
I always say there is no such thing as failure. Each time we fall short it is just an opportunity for us to do better the next time. And while I may not have given Dawn the experience of crossing the half marathon finish line like I wanted to, I gave her the experience of participating in her first half marathon. Just yesterday I saw a post from her on Facebook that said she was doing another half marathon in April and that she was going to participate in a mini triathlon. Apparently Dawn realized along the way that it wasn’t “Hell” after all and has decided to give it another go. This is both a victory and a success in my book as a coach and I will gladly stand up and say “I took Dawn to her first Half Marathon, I helped her find the motivation and determination to run, and I helped her find the fun in fitness enough to make her want to do it again.”
As for me, I found a few things during those 13 miles that I didn’t know I was looking for. I found closure on any doubt I had of the destiny that lies ahead of me. I found closure to a chapter I wasn’t sure about the ending of, and as I stood there at the finish line getting hugs from some of the people I know love me the most; I felt my father smiling down on me and I knew in that very moment, that standing there in the midst of the happiest place on earth, I had fulfilled a promise I made to my father. I was living a happy, healthy life.
I want to send a very special thank you to everyone that was a part of this day. To our sponsors, Kay’s Naturals, Celebrate Vitamins, Pace Setter Athletic and Ameriwell Bariatrics, thank you, thank you, thank you. Walt Disney said “I dream, I test my dreams against my beliefs, I dare to take risks, and I execute my vision to make those dreams come true.” Without your financial support this dream never would have come true. I can never say thank you enough for what you allowed me to learn, experience and give to someone else in my community.
To my on site Cheer Squad – My Godfather; Tom Geiger, My “WLS Parents” Sandi & Chuck Henderson and their lovely granddaughter, My dear friends Tammy and Kelly and my “Lost Boy” Logan, and of course, Heather. – I could not have asked for more loving, supportive and wonderful people to share this amazing experience with me. Each of you holds a special place in my heart and each of you is loved, beyond measures of time.
To my Facebook Cheer Squad – there are just too many of you to mention, but I’ll be writing a blog about just you and about “Social Media Motivation” and how you are all a pillar in my world. So look for that to come. But know that each one of you that liked or commented on anything related to this experience has been someone special in my world and given me a gift that can never be replaced and I am forever grateful.
Lastly, to my Father– thank you for opening my eyes and helping me find the runner in me. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish you were still here to share the happy healthy life you helped me achieve with me; that I don’t feel showered with your love, pride and joy knowing that though I cannot touch you or see you, I can always feel your presence… especially when I put my feet to the pavement. Below is a picture that was taken of me standing next to Eeyore at Disneyland when I was 24 years old and weighed 420 lbs. Next to it, you’ll find a picture of me standing next to Eeyore at Disneyland last month, at 37 years old and weighting 166 lbs. This is my gift to my Father, this is my promise fulfilled. I love you Daddy.
Now it’s time to wipe my joyful tears and get ready for work and start working on that Sponsorship Letter for my next dream… RunDisney Wine and Dine – November 2014 – Here comes Team Seeking Slender \o/
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