Between graduating from college in May, landing my dream job at Runner’s World soon after, and starting my life in the “real world” over 2,000 miles away from home, I’d say 2012 was a pretty darn pivotal year for me personally. Running-wise, I crossed the finish line of my last collegiate race and my first marathon. I got to meet one of my idols, make friends with some of the best bloggers around, and enter the blogging world myself. I ran about 1,500 miles give or take a few. Looking back, this year had SO many highs (and its fair share of lows), all of which helped me grow and develop as a runner. Here’s a look back at my year of running along with what I learned along the way that I hope to apply this year.
After a disappointing senior cross country season, I was determined to turn things around and snag an indoor 3-K PR. Despite having the slowest seed time in the fastest heat at the Patriot League Championships in February, I managed a three-second PR, running 10:22.08. Don’t know why, but I always seemed to find my groove when I raced indoors. Getting over a crappy season to run a solid indoor season was a definite high-point of my senior year.
> You can always bounce back from a slump, so trust that you will break out of it. Stay positive and don’t get discouraged. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming!
As pumped as I was coming off of my indoor season, my body and my brain decided three months too soon to call it quits for my outdoor steeplechase season. I tried so hard to fight past the slump–no one wants to have a crappy final season…go out with a bang right?–but come each race-day I just couldn’t pull it together. I was still hitting my splits and feeling great in workouts, but my time (frustratingly) hovered around 11:52 all season… nearly 35 seconds slower than my PR from the year before. Ooof. My coach still sent me to the league championships, and I was so thankful for the opportunity to don my Lehigh uniform one last time (left). Even though my last collegiate race was one of my worst, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly blessed for the ability to run every single season of my collegiate career. Four years, 12 seasons, countless races. Still can’t believe it’s over…
> Cherish every race that you get the chance to run, even the bad ones. Relish the moment, accepting each barrier you have to hurdle along the way. You’ll come out stronger at the finish line regardless of your time or place.
Now, on to bigger, better things! The summer brought my first runs in my life that I got to do just for me. In other words, in my 10+ years of competitive running, I’d never done a run that wasn’t a training run or workout prescribed to me by my coach. Ahh it felt insanely incredible. Rather than following a training plan, I did what my boss calls “secondhand training” – whatever my coworkers wanted to run each day, be it a tempo run or easy four miles in a tutu (right), I tagged along. Most days I even went without a watch. I was content with whatever distance we ran and didn’t get bogged down by our pace. Along the way, I began to regain my passion for running, and it was invigorating.
> Lacking structure and embracing spontaneity when training can be one of the most refreshing things you can do. Shed the watch and daily expectations and just run.
Then came my first marathon in October. (You can read my full, nitty gritty recap here!) For the first time in a long freakin’ time, I had a race that came together perfectly – I felt strong and smooth, the uncontrollables worked in my favor, and I hit my best-case-senario goal. BEST. FEELING. EVER! Not to mention I qualified and got into the 2013 Boston Marathon a couple days after! Pure euphoria.
> Practicing a positive mindset and cementing a reasonable game plan for months in advance can make executing it come race day a cinch. Shedding the negative energy during training makes it that much easier to knock it out mid-race.
Despite my coworkers warning me about about post-marathon exhaustion, I was struck by how much the race sucked the life out of me. I felt like I was back to square one again, out of shape and slow as ever for over a month. So not fun. It wasn’t until the day of the would-be New York City Marathon in November that I had a run where I felt like I was myself again. After such a high post-marathon, the recovery period was a yucky low. Now I know what to expect, and I fully intend to let my body fully heal before I try to run again. Mental note for next time!
> Rest is a good thing. Yes, you might lose some fitness, and yes, it sucks missing out on lunch runs with friends. But you’ll make your next build-up that much smoother and keep injuries at bay. Patience young grasshopper. It’ll pay off later.
I desperately needed to get out of the slump, so I decided to commit to the #RWRunStreak, which means running at least one mile a day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. I cherish my off days, so taking this on was a big deal for me. But hey, I needed to get back in shape for the Walt Disney World Marathon in January. Not only did I have some of the best runs I’ve had in a while, but it got me back on track, and it was one of the best decisions I made all year. I made it a full 26 days straight, and I couldn’t believe I stuck to it.
> Making a commitment real by telling friends about it on social media or writing it down in your training log can be just the kick in the butt you need to get out the door for a run and stay committed toward reaching a goal. It’s amazing what encouragement you can get from friends.
What a year! =) Looking ahead to 2013, I have three marathons on the calendar so far for the spring and, since I’m already a bit top-heavy, I’m only going to run one in the fall. I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but my goal is to get faster and stronger so I can race for time rather than race to finish. I also hope to keep up this blog and start widening my circle of running friends on the web. The online running community is so incredible, and I want to be a part of it! So 2013, bring it on! I’m ready for ya!
What were your running highlights this year?
P.S. This just came up in my Twitter feed. TOTALLY going to try it! Happy New Year’s everyone!
QUOTE OF THE POST: “When we understand the privilege of what it means to be an athlete, we are in touch with, and rejoice in, our physical, mental, and emotional strengths and our endless possibilities.” – Gloria Averbuch