Chapter 20: Half-Marathon

I ran a half-marathon.

Which basically means I can do anything, because ARE YOU FRIGGIN KIDDING ME, I RAN A HALF-MARATHON?!

I’m the chubby kid who hated cross-country Wednesday almost as much as I hated math (i.e. A LOT) – and six months ago, I couldn’t have run two kilometres, let alone 21.

And yet here we are.

I, Kate the Non-Runner, have a medal for the Wellington Round the Bays Half-Marathon, and I didn’t even buy it off TradeMe.

shook
Both how shook I was to have finished, and an accurate description of my legs post race.

Started from the bottom, now we here

I am deadly serious when I say I couldn’t run 2km in a row six months ago.

I had a baby in November 2017, so my cardiovascular fitness (and pelvic floor) were missing in action for the first half of last year.

As I started to emerge from the new parent fog some time in July, I must of been feeling a bit of get up and go, because I decided to start this blog and to take up running.

I’d always wanted to do a half-marathon, so making it a Thirty Before Thirty goal put just the right amount of internet accountability on myself to actually commit to running 21km in a row.

Lamp post to lamp post

My first couple of jogs were a true family affair.

My husband Taka was recovering from a knee injury (which he actually ended up needing to have surgery for – but more on that later), so the two of us strapped on our sneakers, put the baby in the buggy and the dog on the lead, and we took to the streets … taking on one lamp post at a time.

We were super slow. Bucky the Westie was the worst. I think I was basically dragging him by the home-stretch.

But little by little we were able to run further, and faster. And eventually I ditched the boys altogether (mainly for the sake of Bucky, and to snaffle up some “me time”).

I still remember the total euphoria at running our 4km neighbourhood block without stopping.

If I could give you one tip for starting running, it would be: let yourself suck. Running ALWAYS sucks at the start. Don’t beat yourself up because you “should” be able to do more, or it “shouldn’t” be this hard. Because running IS hard. At the start especially. But … the more you do it, the better you get, and the more fun it gets. Stick with it, and give yourself permission to suck.

I kept doing the neighbourhood block run for a while to really get my feet back in the game, and then I started doing destination runs.

By which I mean, I drove somewhere to run.

Running river

It was around this time that I started this six-week training plan to give myself some structure, and to make sure I was getting enough kilometres in.

(If I’m honest, I didn’t do the speed work, and I only averaged about three runs a week. One lunchtime jog, one during the week, and one on the weekend. All of which were captured on Strava, cause if it’s not on Strava, did it even happen?)

My favourite place to run was the Hutt Valley River Trail.

The map has clear markings so I could see how long my loops were (for someone who hates math, I bloody love running stats), it’s mostly flat, and the river and bush are super pretty.

It was there that I ran my first 10km, 12km, and 16km; practiced with gels (these are my faves); did my first Park Runs; ran through detailed scenarios in my head about how I would fend off an attacker; and listened to countless episodes of Sports? with Katie Nolan and the RISE Podcast.

They were really nice times. Especially as the bulk of my training was done was during our surprisingly tropical summer.

They were also made possible because my husband Taka had knee surgery in early January, so I was able to do some sizable mid-week (as well as weekend) training runs while he looked after our little man at home.

I have nothing but fond memories of that summer along the river.

Running tips with Kate: Not sure you can run long distance? Go really, really slow. Learn how to pace yourself. You might not be as fit and fast as you’d like to be, but if you’ve got a reasonable base level of fitness, you should be able to finish if you hit it “tortoise” (not hare) style and go slow and steady.

Round the Bays – In Theory

The course for Wellington Round the Bays is beautiful.

It starts at Frank Kitts Park, and then follows the Wellington waterfront along past Oriental Bay, Evans Bay (literally all of the bays), past the Miramar turnoff, and winds around the water until you’re nearly at Scorching Bay, and then you double-back to Kilbirnie Park.

Or, see: course map.

Full-Course-Map-2019-LRes
I also recommend doing a drive of the course, it helped me visualise where I was up to on the day. 

Round the Bays – In practice

In practice, it was a little bit different.

Race day

Miraculously, my son slept through the night, and I didn’t wake up until my alarm went off at 5pm.

I turned it off, snuck out of bed, and slunk into the bathroom to get changed into my bike shorts, singlet, shoes, and chic as hell fanny pack (it nipped me in at the waist so well I’m deliberating wearing one on the regular).

Next stop was the kitchen, where I made myself two pieces of Vogel’s toast with peanut butter and banana, and a black coffee.

Then it was game face time. Back to the bathroom, and on with: Goodness Every Morning Moisturiser (gotta get that SPF), Rimmel Lasting Finish Foundation and Stay Matte Pressed Powder, Benefit Brow Contour Pro, and Benefit Roller Lash.

Which some of you may not think of as essential race-day prep, to which I say to you:

Race photos.

I’m going to be looking dreadful – because running 21kms – so I’m going to at least give my face a fighting chance at looking Instagrammable.

Then there was a knock, knock, knock on the door.

My hype squad had arrived.

Here’s my mum, with the most wonderfully non-sensical sign I’ve ever seen. I loved it.
My gorgeous mum and her famously non-sensical but wildly encouraging sign.

She bundled me into her (Taylor) Swift at 6.45am, and we talked excitedly all the way into Wellington about the training I’d done and how I hoped I wouldn’t end up in an ambulance.

She had that proud mum energy that us attention-seeking first-borns are forever thirsty for.

Then we were there, and it was time for a nervous wee in a portaloo, before assembling at the starting line.

The first 5km

Sports? with Katie Nolan – Now that we found love

Were super easy. I was determined to pace myself well, so stuck to my guns and plodded along slowly, unperturbed by the hundreds of fit people passing me.

I had to stop for another nervous wee at the first portaloo.

From 5km to 10km

The RISE Podcast with Rachel Hollis – 80: The Hard Things That Will Throw You Off-Course (And How To Fight Them)

Still not too bad. I’d seen mum and her hilarious sign twice, I’d had a gel, and I was just entering the shade of the final knob of the race course.

From 10km-15km

Jules and Sarah with the Rapids

This last section is much longer than I remember.

Have another gel.

I’m also seeing a very disconcertingly large number of people coming back past me towards the finish line, but the turnaround point is nowhere to be seen.

At 14km I finally get to turn around.

Gosh, it’s a long way back.

From 15km-21km

ZM’s Fletch, Vaughan & Megan Podcast – February 15 2019

Pass the 16km marker. This is officially the longest I’ve ever run in my life.

Remember how when I did my 16km training run my calves had started cramping as soon as I stopped.

The calves are twitching, threatening to cramp.

I have to get going.

Contemplate getting a tattoo of XXI in honour of completing the race, which I tell myself I will, to remind myself that I can do bloody anything.

The last 1km is so hard. I want to stop. But I don’t want to stop, because my calves are going to absolutely murder me.

And then I can see the finish line – through approximately 5 million buggys – and I slowly attempt to weave my way towards it.

I’ve done it! I have an enormous medal! MUM! Good Lord, I can’t walk. Oh no, we have to walk to the car, 500 miles away. But I DID IT! I ACTUALLY DID IT!

Proceeds to eat a double-pack One Square Meal Bar, and demolish a blue Powerade like Steven Adams, as we go the long way home through Island Bay.

I am amazing.

Fancy a run?

Honestly, if I can do it, you can do it.

Seize the day. Get some sneakers. And let your body amaze you with what it’s capable of.

Just run, Forrest.

Kate x

Chapter 5: Running

Running has always been the worst.

I remember at Intermediate there was a month in the school calendar where we would do cross-country every Wednesday. And it was. Horrific.

Mainly because I was a little bit of a chubster. And I had braces, which didn’t impede my running, but certainly made sure I developed a personality.

I wasn’t a natural athlete. I liked Harry Potter and carbs. And my hobbies most definitely did not include struggling around (what must have only been a 2km) block in my Slazenger sneakers, while turning a violent shade of plum in front of cute* boys.

They were character developing years.

“The Treadmill”

According to TedTalk metaphors, getting “on the treadmill” of life isn’t something to be recommended.

But for a Kate scarred by running in public, a gym treadmill offered the perfect cardio oasis.

Air-conditioned, mood lit, and pumping MTV … it was my version of Batman’s ab-enhancing jumpsuit:

It was beautiful, flattering anonymity.

The cardio cinema became my Bruce Wayne training ground, and Les Mills my Ra’s a Ghol.

Treadmill training prepped me for my first Wellington Round the Bays 10km race, and much to my surprise, it really was a “fun” run.

Evidence: 

img_3314
Obligatory before and after shots from my 2014 race

F•R•I•E•N•D•S with running

After my initial runner’s high Round the Bays, I did another couple of races, but always seemed to find myself in the same pattern:

  1. Wants to become “a runner”
  2. Trains on treadmill
  3. Does race
  4. Dies
  5. Never wants to run again

  1. Decides wants to be “a runner” again …

I’m more will-they-won’t-they than Ross and Rachel.

More evidence

So this time, I’m doing something different.

I’m learning to run.

Outside.

The Postpartum Loop-Hole

As I discovered in every race ever, running outside is harder than being on the treadmill.

It’s like trying to drive a manual when you’re used to an auto. It all seems the same, but then there’s that third pedal, and you’re just like, w h a t.

I also used to be quite mean to myself about my running fitness. Because I could do 8km on the regular on a treadmill, I would beat myself up about struggling to do that outside.

Which is so dumb on so many levels. (Life’s much more fun if you treat yourself like you’re your own bestie).

Enter: the postpartum loop-hole.

I had a baby 10 months ago, and during that process, any running fitness I had went bye-bye along with my ability not to cry while watching This Is Us.

But I also learnt something else. Something, if we’re honest, I kinda already knew:

It was like all of a sudden I didn’t mind if I had to do walk/jog/walk between lampposts.

I didn’t feel like I “should” (the dirtiest, guiltiest of words) be able to do this already. The postpartum loop-hole gave me permission to be a beginner, and to be ok with starting at the bottom (now we here).

“The Secret”

I had to have a baby to learn “the secret” (and get some bad ass lightening tattoos, which some people call stretch marks, but that’s cause they basic).

But all you’ve had to do is read this blog (… lazy?)

The secret is: Just go for it.

Don’t worry about the “what ifs” of “I shoulds”. If you want to try something.

Just go for it.

Start the blog (!). Book the tickets. Ask the question. Do the thing.

What’s the worst that could happen? You fail. Oh well. Everyone does that. Just learn from it, have a laugh, and move on.

Like me with running: I don’t really care if my face looks like a plum pudding when I run.

Because. I. Love. Running.

Well – I love the feeling directly after I finish running.

Endorphins, yeah, that’s what I love. Endorphins.

That and the amazing sense of pride I get after doing something stupid hard.

And that’s exactly what I felt when I took the photo at the top of this post. It’s me after doing my first outside run without stopping around my new regular neighbourhood route (which Strava tells me is a tidy little 4.3km.)

I’m feelin’ 22 21.0975

Now I can’t very well tell you to just go for it, and not get on board myself.

So, I’m going to try something too.

I’m going to do the Wellington Round the Bays this February. Except this time – I’m going to do the half-marathon.

Which you better believe I instantly regret putting onto the internet and making myself accountable to. But stuff it.

I’m going for it.

Kate Rates: Running

It’s ridiculous and hard, and it makes you feel like death and victory all at once.

Running is the best.

10/10, would recommend.

Have you ever done a half-marathon before? For the love of all that is holy, please. Help. Me. Any tips would be very much appreciated.

Kate x

*On reflection, my taste was super questionable.