Confessions of a Non-Runner: Running a Half-Marathon

by ~jenniferlynn on October 26, 2013

in Running

Once upon a time, about a week after I officially signed up for Crossfit, I had the crazy idea to sign up for a half marathon as a non-runner. A non-runner, you say? Without getting into a philosophical conversation about what makes one a runner, my distinction is this: If you are passionate about what you are doing and define part of your life with running, you are a runner.

I am not.

If you want to read a bit on my conflicting views on running check out my posts where I ran 3 miles without walking for the second time ever,  contemplated dropping my half-marathon, the one where I first ran a full 10k, the #twomilesuck, my first sub-9:00 mile, my most miserable two-mile run, a happy six-mile training run, my struggle with balancing Crossfit and running, finding solace in 9 miles, an injury, and then finally finishing a half-marathon.

So I want to share things I have learned a long the way that have helped me along my training..

non runner half marathon

Confession: Running is freaking emotional

I cried on nearly every single training run. One mile, five miles, seven miles. Tears of frustration, anxiety, grief. With every run that started or ended in tears, my coach would continue to tell me that I need to learn to let go; learn to use running as a way to cope with stress, not as a cause of stress. This just never made sense to me. I never understood finding the “zen” in running, or that running could be peaceful.

But what I learned is that it is okay to cry. Running for me became very emotional and crying was a way for my body to let go of the negative feelings and emotions. Once I cried, I felt better. It was like a weight had been lifted.

And despite the infinite number of tears from negativity, sometimes, there were tears of pride, realizing that my body is capable of things I never thought possible.

Once I accepted that running was going to be emotional no matter what, I finally my longest training run tear-free.

Confession: I don’t have it figured out, but neither does anyone else

When I started considering a half marathon, I was fully inspired by all of the bloggers writing about their training runs and their races. All of those so with so much passion for running, and those that struggled. I saw them put in the time and effort so assumed they were all experts. But you know what? They weren’t. And neither am I.

I have finished a half marathon, yet I still feel just as clueless as probably most of the others that did theirs. There is always something else to know and learn. There are things along the way I would never have considered in shorter distances, such as running nutrition or “no new on race day.” I can tell you what I did, and what worked for me. But I can also tell you countless others that swear by excessive carb loading and running 5x a week for 12 weeks and hydration belts and GUs and gels and supportive shoes.

Based on feedback from any of my struggling blog posts or even reading other bloggers recap their own training, I bet every single one of them has had their own insecurities and doubts, struggles and fears.

Confession: To be a better runner, you have to run

Despite probably a million and one exceptions to this rule, I needed to run to become a better runner. Yes, Crossfit increased my endurance, stamina, and mental toughness. The team environment and supportive athletes and coaches increased my confidence. Plenty of others have run in events with minimal to no formal running training or mileage.

But I needed to run to prove to myself that I was good enough. That I was strong enough, and mentally capable of doing it. Once I was able to see on paper that my overall pace was getting faster or that I was covering more distance than I ever had before, it was what I needed to start to mentally let go. I looked forward to my long runs and being able to challenge myself and push myself that much further.

Confession: It does get better

After realizing that there will always be a “#twomilesuck” and that seasoned runners I looked up to still experience the same thing, I came to accept that I could not get upset or frustrated until I passed two miles. At that point I could determine the mood for the run.

After realizing that it is okay to walk when I need to and okay to finish any run at my pace, it was easier to dissociate from the negative feelings. Even though it was often my legs or my breathing that was keeping me from staying focused on running, it was ultimately my mind that was holding me back.

When the focus becomes, “I am going to do this no longer how long it takes me to do it” and “You are fully capable of doing this”, rather than “You have xx more miles to go” or “Why did you ever sign up for this?”, it is amazing how much less stressful the runs became.

When race day comes, it is 110% worth it. Running a half marathon is right up there as one of my proudest moments in life. I never thought it would be possible, but I overcame so much mental anguish to get me to that finish line.

Yet I still don’t feel like a runner..

Your turn..
Have you ever had similar realizations throughout training for an event?
What is one thing that you have realized now that you wish you knew before you started training for something?
Do you consider yourself a “runner”?

bethany lee
Twitter: bethanyjolee
October 26, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I have lived reading about your running journey Jen. I am so glad you shared it with us and did so with such great candor. And I enjoyed this post the most–being able to loom at your journey and see how you’ve grown and learned is, for me, the best part of doing it.
I run. And yes, I guess I consider myself a runner, though not a fast one for sure. Can’t wait for tough murder next year!
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Twitter: Mychickenbutt
October 27, 2013 at 4:21 am

I agree with Bethany! I’ve enjoyed reading about your adventures in running, and I can’t wait til we all meet at mudder!
The element that I like best about this post is the whole feeling more clueless the more I “know.” – sometimes I whip out a crazy good run and think – THIS IS IT, then the next day, I’m back to wogging along. I try and soak up as much as I can, but I know it’s a long road to expert! Like 20 year road. At least it brings me joy, in the meanwhile.
I’m so happy you ticked this off your bucket list. I’m sure the race bug will bite you again next spring 🙂
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Nj Paleo October 27, 2013 at 7:33 am

I’ve loved reading about your journey in running especially because I am a runner. It took me awhile to think of myself as a “real” runner and had all these stupid ideas of what constitutes “real”.

I’ve been running for over 7 years and I am still learning. Every training cycle and every race teach me something new, about the sport and about myself. Every training run and every race are unique and different, believe it or not! Even the elite runners and their coaches don’t have it all figured out — or else they’d all be winning, all the time, never sidelined with injury.

And yes, just like anything you want to improve, to be a better runner, you have to run. I guess with a lot of us it’s become a decision about how much better we want to be and how much more we want to run. I’ve been getting by on less lately, but I can tell a difference from the days when I was doing more.

Anyway, I’m so glad you shared your experiences with us, and I’m proud of you for hanging in there and finishing! Way to go!
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Mabelle @ Dance, Love, Dine October 27, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I agree with a lot of what you said specially the part about it being emotional! There is nothing more emotional than waiting at the start line with hundreds of people whom had been training for a while and then finally crossing the finish line after almost dying (specially during long races). Its quite the experience! 🙂
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Jackie October 28, 2013 at 9:48 am

Jen, I absolutely love this post! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I know we both have similar feelings about how we feel about running – and this post summed it up so well! Congrats on the half marathon – I know that was a big moment for you! 🙂
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Brittany V
Twitter: detroithealthy
October 28, 2013 at 12:43 pm

It took me until my second half marathon to finally decide that I was ‘allowed’ to put a 13.1 sticker on my car.. I’ve run two half marathons and one full.. Well, ran/walk/got injured in my full, which is why that sticker is NO WHERE near my car..

However, I’m starting to realize that if you run you ARE a runner, despite the distance/pace/weather you run in.. It’s taken me almost two years to realize that, but it has finally happened.. Now, if I could just become a crossfitter! 😉
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Cori October 28, 2013 at 12:43 pm

I think all exercise is incredibly emotional ESPECIALLY if you are pushing yourself to do something outside your comfort zone. I mean heck, if I’m going for a new PR, there are definitely days I cry when I miss it haha

Awesome post! I think too often we forget to reflect and appreciate all the things we LEARN when we push ourselves physically.
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mandy @ fatgirlgonehealthy
Twitter: fatgirlhealthy
October 28, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Congrats again! It’s funny how these type of experiences impact us so much. I’ve learned a lot about myself as I try doing 5Ks and obstacle course runs, and Crossfit competitions.
Thank you for sharing your amazing experience and keep on with your non-runner self!
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Twitter: mast2mar
October 30, 2013 at 2:57 pm

I know this was a huge mental (and physical) challenge for you and I’m so proud of you for pushing yourself farther even through the tears. Great job on the half and even if you never do another half again, once a runner always a runner, even if you dont think so 🙂
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Alex @ Alex Tries it Out
Twitter: alex_j_meyer
November 4, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I still have a hard time considering myself a runner. I think, for me, it’s mental. I still feel like the chubby kid who got picked last in PE, so it’s hard for me to really “feel” a different persona.

Speaking of which, my favorite sign at my marathon “This is for the girls who got picked last in PE!”. I kid you not.

I also think it’s easy to get down on yourself as a runner. There was a guy around mile 20 of my marathon who said (in response to someone saying “good job, runners”) “Who can they call runners at this point?”. That was a tough thing to hear with 6 miles to go.

Anyway, this is a rambly post to tell you that … I don’t feel like a runner. I don’t know when one starts to “feel” it. I wish I did! So I just stick to the whole, fake it til ya make it, mentality.

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Taylor @ Singletrackedmind November 15, 2013 at 3:19 pm

I’ve ran 3 marathons and countless other road races, but I still don’t call myself a runner! I have a problem with labels. haha 🙂

Chatter November 27, 2013 at 9:08 am

Great post! I know I am a few months back from the original but tomorrow I run my first half marathon and this post really resonated with me. I am a runner and triathlete and after finishing my first season (triathlon season, running season is almost over) I believe I can apply those labels. I train for both over 14 hours a week and I participate in races and events for both so why not call myself that. I am slow, but that does not matter in the end. Once again I loved this post and will carry the message with me as I line up in my corral tomorrow.
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Shelly May 5, 2014 at 12:55 pm

A little over 2 years ago (age 48), I decided that I needed to do something awesome before I turned 50. I never ran but decided to try to work hard and run a Half Marathon as my gift to myself. I started slow (run a few minutes, walk a few minutes) and after about 9 months I was running 4 miles a day/6 days a week and was 40 pounds lighter. My longest run (just once!) was an 8 mile run before I ran a 10 mile race. I decided to do the 10 Miler before I tried the Half Marathon. I finished the 10 Miler and met my goal to run the whole thing. I am proud to say that I finished my Half Marathon yesterday!..and met my goal of running the whole thing and finishing in 2 1/2 hours or less. It’s an awesome feeling. I consider myself a runner now!
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~jenniferlynn May 5, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Congrats, Shelly!! 🙂 I love that you made no excuses and just did it! Awesome work, lady!!

Witty July 5, 2014 at 5:08 pm

This is the first blog that says it how it is running. So many times I have heard so many people saying what was your time . I started running 3 years ago and 45 this year and I am not a fast runner average 11.30 to 10.15 per mile but hey I get out there and run, last year my aim was to run 10 k every month either outside or on a treadmill due to I suffer IBS , I have signed up for my first 5 k race hoping that symptoms and nerves don’t get the better of me , but I am determined to do it. My aim this year is a half marathon and I am just waiting for a good day and I am just going to go out here and do it . Thanks again for your blog and anyone else thinking of starting running and think either your no good or to slow just DO IT FOR YOU x. Clare

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Sarah @ Sarah's Book Shelves October 17, 2014 at 9:21 pm

I love this post! Last weekend, I ran my first half marathon and people asked me afterwards if I’d “caught the bug”. My answer was an emphatic NO! I love running and run 4 times a week for exercise…I also enjoy racing, but normally race 5Ks and 10Ks.

The half marathon was a different animal – my body started rebelling, working out suddenly took 2 hours, and my sports bra started chaffing my skin off. This is not why I love running…I love running because running 5 miles or so makes me feel good. Running 13 miles makes me feel like my hips are going to explode and I’m going to throw up.

I was proud of my race…I ran faster than all my training runs and beat my goal time by 5 minutes. However, I felt horrible for a couple hours afterwards. And I was a bit disheartened when I saw tons of other runners looking like they felt great at the finish line. It seemed so easy for them and was incredibly hard for me.

Anyway – I appreciate your post about feeling differently about long distance running!
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Leslie October 18, 2014 at 8:25 am

I relate to this so much (though I’ve never run a half marathon). I have a true love/hate relationship with running. I hate the idea of it right beforehand, I hate it while I’m doing it, but then I love the feeling of accomplishment afterward. My Husband has been a distance runner since he was young and loves everything about it. He just doesn’t understand. Thanks for sharing your experience!
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~jenniferlynn October 18, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Haha yes runners are a special breed! I occasionally do 10ks but not really train at all.. I stick to no more than 400m at a time if I can!

Keisha October 18, 2014 at 3:36 pm

I really commend you for sticking to it. I tried to get into running several times and it’s just too much. I once thought I wanted to run a marathon before I did. Once I reached my goal of being able to run a 5k without walking, I was like, “Done! No marathon needed!” Haha. Seriously, good for you!
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~jenniferlynn October 18, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Haha totally get that mentality! But I wanted more! 10k is good. And honestly I walk still in my races if I do them but my run/walk ones have been faster than races I “run” the whole time!

Amber October 18, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Great post.

I am so not a runner. But I’ve started walking. Normally I’m allergic to all forms of exercise, but my pants started to get tight, and I’m too cheap to buy new ones..
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~jenniferlynn October 18, 2014 at 8:38 pm

Baby steps! Walking is great for you. You souls skim my for for strength training too add an alternative you getting fit without having to run 😉

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